Watching a loved one battling an eating disorder can be difficult, and you may not know precisely how to react or respond to what they are going through. But knowing what and what not to say to these people can be critical to their healing process.
Eating disorders are severe mental and physical illnesses that involve complex and damaging relationships with food, eating, exercise, and body image. Now that your friend or family member who has an eating disorder already knows they have a problem, you don’t have to make it more evident and difficult with snide comments about their eating disorder.
Below are six things you should avoid saying to someone who has an eating disorder.
Avoid Making Comments on Weight
You should know that most people with eating disorders are constantly obsessed with checking their weight now and then. Some people with this disorder wake up early to see if their size has increased or decreased. So when you are with such a person, please resist the temptation to pass a comment regarding their weight. Discussing weight with a person who has an eating disorder, no matter how well-intentioned, will make them feel sad.
Additionally, you should also avoid commenting on your loved one’s weight but extend the same courtesy to yourself as well. Passing comments like “I look so fit and trim for my age” wouldn’t help them. Instead of talking about weight, you can focus more on other things they are passionate about, like movies or art.
Avoid Saying, “You Don’t Look Like Someone With an Eating Disorder.”
When you say something like this to a person with an eating disorder, it feels like trying to negate their feelings and their struggles. You are not going through that phase, so you can never understand what it feels like to be struggling with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not selective, and they do not apply to only emaciated-looking people.
Don’t Ask, “Have You Seen Your Therapist Lately?”
No, you shouldn’t ask a person with an eating disorder that question. You make them feel like the love and support from their family is not enough, and only professional help can save them. It is a known fact that the prevention of eating issues, most especially an eating disorder, may not be so easy. They are most likely seeing a therapist already, but a reminder might make them feel like their condition is irredeemable. A better thing to say can go like, “I know you are having a tough time right now. Would you like to talk to me?
Don’t Ever Ask, “Should You Be Eating That?”
If you know someone with an eating disorder and you see them eating something, understand it took a lot of courage and zeal for them to take anything at all. It can even be harder to eat food in front of others, so don’t ask them why they are eating a particular food. They are most likely to have the lists of food that are safe and what they eat regularly, but it wouldn’t hurt if they challenge themselves to eat something different and out of their usual menu. Comments such as this may not be helpful and push them further away, making them return to their old ways.
Don’t Go Like, “You Either Stop Eating Or….”
Your loved one is going through it already, and giving them a request may come from a good place, but sometimes it can do more harm than good. You can feel it is a great negotiation tactic and self-discipline but, a person with an eating disorder is already facing a lot of pressure, especially from themselves.
If you genuinely love them, don’t make it harder by adding more stress to their life. Stress or the words you say to them can easily trigger people with eating disorders, so it is advisable to avoid passing comments that will make them isolate themselves and further worsen their condition.
Don’t Say, “Why is it Hard For You To Eat Something?”
They are not doing it deliberately, and you won’t be doing them any favor by asking why it is hard for them to eat something. If only it were that simple, they would probably order food day and night from restaurants. They want to eat something, but the food is alien when an individual struggles with a restrictive eating disorder.
The journey to the healing process for an eating disorder is not always smooth. The best you can do as their loved ones are to give them all the support and love you can. It is a long and arduous journey.