Eating disorders are complex diseases that are difficult to explain to those who have never struggled with one. Even people who love you and care about your recovery may not always know when they’re saying something that upsets you. Distorted views of eating disorders may lead others to make rude, ignorant, or outright hurtful remarks. It’s important to be able to deal with these as they come and not allow ill-advised words to hinder your recovery.
“It’s just food.”
This comment can come in many forms. You may be at a party, a restaurant, or a relative’s house and be faced with a food that makes you uncomfortable. When you refuse it, someone says, “But it’s just [a food]!” If you’re comfortable discussing your disorder with the people present, calmly explain that you aren’t ready to handle that particular food and therefore prefer not to eat it. If not, just politely decline the dish.
It’s possible that people may try to insist that the food is okay for you to eat, that it’s low in calories, low in fat, a one-time treat, or something similar. These remarks are usually meant to be helpful, so try not to be angry with people for making them. However, if someone becomes frustrated or hostile with you, you have every right to excuse yourself from the gathering. This isn’t giving in to your disorder; rather, it’s removing yourself from a situation that could potentially trigger the behaviors you’re trying to recover from.
“A little overeating never hurt anyone.”
For someone who has never been on a binge, this is an innocent enough remark. But as anyone with an eating disorder knows, a little overeating can trigger a plethora of negative emotions and destructive behaviors. When someone says this as a general comment, you probably don’t have to reply. But if you’re having a conversation regarding your eating disorder recovery and this one comes up, don’t hesitate to clarify. The person you’re speaking with may truly have no idea what goes on in the mind of an eating disordered person when a binge-either real or perceived-takes place. Be calm as you explain how overeating can affect your recovery. If they still don’t understand, disengage. Becoming angry or frustrated won’t help in this situation.
Diet & Food Talk
In today’s weight-obsessed society, it’s impossible to escape talk about diets, health trends, and food in general. No matter where you go, there are magazines touting weight loss tips, books about the newest health craze, and people talking about their own dietary habits. If you find yourself in the midst of such a discussion, sometimes the best thing to do is walk away. You know where you are in your recovery process, and if listening to others discuss weight loss or dieting makes you uncomfortable, excuse yourself.
However, if you feel that you can handle it, these conversations can be good opportunities to educate people on their own disordered food behaviors. There’s no need to preach, but enlightening co-workers, friends, and family of the prevalence of eating disorders and disastrous dieting may help to open their eyes to potentially dangerous behaviors they may be practicing in ignorance.
These are just a few of the remarks you may encounter while on the road to eating disorder recovery, but the idea is the same across the board. Anger and frustration with others won’t aid in your recovery, and it won’t help them to understand what you’re going through. But by being up front and calm, you can help enlighten people or diffuse a potentially disastrous situation.