Ten Things Not to Say to an Anorexic

If you know someone who has anorexia or any other type of eating disorder, there are many things you should avoid saying to them. This list offers just a few, along with things to consider when talking to anyone so that you don’t trigger uncomfortable feelings in them.

1. You Look Great Now – When someone is in recovery, it will take a long time before they look normal and are normal health wise. When you comment on their looks, you can trigger emotional reactions that you don’t want to trigger. Instead, focus on asking how the person is doing and concentrate on leaving looks out of the equation entirely.

2. You Look Healthier – The truth is, some people who look great and healthy aren’t. Even if someone looks healthier, they may not be yet. Plus, how someone looks “healthy” is very subjective.

3. I Like You Fatter – It’s tempting to reassure someone that you love them fat or thin, and knowing they will gain weight in recovery, you may be tempted to let them know you like them fluffier. The truth is, what you like is irrelevant, and you should keep your comments about their weight and size to yourself.

4. I Like You Less Bony – Again, trying to make someone feel better because they’re not as bony as they recover is not a great way to deal with the issue. Pointing out that they’re gaining weight, while healthy for them, is not healthy for their mind.

5. Eat More – The truth is, trying to control anyone’s food intake, even overly controlling a child’s food intake, is not something you should do. Make the food available, but don’t force anyone or encourage anyone to eat more.

6. You Looked Better Before – Again, telling someone who is trying to get well anything about their looks is dangerous for their mental health. Instead, focus on other factors about them than looks.

7. Children Are Starving – Pointing out that other kids are staving while they turn down food is not a good way to either solve world hunger or solve your friend’s eating disorder. One has nothing to do with the other, and you are downgrading their real illness by comparing it to something they have no control over.

8. You Need to Eat _____ – Everyone has their own idea about what is healthy. Telling someone just to eat a hamburger (or whatever) is not beneficial. It’s not an eating disorder to want to eat healthy plant-based food, for example.

9. I Wish I Could Lose Weight Like You – While you are reading this and thinking, “wow who would say that”, someone is saying it to someone in the world right now. There is more to life than weight.

10. You Don’t Look Like You Have Anorexia – Someone who is anorexic, especially in recovery, isn’t always going to look like a skeleton. Sometimes they will look quite normal. Again, don’t focus on looks when you compliment someone.

Remember that how someone looks is mainly genetic. Commenting on someone’s looks, body weight, and size is not an effective way to give them either a compliment or encouragement. Instead, focus on other aspects of a person’s life and behavior that is encouraging.