What Not To Say To Someone With An Eating Disorder(9 Things)

This article will look at 9 things that should not be said to someone who suffers from an eating disorder and why. Furthermore, the article will also comment on what eating disorders basically are and discuss different types at a basic level to develop a better understanding of the topic for the audience.

What Not To Say To Someone With An Eating Disorder.

Here are 9 things you should never say to someone who has an eating disorder:

  • Why Are You So Thin?
  • You Look Healthy!
  • Why Not Just Eat?
  • Do I Look Fat?
  • Please Stop Throwing Up
  • It Is Good You Ate Today
  • How Do You Stay So Thin?
  • Are You Sure You Have An Eating Disorder?
  • Food & Weight

Before we look at these things in detail one by one, let us take a look at what eating orders basically are!

What Is An Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders can be described as severe and persistent behavioural disturbances in eating patterns that also affect one’s emotions and thoughts. The individual is obsessed or preoccupied with their weight, body shape, food and eating patterns as well as anxious about the consequences of eating certain foods. As a result, an individual may engage in overeating, under-eating or self induced vomiting which affects their social, mental and physical well being.

These disorders often occur with other disorders or diseases such as mood and anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and alcohol and drug abuse problems. However, research has also shown that these disorders are caused by genes and heritability factors; at the same time such disorders can affect people who have no family history of eating problems.

There are different types of eating disorders that have been briefly explained here:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: It is characterized by self starvation and extreme weight loss where an individual totally abstains from eating. They are afraid they will gain weight or become fat hence not only do they abstain from food but if they do engage in eating they will purge by vomiting or misuse laxatives.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: In this type of eating disorder, individuals alternate between safe eating behaviors where they take very low calorie foods or binge eat where they take in unrestricted large amounts of food. However, binge eating is followed by compensatory behaviors like vomiting, misuse of laxatives and fasting. The episodes of binge eating usually occur once a week and are done secretly because they are associated with feelings of guilt or shame.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: People with binge eating disorder have episodes of binge eating in which they eat large amounts of food in a short period and hence experience a sense of loss of control over their eating and may feel stressed out or upset. Unlike people with bulimia nervosa however, they do not regularly use compensatory behaviors to get rid of the food by inducing vomiting, fasting, exercising or laxative misuse. Binge eating is chronic and can lead to serious health complications, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

There are other types of eating disorders however this is not the scope of the article. The only reason these types were introduced were so the audience could be allowed to develop an understanding of the seriousness of these disorders and hence understand and accept the things that should not be said to someone who suffers from an eating disorder!

What Not To Say To Someone With An Eating Disorder – Top 7 Things

In this section we will look at all the things you should not say to someone who suffers from an eating disorder!

Why Are You So Thin?

People who suffer from an eating disorder are already conscious about their weight and body shape hence asking them more questions about it is not going to be asked. They will only feel more stressed out. Many people who suffer from an eating disorder do try to improve their eating habits as well as increase their weight but it isn’t always easy because this is a mental disease that also affects the emotions and thoughts.

So next time you are around someone who suffers from this disorder, try not talking about how they look. They already know what is wrong with them and are well aware of it.

You Look Healthy!

This may seem like a neutral statement that will not do much harm but to say this to someone who is stuck with an eating disorder is the same as saying you look fat! People who have this problem are already very sensitive to how they look and they often equate the word healthy to fat. Hence it is better to stay quiet and focus on other things rather than how they look.

The last thing these people want to talk about is how they look to others. There is something wrong with their thoughts and perception because even if they are extremely weak or normal they will think they have loads of fat on them and they are desperate to lose it.

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Why Not Just Eat?

If it were that easy people with this eating disorder would obviously eat because of course they suffer because of the lack of nutrition that is going inside of them. However, eating is the problem and that is something they cannot control. They either do too little of it or too much of it. Hence they reap the consequences of their behavior. However, it is not their fault because this is a psychological disease which affects their mental and physical wellbeing and does not allow them to see things as they are!

Do I Look Fat?

The last thing you want to do is remind someone who has an eating disorder about their weight or body shape. The best way you can do that is by drawing attention to the shape of anyone’s body! It doesn’t have to be theirs only. Yes as a person who is not affected by this disease, you would be curious to know if you seemed fat or thin or normal to someone who is forced to view the world differently. However, by asking such questions you will only make them feel more anxious or concerned about their own weight and body shape which may push them back into more of their episodes.

Please Stop Throwing Up

People often engage in throwing up to compensate for their excessive eating or to promote weight loss. They experience recurring thoughts about their own selves which are difficult to ignore. They have urges to engage in episodes of eating or of throwing up. They simply can’t help themselves. Hence by asking them not to throw up you will only push them into more guilt or shame.

It Is Good You Ate Today

By praising them you may make them confused because they might start feeling guilty about eating as it will contribute to their weight gain hence they may immediately regret it and engage in compensatory behaviours. Unless this is an accepted way to reinforce them, do not remind them of what they have eaten.

How Do You Stay So Thin?

Some people are impressed by how these individuals maintain their weight and may ask how they do it. This is not a good thing to do and the last thing you should mention to such individuals is anything about food, shape or body weight.

Are You Sure You Have An Eating Disorder?

These disorders can hit anyone regardless of age. It is possible someone got diagnosed with this disorder last week so they still have their weight at an acceptable level. Hence, you might doubt them when they say they have an eating disorder. Don’t do that!

Food & Weight

As we mentioned earlier, there are so many other things to discuss with a person who has an eating disorder. These individuals are very successful people who have great control over their lives and careers but this is one area where they struggle. Talk to them about anything but food and weight!


This article explained why you should not say certain things to someone who suffers from an eating disorder while providing a complete explanation to the audience. At the same time, the article also described what eating disorders are and provided the different types of eating disorders so that the audience could have a better understanding of the topic and severity of the disease.

What we recommend for eating disorders

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from an eating disorder then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.




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