Messages for My Non-Disordered Friends & Family
By: Erica B.
1. You mean a lot to me: If I have divulged to you that I have/had an eating disorder, you must be pretty important to me. This is not something I share lightly, so if I have shared, I want you to know that I trust you implicitly.
2. Please refrain from “diet talk” or “fat-shaming”: Though it may not seem like a big deal, calling yourself “bad” for having an extra brownie or commenting on how you need to “diet for bikini season” is incredibly triggering to me. I understand that commenting about how “huge your thighs are” is an activity that bonds women and is very prevalent in our society; I can go on for days about how stupid all of that is, but that’s not relevant here. What is relevant is that those comments can send me into a downward spiral of my own insecurities; this may or may not be a problem for non-disordered people, but I will spend days thinking about how “huge I am" and how you all “must be thinking about how fat I am.” It might cause my behaviors to fly off the walls, and that can be really dangerous for my physical and mental health. One seemingly innocuous comment might break me, depending upon any number of factors, so please just avoid them.
3. Please don’t tell me about your friend’s disorder: You may have the best of intentions when you tell me that “you understand" my disorder because your childhood friend went through this “phase where she stopped eating and got super skinny, but then she got over it when she found cross-fit a few months later, and now she eats super healthy and is super fit, look at this picture of her now.” When you tell me well-intentioned anecdotes about eating disorders, my mind immediately jumps to a number of disordered thoughts: I can get competitive, or worried about you comparing my body to your friend’s, or convinced that I must do cross-fit in order to get better, which may not be healthy for me. Whatever my response is, I do not want to see a picture of this girl now. Everyone’s disorders are different.
4. Please don’t make comments on my body: Hearing about how “healthy I am now" is not always a compliment in my mind. Hearing that I’m “thick, but in a healthy way” might send me into internal hysterics. I know you mean well when you make comments about how “sexy” I look in that outfit, but I might then spiral off worrying about the benefits of looking “sexy” versus “skinny.” Body comments are rarely helpful, so please refrain.
5. Please don’t comment on what I eat: Odds are I’ve already given too much thought to the nutrition content of what I’ve put on my plate. If I take a second cookie, I probably didn’t do so cavalierly. I don’t need to hear whether I “eat like a bird” or “must be ravenous today!”
6. Please don’t ask me how low my weight got/how much I’ve put on: This is really personal information. It also doesn’t matter AT ALL. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, so weight is not always indicative of severity. Also, I wouldn’t ask you how much you weigh.
7. I am not crazy: This is here more to ease me than for your benefit. I fear that people associate eating disorders/mental illness in general with insanity. I am not my disorder; I am the same smart, kind, responsible person you knew before I revealed to you my struggle.
8. Feel free to ask questions: Other than ones about specific weights, I am open to questions. I don’t want this to be an elephant in the room. If you want to know something, please just ask me. If it is something I don’t feel comfortable answering, I’ll tell you.