Have a Healthy Dialogue about Eating Disorders with These 5 Tips

In today's society, eating disorders are a major concern. At least 30 million people in the U.S struggle with some sort of disordered eating. Of these, young women are at the highest risk. Typically, recovery is a long painful process that involves setbacks and extreme stress. A person trying to recover must change habits that have gotten out of control while still in the same environment that lead them to disordered eating. Whether you are aware of it or not someone you love may have an eating disorder. To support them it is important to avoid triggering speech. Here are the 5 ways to switch harmful comments into supportive statements.

  1. 1. “I could never have an eating disorder, I love food too much!”

    People with eating disorders don’t hate food. They just have an unhealthy relationship with it. Food consumption has become a major stressor in their lives and may even be at the point where it is controlling their thoughts and time. When someone associates an eating disorder with hating food it oversimplifies the dynamics of disordered eating.

    Instead say: “Food is essential to life and it is important to eat regularly.”

  2. 2. “Skinny is ugly.”

    This may seem like a good way to discourage someone from starving themselves but there are three mistakes with this sentence. First, not everyone who has an eating disorder wants to lose weight. Eating disorders happen variety of reasons. Second, it is basing recovery off of what looks good when the main focus should be the person's internal well being. Finally, body shaming sucks and contributes to a bigger problem.

    Instead say: "If you make your happiness and health your first priority, you will eventually feel comfortable in your own skin."

  3. 3. “Women who worry about food are superficial. I am way too laid back to care what I eat.”

    This statement is equivalent to saying “I’m not like OTHER girls.” Worrying about weight (eating disorder or not) is a struggle for many women. This isn't because females are the superficial gender. The media is constantly attacking women making it seem like their worth is solely in their looks. Though you may have risen above it, it is unfair to dismiss other women's struggles as trivial. 

    Instead say: "I am going to order whatever I want and you should too."

  4. 4. “Go ahead and eat it. It’s cheat day!”

    People with eating disorders never get a day off from the guilt of eating. Besides that, this sentence reinforces the idea that there are “good” and “bad” foods and that there needs to be a set time to enjoy “bad” foods. These patterns are not harmful for everyone but for a person struggling with an eating disorder this way of thinking can be detrimental.

    Instead say: "Go ahead and eat it. It tastes great!"

  5. 5. "Just eat healthy and exercise. It’s that easy."

    It’s not that easy. Even for people who don’t struggle with disordered eating. Changing habits/lifestyle is a hard thing to do for anyone but especially for people with eating disorders who have lost control over their situation. The amount of time and effort needed to recover is daunting and acting like it is an easy fix is not doing the person any favors. 

    Instead say this: "Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you need it."