There are things you should never say to a loved one with an eating disorder. The following statements can be incredibly damaging to your loved one's recovery.
Do you know anyone suffering from an eating disorder? According to statistics, millions of people in the United States suffer from some eating disorder, with three out of four American women suffering from an eating disorder. This shows how prevalent eating disorders are even in modern times.
There are many reasons why more women are struggling with an eating disorder. For one, the pressure to be thin is stronger now than ever. The media does not help, as it portrays an unrealistic body standard that only a small percentage of women can achieve.
Then there's the emphasis on looking good than being healthy. With the rise of social media, people are constantly bombarded with images of perfect-looking celebrities and influencers. This can trigger feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, leading to an eating disorder.
Be supportive and understanding if you have a loved one suffering from an eating disorder. It helps if you can be a part of their journey by being there from start to finish. Educating yourself about their condition can play a huge role in their recovery.
It helps if you can find a nearby clinic specializing in anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and other eating disorders. Find a clinic that offers a free clinical assessment so you can help your loved one get started with their recovery. The pros can educate you about the warning signs of eating disorders and the possible ill effects of their condition. They can even aid you in convincing your loved one to seek professional help.
Know that there are also certain things you should never say to a loved one suffering from an eating disorder. Your intentions might be good, but making the following comments will only exacerbate the situation.
1. You're not fat
Even if you mean it as a compliment, telling someone suffering from an eating disorder that they are not fat can be very triggering. For someone with an eating disorder, weight is often a fixation point. They may interpret your comment as them being overweight.
What you can do instead is to avoid commenting on their body size at all. This is especially true if your loved one is still recovering from eating disorder. Your intention might be to give a compliment, but realize that people with eating disorders have a negative connotation.
So, if your loved one is still struggling with their body image and hasn't recovered from their eating disorder, refrain from commenting on their personal appearance. This will help your loved one feel more comfortable and avoid triggering their disorder.
2. Snap out of it
Sometimes, people tend to be insensitive when telling their loved one to snap out of it to stop their disordered eating. Remember that having an eating disorder is not a choice. Telling someone to snap out of it is both hurtful and unhelpful.
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that require professional help. So, be supportive and encouraging instead. Remind them that they are not alone in this battle and that you will be there for them during these challenging times.
Instead of telling them to stop eating unhealthily, ask them what you can do to support their progress. This question shows that you are willing to help and be part of their recovery journey.
3. You're being overdramatic
Telling someone with an eating disorder that they are being overdramatic is not only hurtful but also dismissive of their condition. Eating disorders are real and serious illnesses that you should never take lightly.
Telling your loved one that they are only exaggerating will only invalidate their feelings. They might feel like you are not taking their condition seriously, which can further discourage them from seeking help. If you want to be supportive, avoid dismissing comments and offer your help and encouragement.
Show them that you are willing to listen and help whenever possible. Tell them that you take their condition seriously and are there for them.
4. I wish I have your willpower
Eating disorders are not a question of willpower or self-control. Telling your loved one you wish you had their willpower is not only hurtful but also ignorant about eating disorders being real illnesses. Doing so will only encourage them to continue their disordered eating since you are praising their lack of food intake.
What you can do instead is to avoid making comments about their food intake or weight. If you want to praise them, do it for something other than their eating habits or weight. Doing so will help them feel good about themselves without triggering their disorder.
For example, you can say that you care about them and are here for support. Let your loved one know that you are willing to be a part of their recovery can make a big difference.
Eating disorders are real and serious illnesses that should not be taken lightly. If you have a loved one suffering from an eating disorder, avoiding insensitive comments is one of the best ways to support their recovery. So, the next time you are about to say something, think about how your words might affect your loved one. Choose your words carefully and be supportive instead of hurtful.