How To Respond To TRIGGERING COMMENTS In Eating Disorder Recovery

In this post, I will talk about how to deal with triggering comments in eating disorder recovery and I will give you some examples of how to respond to them.

Because recently, I have got many messages where people say that because of the quarantine they have to stay at home with their families and because of that they are way more exposed to triggering comments and need some help on how to deal with that. 

 

1. Ignore and disengage

So firstly, I wanna say that you have every right to ignore and disengage in the negative comments.

And sometimes no response is also a response. Because you don’t owe anybody an explanation about how you are eating or what your body is doing.

No response doesn’t have to translate that you don’t know how to answer but it can mean that the comment was simply not worth your attention and energy.

And sometimes we are actually fuelling the comments by our engagement in it. We get very defensive and try to overly explain ourselves which leads to even more questions and more discussion.

So it can be best to stop engaging and sometimes it’s more productive to ignore comments rather than trying to endlessly explain yourself.

Remember, you don’t owe anybody anything. And it’s THEM who need to get over it.

For example, you could ask: WHO has a problem? If THEY have a problem with your eating or your body, then THEY need to deal with it. It’s THEIR problem. Not yours to resolve FOR them.

2. Give a simple answer and change the subject

Secondly, you can give them some simple universal answer and then change the subject.

Your answer doesn’t need to be something very “smart” or “witty” but you can say something universal that they can’t argue with.

For example, saying something like “My body, my business” or “My eating, my business” can be a simple answer to many comments. It’s very universal and easy to remember.

Or even saying “Mind your own business” is a great answer. Because by them commenting about you, they are literally in your business and have no right to be there.

For example:

Comment: “You’ve gained some weight, you should watch what you’re eating”

Response: “My body, my business” and then you can change the subject to something else.

Or another great simple response that one of you sent was “I know what is best for me but thank you” or simply “I know what is best for me”

For example:

Comment: “You should probably start working out more”

Response: “I know what is best for me but thank you”

or

Comment: “I wouldn’t eat that much of x because it’s a lot of fat/carbs/calories”

Answer: “So don’t. I know what is best for me.”

3. Respond in a neutral way to rude comments

If someone is being rude then stay calm and rather respond in a neutral way. Don’t get on their level.

I think a neutral response is better any day than any overly emotional response. And especially if someone is being rude and wanting to press on your nerves then they WANT you to react to it.

But getting very defensive and trying to overly “prove” yourself is rather fuelling the fire than helping the situation.

So rather try to remain calm and respond in a neutral way.

For example:

Comment: “Not exercising can’t be healthy for you because you are overweight” 

Response: “Thank you for your worries, I appreciate that you care, but I work with professionals in my recovery”

Comment: “But you don’t need to gain any more weight. You looked so much better before”

Response: “My body and how I look is none of your business. You should focus on yourself.”

This way you are giving a response but doing it in a calm and neutral way while still standing your ground and not getting emotionally too involved.

And if they want to discuss it further then just repeat and stay true to what you already said. Don’t give them more explanation because it’s not your job.

4. Speak up for yourself

I know for many people it’s very hard to stand up for ourselves because we try to avoid conflict at all cost because it’s painful. We don’t want to confront people because it puts us on the spot.

But there is a big difference in going into conflict with someone for no good reason, and going into conflict to protect yourself and to protect your own recovery. The intention and context are what matter.

If someone is constantly commenting on what you are doing and it’s not helpful then by avoiding confrontation you are actually teaching them that it’s ok to treat you badly.

If someone is constantly commenting on what you are doing and it’s not helpful then by avoiding confrontation you are actually teaching them that it’s ok to treat you badly.

Sometimes going to conflict is actually very healthy and needed. Others don’t have to understand you or agree with you, but it means that you don’t have to agree with them either.

If they are being nosey in your business, commenting on how you eat or make comments about your body, you have all the right to stand up for yourself.

For example:

Comment: “Why are you eating so unhealthy”

Response: “I am recovering from something serious and your comment is what’s so unhealthy for me. You have no right to comment on my eating and I will no longer discuss this with you.”

Comment: “You eat so much and don’t move. You are fat. Why don’t you exercise more”

Response: “I don’t owe you an explanation about my eating or my body. My body, what I eat, whether or not I exercise is my personal matter. Mind your own business.”

