1. Recovery is a messy road.
It’s not always going to be okay. There may be set backs along the way. We have come a long way from where we were, but that doesn’t mean that at some point we may take a couple steps backwards. Just like any addiction, total recovery isn’t always possible – so don’t expect perfection from our recovery. We are trying to learn that perfection isn’t even a thing.
2. Try to avoid making comments about our body and if you do, make the right ones.
I think this is a really hard concept for people who love someone with an ED to understand. A lot of the time, we have very low self esteem. We are also already so unhealthily fixated on our bodies and the extra attention isn’t always helpful. While I was in the midst of my ED, boys would call me ‘tiny.’ While I was in the beginning stages of my recovery, boys would tell me I looked ‘so healthy’ and that I finally had ‘curves.’ Neither of those comments were helpful. I think the best advice I can give you is to try to compliment us on things other than our body. And when we do look beautiful, tell us. Use words like “gorgeous,” “beautiful,” “stunning,” “sexy,” “irresistible.” These words don’t directly correlate with our size, and might even make us feel like we are for once.
3. Be understanding of our intimacy issues.
A mix of low self esteem with several complex, deeper issues doesn’t always translate into being able to have a healthy sex life. Many times, sexual trauma is one of the factors that led us to developing this disease. Although we may love you very much and act like we can’t get enough of you, other times we may completely withdraw from you. This is normal for us and you have to remember to be patient and not take it personally.
4. Avoid talking about weight loss and dieting around us.
These topics are not only triggering, but also almost like a drug to many with ED. I once dated a guy who always talked about how he needed to lose weight and would constantly engage in negative body talk. It was toxic and triggering to be around. People can have good intentions when talking about these topics, but for someone with an ED, they just aren’t safe conversation topics anymore. In the beginning of my recovery, my dietician told me that if I wanted recovery, I would never be able to diet again. Being 2 years into recovery, I now know how true that really is. For us, life is about learning balance and building healthy relationships with food and body image, void of weight loss talk and diet fads.
5. Our issues go deeper than our eating disorder.
If our eating disorder was our only issue, we probably would have never developed one. Anxiety, depression, control issues, sexual trauma, abuse, bullying, perfectionism, addictions… the list goes on. And for some, that list doesn’t even cover the baggage we have been carrying around for years. We don’t want you to fix us; countless therapist, friends, and family members have already tried. We just want someone who will be there for us and won’t add to the laundry list of pain we’ve endured. We may be ‘broken’, but we have so much to offer. We are compassionate, empathetic, creative, resourceful, and loving. And our struggles have made us stronger.