Community Magazine

What Not to Say to Someone with an Eating Disorder

By Rubytuesday
Supporting someone with an eating disorder can be a bit of a mine field
What do you say?What do you not say?It's incredibly difficult to watch someone you love spiral out of controlI find that people are so uncertain what to saySome people are very blunt And ask lots of inappropriate questionsAnd some people just avoid the subjectAnd pretend it isn't thereNeither of these ways is very helpfulAlthough I would prefer someone asked me straight outRather than pretend that the problem isn't there
From my experience Here are somethings that you shouldn't say to someone with an eating disorder
Don't tell someone they are too fat to have an ED
How ignorant can you get?
EDs are not about food, weight or shape
A person with an ED genuinely hates themselves
And doesn't need someone adding to that
Eating disorders come in all shaped and sizes
From emaciated to obese
And everything in between
What not to say to someone with an eating disorderWhat not to say to someone with an eating disorder
Don't talk about weight/comment on the persons appearanceI know people mean wellI really doBut don't tell a person with an ED that they look really wellOr really healthyThe person will most likely assume that you think they are fatAt the same time, don't comment that someone is very thinThis can reinforce someone's EDI know people want to acknowledge it if someone is on the road to recoveryBut I think all comments about appearance should be avoided until the person is fully recovered and
can handle such comments
Don't tell someone that they don't look sick
Eating disorders can be invisible
Just like depression
Don't assume someone isn't sick because they don't look sick
What not to say to someone with an eating disorder
Don't assume that someone is ok because they look okThis is a mistake that so many people makeThey assume that because someone has gained weight and looks healthyThen they must be healthy and recoveredEd's are not about food and weightThey are about low self esteem, low confidence, fear and anxietyIf someone has gained weightPlease bear in mind that their own mind and thoughts may still be eating disorderedRecently I've had to deal with a lot comments on my appearanceThat I look really healthyEverytime I have to give myself a pep talkThat people want to be kindThey want to acknowledge my recoveryIt's still hard to hear though
What not to say to someone with an eating disorder
Don't comment on the persons foodIf the person is eating in front of others, this takes immense couragePlease don't comment on what they are eatingHow much or how little they are eatingOr what they are eatingThis can be very damaging and triggeringAnd may discourage the person from eating in public again
Don't make the person feel guilty about eatingPlease don't plead/threaten/or guilt the person in to eatingThe person will already feel enough guilt about their EDAnd doesn't need anyone else adding to it
Don't criticize others weight/food choicesIf the person with an ED hears you comment on others weight of food choicesThey may bring it back to themselvesOr compare themselvesIt could reinforce the fact that their own choices are not perfectThis can also be triggeringI know when someone makes a comment about my own food choicesI immediately feel guiltyLike I shouldn't be eating it
Don't talk about food being 'healthy' or 'unhealthy'The person with an ED will inevitably have had a list of safe and unsafe foodsOne of their goals in recovery will be to not put food in categoriesFood is foodThere is no good or bad
Don't ask for diet advice or say things like I wish  that I had your willpower'EDs are not about willpowerThey are about fear and self loathingThey are not on a dietAnd this is not a lifestyle choicePeople with EDs are very unwellIt is an illnessNot a choiceI remember when I was working in a hotel a few years agoA woman asked me how I kept so slimI was honest with herAnd told her that my diet was not healthyAnd it was not something she should emulate
Don't joke about eating disorders
It's not funny
It's our lives
What not to say to someone with an eating disorderNo numbers!Please don't mention numbers to someone with an EDAs in weightsClothes sizesCalories etcIt will drive them madAnd they will inevitably compare themselvesNumbers are best avoided!
But you eat.......
Yes of course I eat
If I didn't I would be dead quite quickly
Contrary to popular belief
People with eating disorders do eat
Of course they do!
It's very disordered eating
But they do eat
Just snap out of it!
Just snap out of it?
This is like telling someone with a broken leg to just get up and walk
What not to say to someone with an eating disorder
Oh I had a friend who was so ill. She got down to XXpounds and was in hospital for months
Please don't tell us about your friend who was so very ill
We are competitive
And will inevitably compare our weight and ourselves to that person
We will think to ourselves that she was really sick
And we are just frauds
And not really sick at all
When you define yourself by your weight
Any one with a lower weight is doing it better
What not to say to someone with an eating disorder
Some really silly things that people have said to me over the yearsYou don't look like you have an eating disorderAren't anorectics skinnier?Are you doing this for attentionYou're not that bad ( A nurse in hospital)You're a bad person for doing thisYou're always eatingYou eat so unhealthyHave you lost/gained weight?You look so healthy!You're so slim, you're so lucky
What silly things have been said to you?

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