And it’s not so much about “winning the argument” or being able to “convince others” or make then understand you but it’s just about standing up for yourself. Even if they disagree with you or won’t understand you, it doesn’t matter. What matters more is that you stood up for yourself and did what is best for you. And this is the whole point of it.

5. Explain how the comment is unhelpful and how they could help instead

Sometimes people mean well, but they just don’t understand the eating disorder and what comments are helpful and which ones are not.

A person who has never gone through an eating disorder doesn’t know what is the best thing to say and they can end up saying something very stupid.

Not to intentionally hurt you, but just because they have very limited knowledge on the subject.

It’s not personal, so don’t take it personally.

So here don’t take the comment in a way the eating disorder wants you to take it, but see the positive intention behind the message and respond to that instead.

For example:

Comment: “You’ve gained weight”

(where it WAS meant as a compliment) then you may actually acknowledge the underlying positive intention that was something like

Positive intention: “Im so glad you are recovering and doing better. I care about you”

And with having that positive intention in mind, you could respond with…

Response: “I appreciate that you care and want me to get better. But talking about my weight is not helpful for me and I rather want to get away from focusing on my weight. It would be really helpful if instead, we could do something fun together and talk about something else.”

So with this response, you acknowledge their positive intention with the comment, but say why its not helpful and give them a way they could actually be supportive and helpful for you.

Or, for example:

Comment: “You are looking healthy and fit” or “You look well”

Where maybe their positive intention was to actually make you feel good and to say something nice.

And with having that positive intention in mind, you could respond with…

Response: “Thank you! But for me, I find its way more important and healthier to focus on how I feel inside rather than how I look.”

So here again, you acknowledge their positive intention but also give them an idea of what you would truly appreciate hearing, so next time they know what kind of comment is more meaningful for you.

6. Change what YOU think and believe

And lastly, change what YOU think and believe.

Because you also have to focus on working on YOUR OWN mindset. Changing the way you think and what you believe.

Because most often the comment by itself doesn’t hurt us, but what really hurts us is the MEANING we attach to it. How we interpret the comment and what STORIES we add to it.

For example, some of you suggested: “I try to not let what others say mean too much, and remind myself that the weight gain is healthy”

So here the person is choosing a more positive focus for themselves, instead of letting others’ comments run their lives.

No matter what others say, what YOU think and say to yourself is what really matters at the end of the day.

Because we cannot change what people do or think, but we CAN change what MEANING we attach to what’s being said, we can change our own thoughts, beliefs, and actions.

For example, if you still believe your body or weight are bad and wrong, then someone commenting on it will be triggering because you BELIEVE what’s being said is true. But when you don’t believe it, then the comment won’t have such a negative impact.

So it’s very important to work on your own beliefs and mindsets about your own eating and your body.

Always focus on what is YOUR part in this. And work on that.

Because what others believe, say, or do is not 100% in our control. But what WE believe, say and do IS in our control. So focus on that because this is where true change can happen and how you can get more resilient to dealing with negative comments.

And also, see my video “How to deal with negative comments and judgemental people in eating disorder recovery” where I give you 10 tips on this subject.

I hope you found this video helpful! ❤️

And if you want to know more about recovery and how to do it step by step then please read my book “BrainwashED”

If you wish to work with me one one one, then I offer 12-Week Recovery Coaching where I can help you go through your recovery step by step and offer support and accountability. Read more and apply HERE.

4 thoughts on “How To Respond To TRIGGERING COMMENTS In Eating Disorder Recovery”

  1. Dear Elisa,
    This is very very helpful to me, thank you!
    I still feel emotionally blown away by people commenting on my weight and looks. Even if the comments are positive. My beliefs are a big part of what I am working on right now to be able to stay more ‘grounded’ and more confident in myself. Your examples of how exactly you can respond are very helpful and I will start practicing them.
    I have been following you for a while now in my recovery. I have struggeled with Anorexia Orthorexia and Bulimia since I was 10 years old (I am now 31).
    No one has ever been so helpful and consistent with their message. So THANK YOU so much for sharing your knowledge and experience.
    I cannot express how much this means to me.
    Wishing you all the best and good health.
    Sincerely

    1. Hi! yes, other people’s comments are just so ridiculous sometimes but we can only work on ourselves and be sure we don’t let it affect our recovery! I’m glad you find the content I share helpful! thank you! wish you the best in your recovery!

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