Mental Health

What NOT to say to someone with an eating disorder

Warning: this post is about eating disorders.

someone holding measuring tape, to represent eating disorders

Earlier this year, YouTuber Eugenia Cooney took a social media break and sought help for her eating disorder. This was a relief to me and I’m sure countless others. A picture was posted on Instagram of her new haircut, and Twitter exploded sharing the picture, before and after comparisons, and comments about how great she looks now and how much healthier she is. The well meaning comments seem innocent enough, but it could actually be a trigger for her when she comes back on social media and sees it all. The people telling her to eat a hamburger before weren’t doing her any favours, and the comments acknowledging that she gained weight aren’t either.

Eating disorders are very manipulative, and something that would be taken as a compliment from someone without an eating disorder, such as “you look healthier’, could trigger someone with one. Your eating disorder can associate “healthy” with “fat”, and can make you want to relapse again.

Although before and after pictures tend not to bother me, because in the after photo people always look happier, they do trigger some people. There’s always a risk of someone who looks like the after, wanting to be the before, and using it as “thinspiration”, so I wouldn’t recommend sharing those images.

a woman with smuded eyeliner from crying holding up a smile on a sheet of paper, to represent mental illness

Even though Eugenia may look recovered right now, anorexia is a mental illness and something she will still be struggling with for the longest time. Being weight restored addresses the physical aspect of the eating disorder, but fighting the eating disorder voice is a harder battle. The eating disorder doesn’t magically disappear when you hit a certain weight, and people still struggle and relapse after treatment. For someone, getting help was actually just getting force fed until they hit a certain weight and addressing the eating disorder as a mental illness left a lot to be desired.

If you want to support Eugenia, don’t comment on her weight. If she comes back to social media, and wants to act like nothing happened then you go along with it. Don’t actively remind her that her body has changed.

I wish Eugenia all the best in her recovery, it’s the hardest thing she might ever have to do, but will be worth it in the long run.

Also, fuck Onision.

measuring tape on concrete

If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, I’d encourage you to seek help from the following resources:

12 thoughts on “What NOT to say to someone with an eating disorder

  1. This is so true. I know that people meant well when I started gaining weight, but it made the whole process SO much more challenging. However, for those that haven’t been there, it’s hard to understand how commending them on their recovery could actually be a negative. Thank you for breaking this down for people.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes to this! What might seem like an innocent and well meaning remark can actually be very upsetting. You’re right, the best thing is to take your cues from the person in question and then react accordingly. Great piece, thank you for sharing your insights! Lisa x

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I was so glad to see she was seeking help because it was heartbreaking to watch her. I am not a subscriber but so many people would use her for content, which annoyed me so much. I agree with you. Some don’t understand that she will be recovering from this for years to come and mentioning how healthy she looks, even as a compliment, could be triggering. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I wish people in my life had seen this. When I was relapsing last year – before I was fully cognizant that was happening, I had people telling me that they thought I was anorexic and judging me and it made it so much harder because I was both in denial of what was going on, and it put me off approaching them for support when I realised and started trying to change.

    Liked by 2 people

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