Do you know someone with an eating disorder? Many of us don’t always know the right things to say to them. Choosing what we say carefully is important because things that may seem fine to us might hurt them.
So, if you know someone with an eating disorder and want to encourage them, here are the things you should and shouldn’t say to them.
Things you shouldn’t say
1. “You’re not even that fat/thin. You look so good!”
You may think you are saying something positive, but for someone with an eating disorder, this sentence is unhelpful. The best thing you can do is not to comment on their body or size at all. “Fat” and “thin” are subjective, and what we see in them might not be true in their mind.
2. “Why don’t you go on a diet?”
Society has the wrong notion that people with an eating disorder eat too much, or eat too little. Suggesting them to go on a diet will only make them feel more guilty about their eating habits. You might not even know how many diets they have tried in the past!
3. “I wish I’m thin like you/I wish I can eat as little as you!”
This saying may be a common joke between you and your friends, but to someone with an eating disorder, it definitely hurts. They don’t enjoy being in their state right now. Saying you wish you were like them only makes them feel worse and suggests that their problem doesn’t exist.
So, what should you say instead? Here are some tips…
Things you should say instead
1. “I know it’s difficult, but I’m proud of you.”
Saying this to someone struggling with an eating disorders is really heartwarming. It shows that you see their struggle and appreciate their effort to do better. It can even motivate them when they lose hope with their condition!
2. “I may not understand, but I’m here if you need me.”
It’s better to admit that you don’t know much about their struggle rather than thinking you do, and end up saying the wrong things. People with an eating disorder do not always need someone to understand. What matters is you’re there for them, and are ready to help whenever they feel like asking.
3. “How are you?”
These three words are so simple, yet so special. It shows you care about how they’re doing. This short question lets them know you’re interested in how they’re doing, and they might feel comfortable sharing their stories with you. You might even start conversation topics away from their eating disorders and get to know them better!
While we might not know what it’s like to have an eating disorder, we can learn to be wiser, more understanding, and more welcoming to our friends who are going through it. Remember that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Let’s be better people for ourselves and everyone around us!