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Ask The Experts

Worried About My Roommate’s Eating Behavior


I have noticed my roommate has very abnormal eating patterns. She tends to only eat one meal a day, and does not snack in between. She often lies about eating during the day to prevent her friends from being worried. Or makes up excuses for why she is skipping a meal. After eating (when she does eat) she will go to the bathroom right away. She sleeps a lot, never seems to have much energy, and she never exercises. Many times during the day I will find her just analyzing her body in front of the mirror in our room. She has told us how she has lost a substantial amount of weight recently- going from a size 8 to a size 1 in a matter of months. Her family has a history of depression. I am really worried about her, but don’t know how to approach the issue without her getting defensive. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Victor Schwartz, M.D., Medical Director, The Jed Foundation answers:

What you are describing does sound very possibly suggestive of an eating disorder. And you are correct that it is often difficult for young people with eating disorders to admit that there is a problem. The best thing you can do is present to your roommate the information that you have in your question – that is, the specific details about why you are concerned – her not eating much, her apparent lack of energy, her dramatic weight loss, etc. You can also explain to your friend that, while it may feel good to be dropping dress sizes, it can be dangerous to lose so much weight this quickly, and tell her that you are worried about her medical health. You might start by suggesting that she at least get a medical checkup to make sure all is ok. Additionally, it might be helpful if 2 or 3 of you (make sure they are close, trusted friends) have this conversation with her. If she refuses, you may want to bring this to the attention of your RA. It is possible she may become angry with you, but you should convey that you are worried and just want her to be ok. It is the right thing to do.