5 Statements You Should Reconsider Saying to Someone With an Eating Disorder


As human beings, we tend to comment on each other’s appearances, especially when we notice someone’s physicality transform before us in a matter of time. However, does it really matter that we’re physically different? By providing body-centered feedback to someone, you are driving home the underlying message that your relationship is based upon fundamental physical differences, rather than spiritual and intellectual similarities. I know how hard it can be to communicate with people. As a teacher, I do it every day. Yet, there is a better way to approach one another. We all possess many more attributes that are internal rather than external, things that really matter: a good sense humor, intellect or an uncanny creative spirit.

Here are five statements to reconsider saying to anyone, because eating disorders do not discriminate. Your brother, mother, sister, principal, CEO or cousin could be affected. Our society must change its vernacular in relation to appearance.

1. “I wish I had your body.”  

No you don’t, because it represents a struggle to stay alive. Living with an eating disorder is far from glamorous. Nobody has the perfect body, please never compare yours to anyone else’s. Focus on the positive features of your own. Bodies come in all beautiful shapes and sizes!

2. “Why can’t you just eat more?”   

Eating brings up intense anxiety and depression for some individuals with eating disorders. It’s more than just eating, it’s modifying behaviors. Think about a food you really hate, brussels sprouts for instance. Every single time you see them, smell them or even eat them, you have a severe allergic reaction. Now, add in past traumatic experiences, mental illness and a lack of control over one’s life. Eating is more than it seems.

3. “Losing weight is healthy.”  

For someone with an eating disorder, this is one of the worst things you can say. Some individuals need to lose weight for health reasons, but that should be a private matter. A statement such as this can reinforce an eating disorder patient’s distorted body image. It’s not so simple when you’re in recovery, especially during the re-feeding process.

MIGHTY PARTNER RESOURCES

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

4. “Have you lost/gained weight?”

Losing weight isn’t an accomplishment and gaining weight is not a failure. Our society is obsessed with finding the optimal body shape and weight. Truth is, there’s no such thing and never will be. Instead of focusing on person’s weight, compliment their positive attributes. Someone with an eating disorder does not want to hear “Oh, you look great,” it is an empty compliment. It seems innocent, but to them it may pierce their sense of self. Let’s build a community that is more people-centered and less body-centered, because no two bodies are the same!

5. “You must have so much discipline to maintain your ‘lifestyle.'”   

First of all, an eating disorder is not a lifestyle, it’s a disease. Secondly, an eating disorder gives you a false sense of control, which is very difficult to let go of. Therefore, there is no discipline to be had at all. Eating disorders are once again not a choice or a diet, they involve hours and years of grueling self hatred.

Remember: Be kind to yourself, to others and to those in recovery. Everyone recovers at their own pace and it’s never too late to say no to ED!

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 via kimberrywood.

TOPICS
, Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Eating Disorders

How My Eating Disorder Affects My Sex Life

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741. When I’m deep in the depths of my eating disorder, I don’t want anyone to notice me. No compliments. No friendly hugs. I don’t want to feel [...]
woman heart symbol hands in front of sunset over ocean

A Letter for the Bad Days in Eating Disorder Recovery

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741. Today is a day where you tug on your jeans and notice they’re a tad too snug. You hear whispers about how to nip that in the [...]
arm with puppet strings controlling unseen puppet

How the Voice of My Eating Disorder Controls Me Like a Dictator

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741. Eating disorders are among the top four leading causes of burden of disease in terms of years of life lost through death or disability among women ages [...]
Abstract drawing woman head on white background

How 'Body Positive Warriors' Helped Me Live a Life Free of Numbers

My life was once completely ruled by numbers. Numbers viciously controlled my entire life. The numbers on the scale and the numbers on food items. I truly thought happiness would come to me once the scale showed a certain number. I thought then I could finally be free of numbers and begin my life. Instead, [...]