Eating Disorder Etiquette

Ever have days where you bounce from one faux pas to the next?

Congratulations on your pregnancy! (I’m not). Let me just wipe that stain off your cheek – oh, it’s a spot. Jenny, meet one of our key workers – er, remind me of your name…

Taxi for one please.

Of course, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few as well. Although to be honest, my overriding reaction is normally relief that it’s not me digging the hole.  Saying that, a particularly fertile ground for footinmouth is the whole issue of eating disorders.  Especially when talking to someone in recovery. Is it something they’ll want to discuss?  Or would they rather pull out their own toenails?

What’s helpful?  And what should very definitely be kept to yourself?

Depending on the person involved, how well you know them and what point they’re at in recovery, the answers will vary.  But here’s a few pointers..

Please don’t say:

1. ‘You don’t look like you’ve got an eating disorder’. There’s scope for this to be interpreted in any number of ways, from ‘I’m fat’ to ‘no-one believes me’. A large number of people with ED won’t look abnormal – especially if they’re overexercising, using laxatives or throwing up. It also reinforces the idea that your feelings are less important than your appearance  – so if you want to be heard, you need to do something drastic.  Best thing to do is not comment on weight or appearance full stop.

2. ‘Why don’t you just eat/lose weight/do some exercise?’ Er- that’ll be because I have an eating disorder.  The clue is in the name.

3.’What do you eat? Do you eat? Here, eat this’.  Or ‘Hmmm, should you really be having that? No more for you’ etc .  Makes you feel weird and embarrassed and like you’re aged three.  Here’s a tip – just act normal.

4. ‘Are you making any progress?’ Yes.  No.  Arrgh I don’t know!

5. ‘I wish I had your problem’.  You don’t.

6. ‘You’re obviously not trying to get better if you’re getting worse’.  Untrue and discouraging.

7.’Men don’t get eating disorders’  !

8. ‘You know you don’t look good?’  Yes, I’d spotted that too. Who says this is about looking good?

Things that help;

1. ‘How are you doing?’

2. ‘Want to come over and watch a movie?’

3. ‘I’m praying for you’

4. ‘I’m really sorry it’s so hard’

5. Acting like they might be fun to have around

6. Sharing normal life

7. Listening

8. Being  patient

9. Not giving up on us even when we give up on ourselves

10. Pointing us gently to the Lord.

These things make a huge, huge difference. Thank you!

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