7 Most Hurtful Things You Could Say To Someone With An Eating Disorder

These ‘compliments’ could be super triggering.

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According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, roughly 9 percent of the U.S. population — or 28.8 million people — will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. Unfortunately, this means that there is a good chance you know someone with an eating disorder, whether you’re aware of it or not.

People who suffer from eating disorders have unique triggers that aren’t obvious to others. To better support them, we have listed seven things you should never say to someone with an eating disorder so that you don’t trigger them into feeling worse.


It can be difficult to know what to say to support this person in your life and while you might think you’re giving them a compliment or being helpful, you might actually be triggering them.

The two most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

A person who struggles with anorexia will eat very little and quickly become malnourished. Signs of anorexia are excessive calorie counting, rapid weight loss, lack of food consumption, and much more.

A person who struggles with bulimia purges after many or all meals. Purging is when a person induces vomiting after eating to ensure they don’t gain weight. Signs of bulimia include frequent bathroom visits after meals, rapid weight loss, and more.


Both types of eating disorders have numerous warning signs that you can likely catch early if you are concerned that a loved one might be suffering.

Things You Shouldn't Say to Someone With an Eating Disorder

RELATED: 10 Critical Lessons I Learned From Binge Eating Disorder Treatment And Recovery

Whether you know for sure if someone has an eating disorder or not, be mindful of what you say to them. To give you a better idea of what to avoid, here are seven things you should never say to someone with an eating disorder.


1. “You don’t look like you have an eating disorder.”

While you might consider this to be a good thing, a person with an eating disorder will find this comment extremely triggering.

To you, being too thin probably looks unhealthy and undesirable, but to someone with an eating disorder, this is their ultimate goal. By saying that they don’t look like they have an eating disorder, you are, in their mind, calling them fat.

This comment could make them work even harder to lose weight and make their disordered eating worse. If they confided in you about their eating disorder and you say this, they could think that you don’t believe them. It can be unbelievably hard for someone to open up about this topic and the last thing you want to do is make them feel unsupported.

Instead, tell them that you support them and want to help in a way that is best for them.


2. “Why don’t you just eat?”

If someone is suffering with an eating disorder, “just eating” is practically impossible. They likely calculate everything they consume and experience a roller coaster of emotions surrounding meals. They may experience extreme guilt and anxiety when they consume food.

To make a comment like this belittles what they are going through and makes it sound like an easy fix when it’s not. Believe me when I say that they are probably miserable and want more than anything to "just eat," but it is not that simple.

3. “I wish I had your willpower!”

An eating disorder is more than saying no to sweets or fast food, it’s saying no to basically all food at the expense of your health. A person with an eating disorder isn’t just really good at dieting, they are sick.

They suffer from this sickness every day and saying a comment like this brushes it off as no big deal. They know that you wouldn’t go to go through what they’re going through in a million years.


RELATED: How Eating Disorders And Thyroid Disease Are Linked

4. “Guys don’t like girls who are too thin.”

I can only imagine that if you’re saying this you’re trying to give this person a reason to feel better about eating — but don’t. A person dealing with an eating disorder is already putting immense amounts of pressure on themselves and they don’t need anymore.

What a man thinks of their body shouldn’t be the reason they go into recovery. It should be because they learned to love their body in its natural state and found self-love. Give them love, don’t make them feel worse.

5. “But I’ve seen you eat.”

Okay honestly, if someone tells you they have an eating disorder, why would you ever say this!?! This is another comment that will likely make them feel as though you don’t believe them and is kind of just plain rude.


Please also understand that people with eating disorders do eat, but there is much more to it. For all you know that was all that person ate for the past three days or they purged immediately after they finished.

6. “You look like (insert person here)”

Part of having an eating disorder is constantly comparing yourself to others. They don’t need any extra help in finding people to compare themselves to. I’m sure that if you said this, you probably meant it as a compliment or just a general observation but this is super triggering.

They will compare themselves to the person you said they look like and unless the person you mentioned is unhealthily thin, they might take this to mean they’re fat.


7. “You’ve gained weight, you look so healthy!”

If you know someone that has gone through recovery or gained weight after an eating disorder, it might be tempting to say this. While your intentions are good, they might interpret this to mean that they aren’t skinny anymore.

Even though you see them as a glowing, healthy, individual, they are still going through a ton of psychological warfare and this might hurt. Recovery doesn't stop after weight gain, it is something that can always be triggered. That is why it is so important to be careful with what you say.

RELATED: My Best Friend's Bulimia Destroyed Our Friendship

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call or text the confidential National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at (800) 931-2237 for support, resources, and treatment options.


Lindsey Matthews is a writer who covers love and relationships, news, and pop-culture topics.