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Avoiding Words That Foster Disordered Eating


We all tend to express the ideas we have grown up with without giving them a second thought. In this way we may unknowingly reinforce or perpetuate the culture of disordered eating.

Since we cannot change behavior that we are unaware of, taking a look at the ways we can unwittingly encourage eating disorders helps us avoid doing it. However, this is not a black and white issue. There are health risks related to poor food choices, being overweight, and getting too little or too much exercise, and there is sometimes a fine line between expressing sincere concern and giving criticism.

Words To Avoid

The actual impact of our words is an unknown since one spoken sentence can affect five people five different ways. Still, it is a good idea to ask ourselves whether our words suggest that a person’s worth depends on how they look. Suggesting that personal worth is equated with body size or physical features is what we can, with awareness, avoid.

Consider the effect of your words when you:

  1. Praise or admire another person because of their body size or physical attractiveness.
  2. Encourage another person to lose weight.
  3. Complement somebody for being on a diet or losing weight.
  4. Speak in a negative way about your own body or appearance.
  5. Categorize foods as being either “good” or “bad.”
  6. Have conversations about weight, measurements, or clothing size.
  7. Make fun of your own food choices and eating habits.
  8. Make fun of someone else’s food choices and eating habits.
  9. Express expectations of perfection.
  10. Encourage someone (or yourself) to exercise more than desired, or is necessary.
  11. Support the media’s current idea of the ideal body type.
  12. Assume that another individual wants or needs to lose weight.
  13. Speak as if a person’s weight is of importance.
  14. Consider people to be “well” or in good health based on body size.

“Words are timeless. You should utter or write them with a knowledge of their timelessness.” ~ Khalil Gibran

Source: Columbia University
Photo credit: Juhan Sonin / flickr creative commons