What Not To Say To An Anorexic
Inside the Anorexic Mind
30 years ago, I went from being the fat little red-headed girl to being the disappearing red-headed girl. I was put on a 600 calorie a day diet by a Beverly Hills doctor who felt that losing a few pounds would be important for me as I transitioned from high school to college. My overweight mother never questioned the wisdom of 600 calories a day. She just felt guilty about the whole thing and cried a lot.
After struggling with the 600 calorie limit for a few weeks, I finally got into a groove and sooned realized that it's almost easier to eat nothing then it is to worry about eating 600 calories a day. So I got really good at eating less, and less, and less. And I started losing more, and more, and more.
Fast forward 30 years. I had done a decent job of keeping my weight off into middle age. My anorexia was under control after a combination of therapy and falling in love, moving and maturing, and probably a few intangibles that helped me restore some mental and physical health. But then as with many women in their 40's, the weight started to creep on. And one day I realized I was back to being a fat little red-headed middle age woman. Not exactly fat, but not exactly not fat. So, I tried to get it off. I had food delivered to my home. Zone type diet. It didn't work. The weight stayed on. Then I tried South Beach and off it came. Down the numbers went. I was thrilled. I was fitting into things I had outgrown. I was feeling good about my body and myself. Losing weight is one of my favorite feelings. It's all good. And so once it starts I hate to give up that feeling. So I keep losing weight. And I hit a point where people think I look fine. And then I go past that point. But then the holidays hit, and I put back a few of those extra pounds. The extra pounds that I lose that make people worry about my state of mind.
When you're a recovering anorexic, you are very sensitive to what people say. Anorexics hear things differently. You say "You looking great. Thin, but not too thin" and I hear "Not too thin? That means fat. That means I have more to lose." So, here are a few things you shouldn't say to anorexics. And because you may not know if someone is an anorexic, then I suggest you refrain saying these things to any dieter:
1. "I was worried you were going to get too thin, but you look just right" - Just right is the kiss of death. Just right is as good as fat. So don't tell people they look just right. And don't tell them that you thought they were going to get too thin. Anorexics don't care what you think is too thin. There is no such thing as too thin.
2. "I didn't think you were going to eat any of that. I'm glad you did." - Don't point out what the anorexic is or isn't eating. You'll just trigger the voice in their heads to start a dialogue about their lack of will power. It's heard as a criticism. Everything is heard as a criticism.
3. "You really shouldn't lose any more weight." - That's an invitation to shed more pounds. It's heard as a dare, a challenge, a new goal to set. Who are you to set a weight loss limit, thinks the anorexic mind. You're probably fat or jealous or a liar or have some agenda designed to keep the anorexic fat. Your opinion either doesn't count or is filtered as a lie or an exaggeration.
The anorexic mind is a delicate one. It isn't easy to work with or to understand. You can't see or hear what is going on inside the anorexic mind, but there is a dialogue. Between the anorexic and a very active voice. If there's an anorexic in your life, take some time to explore websites and written works that expose the anorexic thought patterns. You'll be shocked. You'll be scared. But maybe you'll become more sensitized to this condition and how you can impact the anorexic for better or for worse.