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6 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone With in Anorexia Recovery

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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 741741.

Recovering from an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa is tough and social support is crucial. However, well-meaning people can say detrimental things. Hopefully, this list sheds some light on why seemingly innocent phrases can hurt. The best thing we can do is show each other some grace in learning how to navigate this difficult journey of recovery.

1. “You look healthy!”

This is a nice sentiment but I end up hearing “you’ve gained weight” and the eating disorder voice starts screaming. It’s helpful instead to hear about aspects of my personality that are coming back rather than focusing on the outside appearance. Something like, “I notice your focus is getting better, I feel like I’m getting to hang out with you again” can be helpful.

2. “Do you know how hard this is for me?”

Yeah, I get that it doesn’t only affect me, but this statement just heaps on shame and guilt, which I can assure you I’m feeling already. I wouldn’t have chosen to have an eating disorder; you don’t want this for me, and we are on the same team. The best thing you can do is validate the pain I’m feeling. It’s also OK to say things that make you sad about it; just don’t come across as attacking.

3. “You’re slipping back, you must not be trying hard enough.”

Recovery isn’t linear. Like everyone else, I have good days and bad days. Relapses don’t necessarily equate to a lack of effort. Like the dialectic used in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), I can be trying my best and still have a ways to go.

4. “Do you know how lucky you are to have food?”

Yeah, I get it; I’m #blessed. But, in the middle of having a disorder, it doesn’t feel that way. Food feels like the enemy. Adding guilt usually pushes me toward disordered behavior as a way of coping and not toward the desired behavior of recovering.

5. “If you don’t eat this, you must not love me.”

Again, my disorder isn’t about you. I’m trying, dude; guilt and shame don’t help. I know it can be difficult to watch someone hurting themselves, which is why it is important for you to have social support as well. However, how much I eat isn’t strongly correlated to how much I care about you.

6. “I’ve seen people thinner than you; do you think they had an ED?”

Instantly, this phrase makes me think I’m not “sick enough” and need to look thinner. Also, it confirms my belief that people are comparing me to others. Concern for others can be voiced in a more productive way.

Follow this journey on the author’s Tumblr.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Originally published: January 27, 2019
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