Eating disorders are one of the most misunderstood mental diseases. Therefore, people unknowingly say things that irritate and trigger those with an eating disorder. Having struggled with anorexia since a young preteen, I’ve had a many things said to me that were irking, stinging and triggering. After a five-year-long road to recovery, I’m now able to analyze these phrases with a clear head. All of the following have been said to me at one time or another, whether I was in the midst of my eating disorder, or struggling to recover.
“You look healthier!”
“Healthy” translates to “fat” in the mind of an eating disordered individual. They know you’re trying to be nice and supportive, but stay away from relating to them physically. Instead, try: “you look happier”, “you’re glowing”, etc.
“That food looks good! What is it?”
They don’t look at food the same way you do. They are likely having a hard time focusing on getting it down and/or keeping it down. During a meal, don’t mention food at all. Talk about anything except for what they’re eating.
“How many calories in…”
You can easily find calorie content online or by calling the manufacturer. Don’t take advantage of their eating disorder; it slows the recovery process way down.
“Can you help me lose weight?”
No! Remember that an eating disorder a form of self-harm. To fill someone in on the process is triggering for them and unsafe for you. If you want to lose weight, talk to your doctor.
“You get to eat all day at treatment? Cool, I wish I were you!”
This might seem lighthearted or funny, but could be perceived as insensitive. When talking about their disorder or recovery, avoid jokes. This is a serious issue, and it is important to treat it as such.
“You’re not ‘like that’ anymore so…”
You’ve heard that an alcoholic will always be an alcoholic. Likewise, one with an eating disorder will always have an eating disorder. While weight is a factor in diagnosis, the psychological effects are more prominent and are usually permanent.
Supporting a loved one in recovery is important. There will always be hiccups in the process, but here are some topics to stay away from for their sake. With love from you and strength in them, you can get through this battle together.