Are you a family member or partner to someone with an eating disorder? What are some things you should avoid saying? What should you do instead? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about what not to say to someone with an eating disorder.


  • What not to say
  • Things to not say that relate to restaurants
  • Listen to what people say

What not to say

1 – “Wow, you’re so skinny! What’s your secret?”

What it does is it validates everything that the eating disorder is [making the person] think. Inside the eating disorder says “yes! See? It’s working”. To them their efforts are worth it. It makes them think that being in a smaller body makes them more worthy and acceptable. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)

2 – “You can’t tell you have an eating disorder, you look just fine!”

One of the biggest myths about eating disorders is thinking that you can know if someone has an eating disorder simply by looking at them. Saying this to someone can make them think that they do not deserve or do not need help.

3 – “Wow, isn’t that too much food?”

Commenting on any person’s food choice is not a good idea. It can cause a trigger and encourage someone to become overly preoccupied with their food.

4 – “Why don’t you just go on a diet?”

Diets have been proven not to work and suggesting that people limit whole food groups is triggering and restrictive. Restrictive eating has been proven to often lead to binge eating.

5 – Joking about “giving your fat to someone”

Do not mock someone’s recovery by making insensitive jokes about it. It is a normal response to try to lighten things up with humor but it often causes more stress and anxiety.

6 – “Just eat”

The word “just” has so much power and can minimize the amount of work someone is putting into their journey, or in pushing against what their eating disorder wants them to do.
It is going to make them feel like they’re doing something wrong, and that is already what is going on inside. (Dr. Cristina Castagnini)

7 – “Just try working out”

For many people with eating disorders, working out is not a form of joy or body appreciation, it is a potentially harmful tool that they use to punish themselves for what they ate.

Things not to say to someone with an eating disorder that relates to restaurants

  1. “Are you sure you want to order that?”
  2. “I wish I had your willpower to order that”
  3. “That’s a big plate of food”

Listen to what people say

Listen to what people say when they tell you, or ask you, not to say something or comment on specific things. It takes a lot of courage to layout that boundary, so it is important for you to respect them and what they ask of you. Even if you care for someone and are concerned for them, commenting on their eating disorder may have the opposite impact you are wanting to have.



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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