8 Messages for My Friends Without Eating Disorders
1. You mean a lot to me: If I have divulged to you that I have/had an eating disorder, you must be pretty important to me. That is not something I share lightly, so if I have shared, I want you to know I trust you.
2. Please refrain from “diet talk” or “fat-shaming”: Though it may not seem like a big deal, calling yourself “bad” for having an extra brownie or commenting on how you need to “diet for bikini season” is incredibly triggering to me. I understand that making comments about how “huge your thighs are” is an activity that can bond women and is prevalent in our society; I can go on for days about how that doesn’t make sense, but that’s not relevant here. What is relevant is that those comments can send me into a downward spiral of my own insecurities. This may not be a huge problem for most people, but I will spend days thinking about how “huge” I am and how you all “must be thinking about how fat I am.” It can cause my behaviors to fly off the walls, and that can be dangerous for my physical and mental health. One seemingly innocuous comment could make or break me, depending on the day/any number of factors, so please just avoid them.
3. Please don’t tell me about your friend’s disorder: You may have the best of intentions when you tell me “you understand my disorder” because your childhood friend went through this “phase where she stopped eating and got super skinny, but then she got over it when she found CrossFit a few months later, and now she eats super healthy and is super fit, look at this picture of her now.” When you tell me any number of well-intentioned anecdotes about eating disorders, my mind immediately jumps to a number of disordered thoughts: I can get competitive or worried about you comparing my body to your friend’s, or convinced I must do CrossFit to get better, which may not be healthy for me. Whatever my response is, I do not want to see a picture of this girl now. Everyone’s disorders are different.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.
4. Please don’t make comments on my body: Hearing about how “healthy” I am now is not always a compliment in my mind. Hearing I’m “thick, but in a healthy way” can send me into internal hysterics. I know you mean well when you make comments about how “sexy” I look in that outfit, but I can then spiral off worrying about the benefits of looking “sexy” versus “skinny.” Body comments are rarely helpful, so please refrain.
5. Please don’t comment on what I eat: Odds are I’ve already given too much thought to the nutrition content of what I’ve put on my plate. If I take a second cookie, I probably didn’t do so cavalierly. I don’t need to hear whether I “eat like a bird” or “must be ravenous today!”
6. Please don’t ask me how low my weight got/how much I’ve put on: This is really personal information. It also doesn’t matter at all. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, so weight is not always indicative of severity. Also, I wouldn’t ask you how much you weigh.
7. I am not “crazy”: This is here more to ease me than for your benefit. I fear that people associate eating disorders/mental illness in general with insanity. I am the same smart, kind, composed person you knew before I revealed to you my struggle. I am not my disorder.
8. Feel free to ask questions: Other than ones about specific weights, I am open to questions. I don’t want this to be an elephant in the room. If you want to know something, come to my face and ask me. If it is something I don’t feel comfortable answering, I’ll tell you.
We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.
Thinkstock photo by m-imagephotography