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How not to talk to people with an eating disorder

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firemonkee57

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Mar 23, 2009
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By all accounts, I’d been enjoying the conversation. We were two pina coladas apiece in, and between us had covered the breadth of holiday small talk. The weather, the flight over, the cult of the Kardashians, to name but a few. Then Jenny, the woman who had been stretching on the sun lounger beside me all day, got personal: “I know all about your problems,” she said as matter of fact. “You’ve just got to eat.”

With that, she happily skipped back to decrying Kim Kardashian and her much-debated posterior. I sat in silence, scared to burst the supply of tears that had slowly gathered and begun to leak. I then got up and retreated to my room.

I don’t know about you, but there are some things that are, as far as I am concerned, off the conversation table. Combine British sensibilities with a growing PC culture, and you’ll find a number of topics are practically anathema – and for good reason too.

Honestly, would you tell a person in a wheelchair that they needed to walk? How about an alopecia sufferer – would you feel the need to inform them they were missing hair? Hell, I bristle at the thought of presupposing a woman’s pregnancy. She could be nine months gone, screaming and flailing as the little ’un bore forth, and I would still think twice about wishing her well.

Why, then, am I constantly contending with strangers wishing to comment on my eating disorder? And no, this is not simply a matter of needing to grow a thicker skin.

Over the past year – the length of time that I have been “in recovery” – I have become accustomed to unprompted remarks from passers-by. “You look so skinny!” they shriek, with arms raised and eyes bulging. “Don’t you like food?” Frankly, I don’t know who weighs in more: the average Joe with a view on my condition or me, as I make my weekly ascent on to my consultant’s scales.

I fully support the notion that, to destigmatise mental illness, we must discuss it. But by that, I mean counting it among other illnesses. I mean showing sensitivity and sympathy to sufferers, rather than disregarding their problems as “attention-seeking” or “diet-obsessed”. I do not mean inviting outsiders into the innermost crevices of my anxiety-ridden condition. Because that is what an eating disorder is, ladies and gents. It isn’t a diet.


How not to talk to people with an eating disorder | Charlotte Samantha | Comment is free | The Guardian
 
SomersetScorpio

SomersetScorpio

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Glad to see something like this published in the Guardian.
I think what the author of the article is saying is incredibly important.

I think any mention of somebody else's eating and weight should be off-limits, because who the fuck has the right to comment on something that can be so hugely problematic and deeply emotional to a number of people?

I know a lot of comments come from a place of ignorance and so it would be silly to be personally offended, but it's incredibly hard to make any sort of recovery around eating disorders when people are making a running commentary about you.

Personally I think it can be as bad at the other end of the spectrum, as an emotional over-eater who gets told to "just eat less and move more".

It really boils down to people minding their own business.
 
Just A Girl

Just A Girl

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May 16, 2015
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1. "this is not simply a matter of needing to grow a thicker skin"

IMO Yes & no.
YES, it is wrong that people feel a need to comment on (in a completely unprovoked & unwelcome manner) other peoples problems but also NO because at the same time this stuff will always go on (and so one way or another if you're to keep on moving forward you gotta deal with this harsh fact of life).

2. Just some food for thought but be careful what you compare your eating disorder to (for example i know some wheelchair bound people who would certainly feel very offended at having their problems compared to someone with an eating disorder. For example thought processes can overcome an eating disorder but no amount of positive & determined thinking will magically un-break a broken back or cure a terminal MS condition etc!). You might be in a somewhat similar boat but that's only depending on what perspective you're looking from (most people would argue eating disorders are disorders not disabilities).

Anyhoo good luck with the recovery process.
 
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Helena1

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Oct 11, 2014
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NO because at the same time this stuff will always go on (and so one way or another if you're to keep on moving forward you gotta deal with this harsh fact of life).
yes this stuff will always go on if people have the same attitude as you.

if someone is a wheelchair has issues with being compared to someone with an eating disorder, as in this article that is their issue, nowhere in the article does it say that having a broken back can be cured, it is comparing them as just as people in wheelchair cannot just get up and walk people with eating disorder cannot just start eating because someone has told them to.
 
Just A Girl

Just A Girl

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yes this stuff will always go on if people have the same attitude as you.
1. No for as long as there are people telling people with eating disorders to just eat this will go on (and yes it will always go on whether you like it or not- that i believe this does not mean i am a part of the problem of it going on. Murder will always go on but does me stating this suddenly make me a part of the problem? No.) Seriously if you're going to point fingers then at least point them at those who are guilty of the problem you complain about (i for one have never gone up to a skinny person and told them to just eat).
2. For the record i think a person with an eating disorder is far more capable of eating than someone with a broken back is of walking. You might disagree with this but this is my opinion.
 
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secretsurvivor1

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Sep 27, 2013
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I'm fat and people constantly offer me eating advice unbidden. They look me up and down. They say; if even SHE can wear shorts then I will; like I have no right to expose skin. People say she was HUGE, I mean, even bigger than you. I mean, that hurts. My experience is that people use "skinny" as a compliment these days. But I understand that people are also rude to people who appear too thin according to all the standards they seem to hold. It is so personal and hurtful. Our size is visible, but not fun for a discussion. Most people have issues with their looks. Would someone think it is ok to say "you have a squinty eye, why don't you get it fixed?" Or "you have too many freckles, don't you use sunscreen?", or "Don't you know you can get your warts frozen off; do something about it!" Our bodies are our own.
 
chazxxx

chazxxx

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Apr 1, 2015
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I think it just comes down to people are horrible, and think they have every right to comment on other peoples appearence when they don't.

Would someone think it is ok to say "you have a squinty eye, why don't you get it fixed?" Or "you have too many freckles, don't you use sunscreen?", or "Don't you know you can get your warts frozen off; do something about it!" Our bodies are our own.
Some people do say those things. My friend has a birthmark on her face. She continuously gets commented on "whats wrong with your face?" "you look like you've been punched haha" "why don't you get laser?".
I used to have warts, i since have had them frozen off, but i used to get comments, "eugh don't touch me" was particularly nice.

I agree people shouldn't comment in any way about how "skinny" or "fat" someone is. But am just saying generally there are alot of people that just have no filter and think it's ok to say whatever drival comes out of their mouths, regardless of whats "wrong" with you.
 
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Savenn01

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Jun 13, 2015
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Eating disorders are real, treatable medical illnesses. They frequently coexist with other illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders.
 
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Edenfalls

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Jun 25, 2015
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It's amazing how authorised people feel to comment on other people's weight. I'm overweight and definitely suffer from a compulsive or binge eating disorder, but the amount of times I've heard "you've got such a pretty face," or "you're a gorgeous girl...and you're big, good for you," Like, they think I'm beautiful despite what they deem my biggest flaw. In my opinion, anyone who is severely under or overweight clearly has a mental health issue when it comes to food and it should be handled with sensitivity.

Try to remember that most people aren't trying to hurt us.
 
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