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What NOT to Say to Someone with an Eating Disorder

Updated on April 16, 2012

First let me preface this piece by saying that I am in no way poking fun at, or belittling those with eating disorders (eds), or individuals who have loved ones suffering with eating disorders. I have been battling my bullima/anorexia for almost 20 years now and it has left a trail of devastation in all areas of my life. Sometimes in the face of desperation all one can do is laugh or cry. I choose to laugh.

The content of the article is taken from my own experiences and those of others struggling with eds. I hope it gives family/friends of those with eds a better idea of how the eating disordered think and for the eating disordered people themselves, a better awareness of their distorted thinking and how crazy it really is if looked at in black and white on the page…

What you said vs What they heard

What you said
What they heard
You look great today!
You looked awful the last time I saw you.
You look larger than the last time I saw you.
You’ve lost weight.
You used to be fat.
You’re still fat but a little less so that last time I saw you.
That outfit looks great on you.
Your outfits usually look horrendous.
You’re looking so hot/sexy!
Your butt and breasts are HUGE!
Look at that gorgeous woman!
You are an ugly, homely individual and would have to work very hard to attain even a fraction of her beauty and poise.
You look so fit/toned/athletic.
You look masculine, hefty, overly muscular, stout.
How do you eat so much and stay so slim?
First of all I’m not slim, you sarcastic b****. Secondly, I prevent myself from becoming obese by working out until I can’t stand and vomiting after every meal.
You don’t need to lose any weight.
You’re just saying that to make me feel better about myself. I KNOW I need to lose weight.
You exercise so much, you can eat anything you want.
Not when I’m eating the equivalent of 15 meals a day!!!
Let’s go out for dinner.
Let’s go out so you have to “appear normal” and eat stuff you know you’re going to have to purge without anyone noticing later.
At a restaurant: Why are you getting so freaked out about the D*** salad? So it’s thousand island instead of fat-free ranch – get over it!!!
Yeah and that thousand island is probably adding a few THOUSAND calories to this D*** salad! I might as well spread it right on my butt!
At a restaurant: Wow – you must have been hungry!
You are a greedy hog who just stuffed yourself to bursting point with an obscene amount of food!
It’s alright for you; you can eat anything you want!
Yeah – as long as I go and vomit it all up within the hour!!!
Let’s go out for drinks.
Sure, let’s go out and imbibe a huge and unnecessary quantity of calories so I have to spend the next 24 hours purging to get rid of them!

As I was cataloging all these comments, the self hatred and loathing that so many with eds harbor is almost tangible in the “what we heard” thoughts. One of the things that has helped me personally to accept compliments at face value is to think of them as gifts. We wouldn’t throw the gift back in the giver’s face but that’s exactly what we do when we either negate a comment or turn it into something negative and hateful in our heads.

I would be very grateful for input and feedback on the article. Please feel free to send me more “What you said/What they heard examples”. I plan to catalog them and share them. I know it has been a great comfort to me just to know that I'm not the only one thinking in this crazy, destructive and illogical way.

Other Cringe-Worthy Comments:

“Oh you have an eating disorder – that’s when you throw up all the time right?”

“Why don’t you just EAT???”


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    • ChristianeLaird profile image

      ChristianeLaird 5 years ago

      Thank you for your comment - eating disorders are so complex - sufferers all seem to have different pieces/facets of the disease....

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      My girlfriend has an ed. But practically speaking she does not have a problem with her appearance... no offence intended! But I have to admit this is true cause I have experienced it! We need to take care about these matters!