8 Things NOT To Say to Someone Struggling With An Eating Disorder

1.      You look so healthy!

Even if you mean well this comment can be extremely damaging to someone recovering from an eating disorder. Logical or not, weight is the enemy. And if I “look healthy” you’re telling me I’ve gained weight, which might not be something I’m OK with or know how to accept (yet).  

2.      You’re so skinny. Eat a hamburger.

This is about as helpful as telling someone with depression to “just get over it”. Meaning, it’s not AT ALL helpful. You don’t know what someone is dealing with or why food obsession/control is their coping mechanism of choice. So just don’t.

3.      You’re so skinny. What’s your secret?

When you comment on my weight/body/size you are feeding the disorder, the addiction. My eating disorder isn’t about you. Before commenting on my body/food choices, think about the unhealthy behaviors you might be enabling or encouraging.

4.      Ugh. I’m so fat. I need to lose X pounds.

Someone struggling with an eating disorder obsesses about their body and thinks about how to get thinner/skinnier/lighter 24/7, manipulating their body with food to ease whatever emotional trauma they are experiencing. Your body shaming only serves to perpetuate diet culture and the idea that I shouldn’t be happy in my current body.

5.      You’re skin and bones.

Again, this serves as emotional high. You’ve just doused the fire with gasoline. As illogical as it might sound to you – a healthy person with a healthy relationship with food – I WANT to be skin and bones. This is the objective. Your comment serves to support my mission. If you mean well, ask me how I’m doing (without saying anything about my body).

6.      I’m so glad you ate that.

You’re glad I ate this thing…it made you proud. Which means I ate something I shouldn’t have, something high in calories. Calories lead to weight gain. I’m going to gain weight. And so the anxious spiral ensues. I’m working on my relationship with food. But it’s sensitive. It’s delicate. So please don’t associate your approval with what I do/don’t eat. You have no idea what your seemingly innocent comment may trigger for me.

7.      You never would have eaten that before.

See above. Would you say, “Oh. You’re not drinking. You would have thrown back a handful of shots by now before…” to a recovering alcoholic? Gosh, I hope not.

8.      If you think you’re fat, what do you think of me.

My eating disorder has NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. Don’t make it about you.

Above all, remember that someone’s body is their business and theirs alone. To clarify - someone else’s body is NOT YOUR BUSINESS. Concern can quickly turn into body shaming whether or not that’s your intention. If your comment is appearance-based, keep it to yourself. If you’re not quite sure what to say (or if you should say anything at all) check out my previous post: 10 Things I Wish I Would Have Heard In The Height of My Eating Disorder.

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.