By Lydia Jade Turner
One of the hardest things about eating disorders is that – as with any mental illness – they do not succumb to logic. Telling someone with an eating disorder “you are beautiful just as you are,” and that “food is not the enemy” will only prove to them that you don’t understand what they’re going through. It can be extraordinarily difficult to know what to say – so much so that even Australian television presenter Liz Hayes managed to upset 23-year old anorexic sufferer, Amy Uebergang during a recent interview on news and current affair programme 60 Minutes.
In the following excerpt, Hayes is reading Amy’s food diary, which is part of Amy’s eating disorders treatment. Seeing the amount of food Amy is eating as encouraging, Hayes decides to point this out – with disastrous results:
Liz Hayes (looking at Amy’s food diary): “You know ah, this will sound silly, but when I look at this that’s more food than I expected to be honest. Is that a good sign?”
Michael Uebergang (Amy’s father): “Be honest.”
Amy Uebergang (looking shocked and hurt): “I’m not going there.”
Liz Hayes: “Have I…”
Amy Uebergang: “You’ve upset me, yes.” [leaves the room]
Liz Hayes: “Because it’s…I’ve mentioned the amount of food?” [to Michael Uebergang] “What I’d considered a positive sign was for Amy an insult, a suggestion she was eating too much. I guess I was encouraged to see the the amount of food that was there.”
Michael Uebergang: “Yep.”
Liz Hayes: “Because that was the wrong thing, that was not the perception that Amy got?”
Michael Uebergang: “No. To be surprised that she’s eating anything at all, regardless of quantity is to imply that she’s a fat pig. And that’s how anorexia interprets everything and you can put any good construction that you want on it, anorexia will always have a thought to contradict that.” Watch the full video here.
What Hayes thought would be encouraging to Amy, was instead interpreted by the anorexia as a hurtful insult. Bearing this in mind, you can see why it can be so difficult for friends, family members and carers to know what not to say to their loved one. At BodyMatters, we thought we’d share some helpful tips with you by unpacking ten comments typically made to sufferers of eating disorders. These comments are often said with the best intentions – but ultimately can cause hurt and offence.
Please note that none of these quotes are made up – every one of these are real comments that have been made to sufferers we have known. Click here for our top tips- TEN THINGS NOT TO SAY