When I first started developing an eating disorder, all I wanted was for people to notice my changing body. If I hadn’t seen my friends in a while, I was desperate for them to tell me I was smaller. And it worked, because the praise I received was terrifying. But this complimenting of bodies is actually harmful to recovery. Here’s why you need to stop doing it.
I might have been miserable, angry and exhausted. But the boys I was dating, my university friends, and even my family told me how “great” I looked. My anorexia thrived off the positive reinforcement. And it spurred me on to restrict more, exercise harder and continue shrinking my body.
I can’t remember when I took it ‘too far’ in the eyes of the people around me. When did society start seeing my disordered eating as dangerous instead of “inspirational?” Because it had always been dangerous for me.
Complimenting bodies can be confusing…
As thoughts of food took over every aspect of my life, the comments turned from “I wish I had that much willpower,” to “you’re too thin,” and “you need to eat more“.
I just couldn’t understand how I had been praised for my restrictive behavior for years. Yet suddenly I was being judged for it.
The constant calorie counting, excessive exercising, and total obsession with my weight hadn’t changed. But people’s opinion of me had.
Now I understand that when someone is commenting on my changing body, it is based on the idea that I am only as valuable and worthy as my appearance.
Even in recovery, I need you to stop complimenting my body…
As I continue down the road to ED recovery, the same thing happens. I’ve spent months screaming inside, feeling out of control and totally consumed by guilt as I heal. But still people tell me I look ‘so much healthier’.
Anyone who has experienced an eating disorder knows that gaining weight doesn’t mean you are magically fixed. And the mental torture of anorexia certainly doesn’t just go away.
I know these comments mean well. But there are so many problems with reducing someone’s health to their physical appearance.
Why you need to STOP complimenting bodies
Firstly, comments about my body discredit all the hard work I have done to totally retrain my brain.
I am so much happier, more flexible and present since loosening my suffocating rules around food. But still people want to talk about how I look.
Secondly, even though my body is accepted in society right now, I’m nowhere near the end of my journey. Beating this illness could mean I need to carry on gaining weight for a while longer. But will I be deemed “too big” this time around?
I know we are a long way from truly ditching the weight bias that is so deeply rooted in our society. But it’s important to think about how seemingly harmless comments, assumptions and ‘compliments’ on our bodies contribute to the toxic narrative that health should be based on the way we look.
My ideal body isn’t one that is celebrated by diet culture. It is one that allows me to be nourished, happy and truly capable of living my best life.