Things You Shouldn’t Say:
“Are you sick?”
“You look like you have AIDS”
Let’s remember that the person with an Eating Disorder ALREADY has a low self esteem. Why would you want to say these things to anyone, let alone someone with an Eating Disorder (and what if the person in question really was HIV positive, or suffering with AIDS)? There’s nothing wrong with approaching a close friend or family member you may be concerned about and saying “you’ve lost a lot of weight and I’m concerned about you” in a caring way, followed by “I’m here to listen if you want to talk,” but any comment that comes across as insulting or an attack will be heard defensively and unproductive for what your original intention may have been.
“Would you just eat already!”
“I don’t understand WHY you don’t just eat…”
“You better stay out of the *&%’ing bathroom!”
These are not words of love, but of control. Threatening an Anorexic or Bulimic with “take-over” is not a good idea if you’re trying to help. Let’s try to keep in mind too, like we said earlier, there is a lot of guilt attached to Eating Disorders, so laying it on thick with statements like these only perpetuates that. If you’re close enough, there’s nothing wrong with a gentle “Want to have some dinner with me?” or “Talk to me” after a meal, but lets keep the mind games to ourselves. With statements like these the person seeking to help is only trying to pacify his or her own guilt in not being able to help, and looking for a quick fix.
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“Would you look at what you’re doing to your boyfriend/husband/wife/kids…”
Again, with these types of questions you are only perpetuating guilt. You’re basically saying “why do you make everyone so miserable” and “why do you burden us with all this worry” which is nothing but selfish, and even if not meant selfishly, will only be perceived as a “don’t burden us with your problems” or “look at all the trouble you’re causing.” If you are close to someone with an eating disorder (and you might be if you’re reading this) take it as an opportunity for yourself to learn to communicate more clearly, and to be a more understanding individual. Those suffering with an Eating Disorders are not DOING anything to you, but are struggling tremendously themselves, inside. You need to keep this in mind when posing questions that are selfishly motivated or hurtful (even if unintentionally).
“Why are you doing this to yourself?”
“You have good things in your life, what’s the problem?”
Those with an Eating Disorder do not choose to do this to themselves. There is no conscious choice (in most cases) where a person suffering from an Eating Disorder would prefer that lifestyle as opposed to one filled with self-love and happiness. This is a coping mechanism, a means for dealing with depression, stress and self-hate that has been built up over many years. It is a reflection of how the person suffering feels about themselves inside. Wonderful husbands, kids, supportive friends have little influence (other than sometimes temporarily) in creating the true self-esteem required for permanent recovery, to cope with life positively, and to learn to believe that we deserve good things in life and happiness. These disorders are about the person suffering and how they feel about themselves.