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I have a friend whom I will call Mary. She and I have been friends for about 2 years. Lately I have noticed that she has lost a lot of weight. I asked her about it and she said she was just eating less.

The other night we were at a sleepover at another friend’s house. We had pizza and soda for dinner. Mary ate a large pepperoni pizza by herself. She had finished it in less than 15 minutes. I told her to slow down or she was going to get sick. She said she had not eaten anything all day and she was just really hungry.

We started watching a movie and I noticed Mary was gone. I went looking for her and she was in the bathroom. She said she had a stomachache. I asked her if there was anything I could do for her and she said no.

As I was walking away I heard her throwing up. I went back and asked her again if she was okay. She said she was fine and for me to leave her alone.

The next day I spoke to my dad about what happened. He said it sounds like Mary has an eating disorder. I asked my dad if there was anything we could do to help Mary. I want to help but I have no idea what to do.
I am very glad my daughter came to me with her concerns about her friend, Mary.I have met her parents a couple of times. They seem to be very unhappy. Her dad was yelling at her mom at a school function and I noticed Mary was very embarrassed with their behavior.
I would like to approach them and try to help Mary, but these people do not seem to be approachable at all. I really think they will just tell me to mind my own business.

Dear Tania and her Dad,
Tania, I’m glad that you were able to go to your Dad for advice and assistance even though you may not be able to solve Mary’s problems. It is upsetting to feel that a friend is in trouble and your suspicions may be valid. On the other hand, you are assuming a lot and that might make it harder for you to talk honestly and openly with your friend. There are many reasons for weight loss and one episode of overeating and throwing up does not necessarily add up to bulimia.

You are probably correct, Dad, that approaching Mary’s parents without Mary’s request that you do so could well result in a request to “mind your own business” and a serious cut-off of friendship and potential communication. I would think that being friendly or interested, if you feel that way, on an equal playing field, not a savior, would be a better approach. You really do not know what is going on in Mary’s life or that of her parents and have made assumptions based on your own observations. Be cautious about where you go with this or you could damage the friendship between Mary and your daughter. You can’t necessarily jump in and fix things for your daughter or anyone else, especially when you are unsure of what is going or how Mary and her parents feel about getting outside help. On the other hand, telling your daughter how good you feel about her coming to you when something troubled her strengthens your own parent/child relationship and encourages your daughter to seek your advice (not interventions) in the future.

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