For a person struggling with anorexia, bulimia or binge eating, certain compliments, comments or words of advice might cause more harm than good – no matter how innocuous they seem.
Take recent college graduate Maya Guttman, who struggled with anorexia nervosa and exercise bulimia as a student yet was initially praised by peers for her dramatic weight loss. Then there’s Andrea Bass, an eating disorder counselor in Florida who alternately purged and starved herself for years. Her friend, she says, advised her to keep bags of pretzels in her nightstand to encourage her to eat more.
“These kind of remarks usually come from a place of good intentions,” says Claire Mysko, director of programs at the National Eating Disorders Association. But too often, she says, they come across as insensitive or triggering. And in even more dangerous cases, she says, they can normalize or downplay an eating disorder’s severity.
Here’s what not to say next time you talk with a friend, family member or acquaintance with an eating disorder: