Ten Things Not to Say to Someone with BED or Compulsive Overeating Disorders

Mario eating food

Mario eating a S’More

When thinking of eating disorders, most people know about anorexia and bulimia at least by name. However, even more common are disorders that fall under EDNOS or eating disorder not otherwise specified. Two of these are BED  or Binge Eating Disorder and Compulsive Overeating. These are just as painful and certainly dangerous to your emotional, physical, and mental health.

Another hard element of these eating disorders is the judgement that goes with them. All eating disorder are judged, but if you also struggle with being overweight, that makes it even worse. Although most people would not have labeled me as having one of these disorders, I certainly feel like I had them through my teenage years. Some of the comments that I heard have altered my body image and confidence for over a decade now.

Thus, here are some comments that are extremely hurtful from people struggling with BED or Compulsive Overeating. If you have made such a comment before, please do not beat yourself up over it. Simply choose another response and try to learn how to better care for such people.

  1. Selfish people like you are the problem in this country/our world. Overeating does not always come from selfishness. Many people with these disorders are anxious, lonely, or feel out of control in life. Eating is one place to find security. Is that a good way to cope? No. But telling them that they are the problem in the world is certainly not helping anyone.
  2. Just use self-control to stop eating. Sounds easy, right? However, the deep emotional and mental issues often linked to food make it very hard for someone to stop without help.
  3. I thought only thin people had eating disorders. People of all weights have eating disorders. There is not a certain look or weight of most people with this mental illness.
  4. Have you tried _____ diet? Many diets are not helpful for someone with an eating disorder. Try to offer support for healthy eating and normal eating but be careful what advice you give especially if you are not an expert in nutrition. This can become very confusing and unhelpful quickly.
  5. Why would you want to be so fat/big/ugly? They do not want to look that way. It might seem like weighing more would follow rationally from binging or overeating. Yet, it is not a rational choice to have an eating disorder. Plus, calling a person fat, big, or ugly is just rude.
  6. You should be ashamed of yourself. They probably are. Plus, if you feel ashamed, you might eat to feel better. The cycle continues with self-hatred added.
  7. Have you tried just exercising a lot? Good idea to add in some physical activity. However, that does not cure an eating disorder. More help will be needed. Otherwise, that could turn into compulsive over-exercising. 
  8. They can eat more because they are thinner/prettier than you. People have different dietary needs. Announcing that in this manner is rather callous. All people need food to stay nourished, no matter their weight.
  9. Hey, there is no problem with that! Have fun eating. You only live once. These are real disorders. Acting like they are healthy or just quirks is just as detrimental as shaming them. Try to find a healthy balance between the two.
  10. Just stop eating ____. Unless you are the person’s dietian or doctor, try not to make broad statements which cut out huge food groups. This is a process that takes time and patience. 

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

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