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How to Communicate with an Individual Suffering from an Eating Disorder

Do you have a friend or loved one that is struggling with an eating disorder? You may find it hard to speak to them without hurting their feelings. Lets’ take a look at what not to say to an individual suffering from an eating disorder.

According to an article at, “What Not to Say to an Eating Disorder”

18666589_s“So as a service to everyone who knows, meets or interacts with someone with an eating disorder, here’s a guide to what not to say. Even if you’re intentions are good, your first instinct might not be the best when it comes to what to say to someone who discloses their eating disorder to you.

1. “You don’t look sick.”
There are all kinds of eating disorders. Anorexia is one of them, and yes, it does include a weight criterion. However, it’s the only one that does. The vast majority of people with eating disorders are not underweight. So while you might think you’re paying a compliment, or trying to keep them from blowing a problem out of proportion, you’re really just sending the message: Your problem isn’t real.

2. “Maybe if you just exercise more you won’t want to restrict.”
One thing to remember is that people with eating disorders have a wide variety of symptoms. One you won’t see in the media as often is excessive exercise. You could inadvertently be pushing someone into an unhealthy behavior. Beyond that, eating disorders aren’t caused by a logical desire to lose weight. They’re complicated mental illnesses, and “healthy” ways of losing weight just won’t serve the same functions.

3. “Shouldn’t you try eating healthier instead?”
Similarly to exercising, eating healthier foods and losing weight slowly is really not the goal of an eating disorder. The goal is control, self-harm, perfectionism or emotional management. Some folks even have something called orthorexia, meaning healthy eating is a damaging practice.

4. “You look so healthy.”
This one is tough, because for lots of people it seems like it’s circumventing the problem of commenting on someone’s weight. Especially as your friend/loved one starts to move towards recovery, it’s really tempting to comment on how much more alive they look. I can promise you, that most eating disordered brains know this is code for, “You’ve gained weight.” A better choice is to focus on compliments or comments that don’t address weight at all, such as “You seem really happy lately,” or “I’m glad to see you doing your favorite things again.”

5. “Don’t you know you’re hurting yourself?”
Again, this might seem like the kind of question that comes from a place of caring. You want your friend or acquaintance to know you care about them and you don’t want them to hurt or deprive themselves. The problem is it comes off as condescending. If you’re in the midst of an eating disorder, you’re quite aware you’re damaging your body. I remember stopping to sit down halfway up a flight of stairs because I was too winded. I remember the whole world going blurry and dizzy on a regular basis. I remember sleeping constantly because my body just couldn’t get up and do anymore. My story is not even close to the worst either. Others are hospitalized, pass out, get osteoporosis, break bones or damage their digestive systems. We know we’re hurting ourselves and hearing about it inspires feelings of guilt, confusion and sometimes even a desire to continue hurting yourself.” To read the entire article click here.

ABC Nutrition Services is designed to allow clients to achieve healing form bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, or emotional eating. If you or a loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder in the Reno and Sparks area contact ABC Nutrition Services at 775-329-0505 or visit

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