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6 things you shouldn’t say to someone with an eating disorder

Eating Disorder Awareness Week is 1st – 7th March 2021. This is a topic that I am really passionate about because it has affected my life so much. I’m aiming to get 2 or 3 blog posts out this week surrounding the topic. To start with, I’m going to be writing about 6 things you shouldn’t say to/talk about to someone with an eating disorder.

*Disclaimer: I am not an expert/professional in eating disorders, this is purely based of my experiences. If you think you or someone you know might have an eating disorder, please seek help.*

Related post: My favourite recovery quotes

“Children in Africa are starving”

Do not under any circumstances say this! It just applies more guilt to the person suffering. You don’t choose to have an eating disorder.

“You look healthier”

You are probably thinking ‘how is this hurtful?’ but this makes us believe that we don’t need treatment anymore. It implies that we have gained weight and are all recovered. It doesn’t make any logical sense but whenever someone said that to me, I would think that I was giving in far too easily to recovery. Again, this doesn’t make sense because the eating disorder caused me nothing but pain – but recovery is hard and can feel like you’re losing something that was so close to you even if it was toxic. Yes, we might look better than we used to, but it isn’t a physical illness, it is a mental illness and requires a lot more than gaining weight.

“Why can’t you just eat?”

Ok, I know eating disorder has the word ‘eat’ in it, but it isn’t all about food. An eating disorder is a mental illness and it is so much more than eating. If all it took to recover was ‘just eating’ then don’t you think we would have thought of that? It can be so demeaning to hear someone, especially a loved one, telling us to just eat. It doesn’t go away by eating.

“How did you lose so much weight?”

One of the worst things about recovery, is how much our society loves people who are on a diet. It is so difficult to recover when all that is talked about is a new diet or an old diet back in fashion.

When in recovery, whether or not you actually want to recover, it is super unhealthy to be asked how you lost weight. It can actually encourage that person to restart their diet. Also, if you know that someone is in eating disorder recovery, don’t comment on their body. They are likely to be very sensitive.

“If you think you’re fat, then I must be huge”

This is just so unhelpful. When I was struggling, a few people said this to me. In the nicest way possible, I was completly focused on how I looked and not how others looked. You are likely to think that others look completly fine in their body shape (even if it is the same as yours and you feel fat).

Me thinking I looked fat, is not a reflection on you. This is a ‘it’s me, not you’ situation.

“I wish I had your willpower”

I had really strong willpower in my eating disorder and I did get complimented on this. I was happy when I was being complimented…well no, that isn’t strictly true. It wasn’t me that was happy, it was my eating disorder. It wasn’t me that had the willpower, it was me following extremly strict rules that my eating disorder was forcing me to follow.

I hope that this post has helped you/made you more clear on what not to say and what kind of effect it can have.

Another reminder, that it is very important to reach out and talk to someone if you/someone you know might have an eating disorder. There are lots of helplines & great ED info pages that can help.

BEAT – 0808 801 0677

Mind – 0300 123 3393

Samaritans – 116 123

Best wishes, Cx

40 thoughts on “6 things you shouldn’t say to someone with an eating disorder”

  1. These are great reminders, and important for anyone to read. I know a few people who have eating disorders, and it’s important to make sure we are as sensitive to that as possible. I’m definitely sharing this!

  2. Honestly when I was in the very early stage of recovery and trying to get my head around weight gain, any time someone said that I looked “healthier” it just sent me over the edge. I know it’s often meant with kindness, but in an ed brain, it doesn’t come across like that and it hurts. Always here ❤

  3. This is such a wonderful blog post. Thank you so, so much for sharing. As someone who is in recovery I personally HATE hearing any of these.

  4. This is such an important topic to discuss. I honestly can’t believe some of the things people say in this situation. I think sometimes people just do not think or feel the need to SAY something but I still find it so heartless!

    Thank you so much for sharing, each of these must have been really difficult to process x x

  5. Such an amazing post! I know some people who have eating disorder and I try not to bring this sensitive topic whenever we meet. These are great reminders and thank you for sharing x

  6. Thank you for sharing this – it was very informative to read, especially when so many people are struggling right now. This was a great reminder on how to be sensitive around what can be a difficult subject.

  7. Amazing post. I don’t have an eating disorder but I’m very familiar with the sh*t people have said to me regarding anxiety. So I understand how it feels. All of these are SO insensitive. The first one? Holy sh*t like on what planet have you got to be to say that to someone? x

  8. I think this is such a helpful post. All of these comments are so insensitive and I really hope people start thinking more about the implications of what they are saying. Thank you for raising awareness on this topic! <3

  9. I think this is great that you’re talking about this! I have never experienced this type of mental illness but thank you for sharing these to know what not to say from this side! You don’t always know the “right” thing to say so knowing these definitely helps!

  10. Oh darn! I don’t know how people can be so darn insensitive towards others and their feelings. Like how the hell would you say things like this to people without even considering how it would affect them. Like seriously, I do not have an eating disorder but I absolutely understand this as I have seen people go as far as call someone who is struggling with an eating disorder FAT. I feel like the word FAT is so fucking rude. Like how the hell in the world could you be so rude?! The way people act and behave sometimes tends to get me pissed. This is a matter that isn’t addressed as much as it needs to be addressed and so I’m glad to see it over here. Spread the word girl x!

    1. I know right, it’s just so upsetting! I’ve heard someone tell another person with an ed fat too and it’s so horrible – it just draws on that stereotype that you ‘have’ to be underweight to have an eating disorder which isn’t true. Like they probably already have those fears themselves and then someone comes along and says its true – though it obvs isn’t!! Thank you for commenting! <3 xx

  11. It always annoys me how people can be so insensitive and often say things without thinking first. This is such an important topic that needs to be spoken about. I suffered from an eating disorder when I was a teenager and one of my biggest triggers where when people were complimenting me on my weight loss. It just wasn’t helpful that people did so because it felt like my eating disorder had more power.

  12. This is such an important topic to write about. I had no idea people tell these horrendous things to persons with eating disorders, so insensitive. People should just really shut up if they don’t know anything, it may cause more damage. I’m so sorry that you had to deal with people like that. Great post!

  13. Everyone needs to read this post because this is such an important reminder! It’s shocking that people would actually say these especially the first one.

  14. Wow, you’ve nailed these brilliantly. I’ve had most said to me. Actually, I had that first one said when I confided in someone that I was feeling very on the edge at one point (must have been desperate to actually tell someone that as usually it’s kept in the vault) and he said “life can’t be that bad for you, there are poor, starving kids in Africa, you don’t have it that bad”. Some people really don’t ‘get’ it at all, whether it’s depression or eating disorders.

    I used to really struggle with responding to comments like these. My situation is very different now than what it was but now people mistake my smaller body size with either something I’m really happy with, or an eating disorder. Hearing how they wish they had my willpower or “how do you keep the weight off?” makes me so angry, and it’s always triggering in some way.

    Thank you for sharing these. I wish there were bloggers and people like you to openly share this stuff when I was a teenager first starting to struggle with an eating disorder.

    Caz xx

    1. Thank you. It’s so heartbreaking when someone so close to you just says the wrong thing. I just don’t understand why people have to comment on how others look, like it isn’t our personality. We are far more than what we look like! Your comment means so much xx

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