Okay, so I know that eating disorder thoughts can twist and warp what people say to them and cause the sufferer to jump to conclusions that may seem oversensitive to some but it is honestly not their fault. And quite frankly some of the things people say to people with eating disorders are just plain stupid. So here are some of the things that you most definitely should not say.
The most obvious one:
● “Just eat!”
Grrr. For starters if we could just eat then we would. If it helps you then view an eating disorder as a physical ailment – pretend they’ve broken their leg for example. You wouldn’t tell that person to just go run a marathon would you? Well the same principle applies here.
●”You don’t look that skinny”
1. This is completely stereotyping eating disorders. Anorexia is not the only eating disorder there is. People with bulimia often aren’t significantly underweight and people with EDNOS may not be either.
2. If the person did have anorexia then this would definitely not help them. In fact it would probably make them a whole lot worse as they want to be skinny. This would make the ED thoughts more intense and wouldn’t do then any good at all.
3. You don’t have to have an unhealthy bmi to have anorexia. Someone that was healthy or even overweight could still suffer with it. Just because they weren’t physically unhealthy doesn’t mean that they aren’t still suffering with a serious mental health condition and intense anorexic thoughts. You wouldn’t tell a friend who said they had a sore back “well it doesn’t look sore,” would you?
●”Exercise is healthy what’s the issue?”
Yes, exercise in a safe controlled manner is good for you but compulsive over exercising can cause your body serious harm and is most definitely not healthy. That’s like saying self harming is good for you.
● “You look so much healthier now!”
Please, please, please don’t ever say this to someone with anorexia. You may think that you’re simply issuing a compliment but their ED twists your words and this directly translates as “They think I’m fat.”
● “But you’re better now, right?”
Nope nope nopity nope. Just because someone is weight restored doesn’t mean that they don’t still have the illness, don’t suffer with all the thoughts and aren’t capable of losing the weight again.
● I wish I had your willpower/were as skinny as you.
Right, so you wish you had thoughts of exercise, calories, fat, weight etc spinning round your head all the time. You wish you were tired and bloody freezing all the time. You wish you were dangerously underweight and had to go to thousands of doctors appointments and have loads of other people in charge of decisions regarding YOUR life. No. Eating disorders are not glamorous or something to aspire to they are really freaking dangerous and horrible mental disorders.
● “How are you so skinny?!”
… Just don’t go there. Plus every time you call us skinny or slim just drives our ED’s and makes them happy. It also puts the idea in our head that being skinny is what we should be, and people will like us more the skinnier we get.
But no matter what you’ve said you also need to realize that it has in no way caused our eating disorder and you are not to blame for anything. We know you mean well really, it’s the thing in our head that isn’t our friend and is trying to twist your words.
I hope this helps and you have a slightly better understanding how to talk to someone with an ED.