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.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by m-imagephotography

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Eating Disorders

Woman having a coffee

'I'm Fine' Does Not Always Mean 'I'm Good' With Eating Disorder Recovery

This morning, I read an article from Monte Nido called “Combating ‘Fine.’” The article, meant for people who are just starting to consider getting help for an eating disorder, described how people are often deluded by the eating disorder voice into thinking they’re fine and don’t need help, even when those around them are concerned. [...]

When 'Ideal Weight' Becomes a New Obsession in Eating Disorder Recovery

After years in and out of treatment centers I have heard the phrase “ideal weight” more than I can count. It’s the idea your body has a set point it is supposed to be at. Now this is helpful when you are underweight and need a goal weight to get up to while you are [...]

Dear Friend, I Fight My Eating Disorder in Memory of You

Hi Nicole, it’s me. It’s the girl who first saw you in a group during treatment and took note of how gorgeous you were. I was jealous when I first saw you, as I compared every ounce of myself to you. I remember your pearl earrings, your turquoise Pandora ring, flannel and white Vans, which [...]
woman standing on a dock holding her shoes and a suitcase

Why I Need to Believe I Can Fully Recover From My Eating Disorder

A lot of people think you can’t fully recover from an eating disorder. That you’ll always be in a state of “recovery” because recovery is a process, not a destination. While I enjoy the sentiments of recovery being a journey, I don’t like the idea of there being no end to my eating disorder. Where is [...]