1. But you eat!
Of course they do. They have to or they would die, very quickly. It doesn’t matter if you saw your friend eating a chocolate bar two weeks ago, or they eat something at lunch every day: they can still have a serious problem. They might calorie count, purge, only eat ‘safe’ foods, restrict what they eat: but they will still eat something, sometimes.
2. But you have a great figure! (especially when said to an underweight person)
Society has managed to twist everybody’s eyes to the point where underweight or ill looks normal or desirable. If somebody ever says “I’m X lbs underweight” and you reply with this, that’s telling them “there’s nothing wrong with you”. They hear it as “if you gain anymore, you’ll lose that figure and be fat”.
3. But you aren’t thin?
Eating disordered patients are not always underweight. A diagnosis of anorexia has a weight requirement at the moment, yes — but being 5 lbs underweight isn’t always obvious. Unless somebody is very underweight, it can be difficult to tell. That isn’t even the point — severity is not the same as weight. A person can be very ill with an eating disorder and be normal or overweight. Not to mention that actually telling a sufferer that they aren’t thin is often heard as “you’re fat”. Plain and simple.
4. Just eat [X] and avoid [Y] and you’ll be fine.
This tends to be the “just eat a healthy diet and you won’t get fat!” type thing. It’s more than a diet. It’s not like a sufferer can just ‘snap out of it’. Advising a healthy eating routine is sweet, but it’s a little like showing a person with cleanliness based OCD a light cleaning routine.
5. Avoid [Y].
On stories about treatment, people are always asking “well why are they feeding them pizza and things? Can’t they have grilled fish and vegetables? It’s healthier!” It’s healthier in that it has may have nutrients, sure. But you’re mixing up “good for weight loss” with “healthy”, as many people do. Low calorie foods are hard to gain weight on — not to mention that learning to eat all foods is very important in recovery. If I somehow managed to gain weight on lean meat and salads but couldn’t consider chips without a breakdown, I wouldn’t be recovered or healthy.
6. Just snap out of it!
If we could do this, none of us would have a problem.
7. Telling the person about your own diet
Not only is this boring to hear (sorry, it’s true), but it’s very triggering. If you enthuse about how you feel sooo much better and happier and you’ve lost 8 lbs since you cut out bread, I’m going to think about the toast I ate this morning and feel like crying. You may be in a very different place from me — you might genuinely need to lose some weight. But I’m not in a place where I can make that distinction right now: if you talk about how you never eat carbs, I’ll think “clearly I don’t need to either” — which isn’t true.
8. Wow, you ate a lot at that meal! Well done!
To them, hearing this used to mean “you tried hard, well done”. It’s a sweet sentiment, but all the person hears from that sentence is “wow, you ate a lot”. And I tend to hear “a lot” as “too much”.
9. Why don’t you just go out for a run if you feel fat?
I’ve had this advised as a way to deal with the food I’m eating. You can see the logic — anxious over being unhealthy/overeating could be answered with healthy activities like exercise. But exercising whenever you eat is unhealthy. It’s very unhealthy. Doing actions purely to burn off calories is purging, and that’s not a habit any of us need.
10. Oh, I had a friend with an eating disorder! Yeah, she got down to XXlbs and was in hospital for months, it was awful, she didn’t eat for days on end…
We’re competitive. We shouldn’t be; but we are. If you stand there and tell me about how thin your friend was, I think “well, she was really sick. I’m nothing like that, I can’t be sick!” I feel ashamed and upset and — yes, jealous because she did it better than me. If you’ve come to identify yourself purely as your weight and your disorder, as many people do, hearing this is like hearing “you aren’t good enough”.