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5 Things Not To Say To Someone With An Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are complex issues with biological, psychological and sociocultural implications. While eating disorders awareness is growing among the general public and the healthcare community, this complexity is sometimes lost on even the most well-meaning friends and family members, causing them to oversimplify the illnesses in the statements they make. Regardless of intentions, there are several statements that should not be said to someone with an eating disorder. Eating Recovery Center’s Dr. Weiner was recently quoted in a PsychCentral.com article addressing this very topic. Below is an excerpt from the article, or click here to read the article in its entirety.

 

Everyone hates their body (or everyone overeats, or everyone skips meals sometimes).

It’s hard watching a person you love struggle. Sometimes we think relating to their words will make them feel better. So if they say something disparaging about their body or talk about skipping a meal or eating a lot in a short period of time, we quickly let them know that they’re not alone. We’ve been there. We can relate.

But in reality, this can shut the person up and stop them from sharing any more of their thoughts and feelings. (Which is a big problem because eating disorders are secretive as it is.)Worse, it can normalize their eating disorder and validate it.

While many of us might’ve struggled with some ED behaviors and thoughts, it’s very different from actually struggling with an eating disorder. Again, eating disorders are serious illnesses that require treatment.

Yes, I’ll keep your ED a secret.

Maybe you’ve noticed the signs of an eating disorder and confronted your loved one or maybe they came to you first. Either way, they beg you to keep their eating disorder a secret. I would say, “No way, no how.”

Eating disorders are dangerous. Even if someone doesn’t look emaciated and sick, they can still suffer serious problems. In her memoir, Purge: Rehab Diaries, Nicole Johns, who struggled with EDNOS, talks about being “normal weight” and having a slew of very serious health problems.

Throughout her 20s, Johns is “hospitalized for fainting, a concussion, electrolyte imbalances, and three different kinds of heart-rhythm irregularities.” During this time, she’s abusing diet pills, starving and purging. In just two years, she has to go to the ER six times because of her heart problems.

The reality is that EDs can be deadly — and secrets don’t lead to treatment, and treatment is essential. According to Kenneth L. Weiner, MD, CEDS, of the Eating Recovery Center:

Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illness. A woman with anorexia
nervosa is 5.6 times more likely to die than another woman of her same age. The
most frequent causes of death from eating disorders are suicide (32 percent),
complications associated with anorexia (19 percent), and cancer (11 percent).
The average age of death for an individual with anorexia is only 34
years.

Read more.