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  • Aug 30, 2014
  • Updated: 8:12am

What you can do to help a friend

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 January, 2011, 12:00am

Between 2000 and 2008, the Hong Kong Eating Disorders Association identified 1,170 cases of eating disorders from more than 2,300 inquiries on its hotline. Of those, more than half were cases of bulimia; about 30 per cent were anorexia and almost 10 per cent involved eating disorders not otherwise specified. More than half of the sufferers were aged between 16 and 25.

Unspecified eating disorders have been on the rise, accounting for 39 per cent of cases identified in 2008, with bulimia making up about 33 per cent and anorexia about 27 per cent.

Here are some signs shown by people who may be suffering from an eating disorder:

1 Marked or continuous weight loss

2 Absence of menstruation

3 Restrictive diet and rigid/unusual eating rituals

4 Frequent checking of body weight/size (intense fear of gaining weight)

5 Repeatedly seeking assurance about being thin

6 Refusing to eat (arguing with parents about food intake)

7 Social withdrawal (to avoid eating or disclosure of eating rituals/restrictions)

Philippa Yu, clinical psychologist and head of the association, says apart from cultural and family influences, friends can help teenagers overcome their eating disorders. Yu offers the following advice:

Set a good example to your friends and don't bring up the 'fat' topic

Make eating a social event with your friends

If your friend expresses fears about weight gain, shift the discussion to other, interesting topics

Be understanding towards a friend's eating problems

Appreciate your friend's efforts to overcome their illness

Persuade your friend to take part in normal social activities

Additional reporting by Mabel Sieh

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