According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 5 women have an eating disorder. This includes up to 24 million Americans and 70 million people worldwide. Looking at these statistics, chances are that you know someone who is dealing with or who has dealt with an eating disorder. Here are five things that you should never say to them.
1. "I could never do that!"
I never thought I would either. I wish I didn't. I wish that I didn't feel the need to restrict and purge and take diet pills and laxatives and diuretics. I wish that I didn't sneak around my parents' backs. I wish that I didn't do this. It's a compulsion. It's something that I don't have control over right now. Eating disorders are mental illnesses. Remember that.
2. "But you're so skinny already!"
Rationally, I know this. You don't have to tell me. I compulsively check my BMI. I know when it says "underweight" or "normal weight." I know my ideal body weight according to the charts. You don't have to tell me what I "should" weigh. Rationally, I know that I'm thin. You don't have to say it -- it doesn't help. It does the opposite. It triggers me and it feeds my eating disorder. I don't believe it. In my mind, I'm morbidly obese. You cannot convince me otherwise. I can never lose enough weight. Emphasizing "skinny" and giving it so much power just makes things that much worse for me.
3. "Do you make yourself, like, throw up?"
I know that my behaviors are so interesting to you, but when you ask these kinds of things, it gives them power. It makes me feel like I'm a stronger person because I do these things. But, really, it's none of your business unless you are my doctor or therapist and you are asking for medical reasons.
4. "Just eat!"
I wish I could. I really wish that I had enough control over this illness to be able to "just eat" like a normal person. But I don't. I am trying. Each bite, each meal, each day is me trying as hard as I can. I'm trying to recover. I'm trying to eat and drink like a normal person. My mind makes this a hundred times more difficult. It tells me horrible lies about my body. It gives food way too much power. I am trying. Give me time. Be patient with me. Understand that some days, some meals will be better than others. Telling me this just gets me frustrated and makes me want to give up.
5. "I wish I had the kind of self-control you do."
No, you don't. If you do, you should not. I have no self-control. I have a disease that controls me. I used to think that I had amazing self-control, but now I realize that I have a disease that controls my actions and makes me do horrible things to my body. My "self-control" does not make me a better person. It is slowly killing me. I hate this. I try so hard to regain control, but my eating disorder's voice is very strong right now. Please don't give it more power. Please don't make it grow stronger.