Ten Things Not to Say to Someone with Anorexia

Mario eating food

Mario eating a S’More

While slipping into anorexia, I was rewarded with compliments from family, friends, and strangers. Our society associates losing weight with health and happiness. However, eating disorders show that this is often not the case.

Instead of blaming those who made unhelpful comments to me, I want to make a list of common but detrimental phrases people often say to someone struggling with anorexia. One of the main things to remember is to not focus on someone’s weight. If you feel the need to compliment a friend, affirm a characteristic that you admire or something that he or she has done recently. Otherwise, if you really how that person looks, then choose another aspect of his or her appearance like an outfit, hairdo, or earnest smile. There are so many other ways to encourage someone besides mentioning pounds lost.

  1. So are you just never hungry? Actually, I am hungry all of the time. Wouldn’t you be if you were not eating? After a little while, the hunger cues are confused. However, that does not mean I am not longing for food.
  2. Just eat the food. It isn’t that hard. Until you have an addiction, it is nearly impossible to understand them. Eating used to drain all of my energy and still haunts me. What seems like a simple activity feels like a battle with each bite. 
  3. People who don’t eat deserve to die. It is survival of the fittest, and people who are stupid enough to starve themselves should die. I actually heard someone make this argument. Hopefully, you do not think like this. If so, please know that anorexia is a illness. Saying that people should die from it is the same as stating that people with cancer, diabetes, or asthma should die. It is a cruel way to view the world.
  4. I wish that I had some of your self-control! Eating disorders are not about self-control; they are an illness. The times when I eat and ignore my anorexic voice are when my strength and “self-control” take root. Plus, stating this diminishes the horror of anorexia. You cannot simply have one to lose a bit of weight and then return to normal.
  5. You can have some of my weight. This comes from a kind place, I think, but it is a strange way of both demeaning oneself while affirming the sickness of someone else. A nicer way to state such a comment might be something that one boy once told me: “You look beautiful and will look even more beautiful with 10 pounds.” Sure, that statement is not perfect either, but it affirmed me while promising that recovery would be even better.
  6. Well, at least you are thin now. “Congrats. You are thin even though you are killing yourself doing that.” That sounds harsh but is the same as the previous statement. Please try not to focus on the weight.
  7. Wow, you lost so much weight. You look so good now! This is something that people with anorexia love to hear at first. After awhile, you begin to think that is the only important element of yourself. Plus, it makes you wonder how ugly people used to think you were.
  8. Can you teach me some of your strategies? Really? You think that I want you to get sick too? Anorexia is not some “fad diet” although it can begin because of someone. This illness is a traumatizing, destructive experience that kills far too many people.
  9. You are eating, so you must be healthy. Just because I am eating does not mean I am cured. Any comment on food can be triggering to someone with anorexia. That does not mean you should tiptoe around that person. However, being considerate and not talking too much about eating would be nice.
  10. How about you just eat healthy/non-fat/gluten-free food? Then you will be safe. No, that can just become part of the eating disorder. A dietitian will help me make a meal plan. I really love support, but unless I ask, please do not tell me how I should eat.

What are some comments that you have heard that you would add to this list? Please let me know.

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20 thoughts on “Ten Things Not to Say to Someone with Anorexia

  1. dilipnaidu says:

    Excellent tips Anna! It’s very important to say the right words if you wish the person to improve!
    Thanks and bye 🙋

  2. Thank you, honey! I have a food addiction for which I have been in recovery for 11 months. I am at the same place that you are in terms of the addiction and want to show my gratitude for your clear and honest thinking on this! Keep on keepin’ on!

  3. Anna Bjorlin says:

    Great post as always, Anna Rose! 🙂 I can’t believe anyone would say #3…some of the other quotes might stem from being uneducated or just accidentally careless, but that one is terrible; not to mention an awful argument.

  4. MEM says:

    You rock! Way to be brave and keep up the battle. Fight the good fight! You are worth it!!!!

  5. […] my article from yesterday about what not to say to people with anorexia, someone requested that I write on helpful remarks to make to someone who struggles with anorexia. […]

  6. laureneclyne says:

    Thank you for sharing these tips! I have friends who struggle with this illness, and it helps to hear what to avoid.

  7. Alex Yauch says:

    Sometimes people have no idea what to say and unfortunately they usually say the stupidest thing possible. People just need to know that you are there for them if they ever need anything. Its a wake up call to think about the fact that words can actually kill. I like the topic and the pointers!

  8. This is really great. I’m going to reblog it. I’ve felt really uninspired to write lately ’cause I originally started my blog to be an ED recovery/venting blog but I’ve been pretty good on the ED front lately.

    I used to hear, “you weigh too much/you’re too muscular to have anorexia” when I was really sick. I was an athlete, though, and was OBSESSED with making sure I could keep doing my sport ’cause it was my escape. It was really hurtful when people would say stuff like that to me ’cause I was very sick and it made me feel challenged to “do better” about not eating.

    • Thank you so much! Those are awful things to hear. Weight is only a small part of an eating disorder despite what others seem to think.

      • It really, truly is. I know someone who’s struggled with bulimia and anorexia most of her life and she’s overweight to the point that doctors tried to push her into weigh-loss surgery (she refused and has improved her full health in other ways).

        • Wow, that is awful. I have met people like that as well. It is so hurtful that some people have perceptions of what those with eating disorders “need” to look like in order to be “really” sick.

  9. Reblogged this on Cutting Out Counting Calories and commented:
    I used to hear, “you weigh too much/you’re too muscular to have anorexia” when I was really sick. I was an athlete, though, and was OBSESSED with making sure I could keep doing my sport ’cause it was my escape. It was really hurtful when people would say stuff like that to me ’cause I was very sick and it made me feel challenged to “do better” about not eating.

  10. Annika says:

    I struggled with a friend’s comments about calories. Sure, she didn’t mean to, but I had an extremely hard time not to transfer her concern about her body and food choices to mine. Everytime we would sit together at lunch, me probably eating for the first time in ages, she said something like “omg we shouldn’t be eating this, we’ll regret this, there’s so much fat in this”. It was horrible, especially because she knew about my eating disorder.
    In the beginning, she would also say things like “how do you do this? youre so beautifully skinny” or “I’m not gonna eat today to look like you”.
    Hugs to everyone who is struggling and remember you are beautiful, worthy and loved!!
    Special thanks to you for posting such inspiring and helpful articles ❤

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