Knowing what not to say to someone with an eating disorder is important regardless of what that eating disorder is. And the specific eating disorder is an important consideration for reasons we’re about to explain.
See, we’re usually careful with our comments around people who are overweight. But those underweight share similar struggles that often go unnoticed.
In the following article, we’ll be talking about both. We’ll specifically focus on the “don’t go there” comments that can knock these individuals — often loved ones — off track. Let’s begin!
Ever bought something for the fridge you wanted for yourself? You go to look for it, turn to your loved one or friend or roommate and say, “Did you already eat all of XYZ?”
Careful! This kind of phrasing induces guilt in the person who is already struggling with their eating disorder. This is a challenge for thin or overweight people alike, and it’s one of the weight comments while having an eating disorder they’re likely to experience.
As such, it’s important to strike this from the record of accepted phrases, especially when figuring out how to talk to someone with bulimia. As life-threatening bulimia is something that affects as many as 6 million men and women throughout the U.S. in their lifetimes, it’s possible you already have someone in your social circle that struggles with it.
Starting any sentence with “You should do this” or “You should do that” comes across as judgmental in the mind of the person struggling with an eating disorder.
Interested in helping someone with anorexia, bulimia, or obesity? Remove this one from your vocabulary.
If wondering what to say to someone with anorexia or an over-eating disorder, don’t assume “common sense” will win the day. These disorders are classified that way for a reason. They affect the processing and classification of info that might come naturally to the average person.
If anything, this over-simplifies the problem. It also makes the person feel flawed or broken. When that occurs, they’re likely to retreat more into their disorder.
It’s important to reinforce body positivity at a young age. But dismissing the very real struggles someone is experiencing does not qualify as how to comfort someone with an eating disorder. They know there is an issue, and this comment just comes across as dismissive no matter how well-meaning you are.
Too often, we think we’ll make others feel better by tearing ourselves down. Draw attention to your imperfections, and it’s likely to make them feel not-so-bad about their own. Right?
Nope. You’re really just validating the act of unhealthy self-criticism, and it’s not an effective means for how to support someone with an eating disorder. That’s because it endorses the very behavior driving their unhealthy relationships with food in the first place.
Hopefully, this look at what not to say to someone with an eating disorder will help you sharpen your approach to helping the people you care about.
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