In Which We Talk About Uncomfortable Things

This is a guest post from super fantastic writer and awesome-hair-haver Kate.  She writes daily about beauty, body and lady-hood at Eat The Damn Cake.There’s this woman who goes to my gym

. She’s always a few ellipticals down from me. She is very tall, and all of her bones stick out. I try not to look at her more than twice or three times. I don’t want to be rude. She is wearing a tank top that flops. It billows. Her arms pump back and forth, the sinew stringy and sharp, her wrists like glass stems. Her face is gaunt, the skin pulled back.It’s a little like watching someone cutting herself. Like watching a diabetic, like my husband, eat a bucketful of maple syrup. Except maybe if someone was sitting there with a knife, slicing their own arm open, we could say something.

We don’t say anything to each other anyway. We walk past homeless people on the street. It becomes easier and easier, the longer you live in the city. Someone is crying on the subway, but it feels too awkward to ask if they are OK.

Part of the problem is that we’ve learned that saying something is almost always offensive. It’s presumptuous. The people who say something are guys on the street who yell things at women. They’re casual acquaintances who make an inappropriate remark about how much weight we’ve been gaining. They are people without tact or sensitivity. We have learned to be very careful, because we don’t know the whole story. Because we know that everyone makes different decisions. Because we’re supposed to respect everyone’s decisions. Because we don’t want to step on any toes.

When I write about weight I have to be careful not to say anything insulting about skinny women. When I write about feeling unattractive, I have to be careful not to say something that might offend people who are very comfortable with their looks, or very stereotypically hot.

I was close with a girl who had been hospitalized with an eating disorder. She became a vegan, and seemed to use veganism as an excuse to not eat much of anything. But no one wants to have that conversation with me, it seems. Because it’s insulting to vegans. Because I shouldn’t suggest that all women who are vegans have eating disorders.

I don’t want to suggest that. But I want to talk about this girl. And a few other girls I’ve known, actually, who were quietly wasting away as everyone around them politely respected their right to be vegans.

There is a point when political correctness hurts us. It prevents us from being honest with one another. It makes honesty synonymous with inappropriateness. It doesn’t even leave much room for careful, caring, thoughtful openness.

I don’t know that if I, or anyone else, approached the woman on the elliptical and expressed concern she would be anything except horrified and offended. She probably would be. Or maybe she’d tell me, “I have cancer!” as if I should have known. There definitely isn’t a convenient answer.

But to the extent that we still tiptoe nervously around eating disorders and pretend we don’t see them when they are right in front of us, something needs to change. Otherwise, how can we keep going back to the gym, and watching women fade around us? And won’t it be that much easier to quietly start skipping meals ourselves? Knowing that first people will say, “Oh, you’ve lost some weight! Good for you!” And then a few of our mothers and best friends will say, “I’m worried about you.” And after that,  no one will say anything at all.

What would you do?  Would you approach the woman on the elliptical? Has anyone ever tried to talk to you about your weight?

32 Comments

Han

I'm 76 kilos which for my weight is overweight (by about 10kg). I know it's not much but my body shape makes me look permanently pregnant. Having seen my best friend from middle school and my cousin go through an eating disorder (both in the end had to be hospitalised for treatment/feeding) I don't want to get to that point – I want to get to my target and stay around that. I think as much I as I want people to encourage me to get to that point I also need someone to turn round and tell me when enough is enough – am I making myself ill rather than shedding the weight to be healthy?

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Give me 30 days

I totally get what you are saying. Not telling someone something doesn't just apply to weight issues either. I've found it applies to a lot of issues. People are just quiet because they want to give you some respect and respect what they assume would be your wishes. Sometimes I wish people would just scream out what they want.
I know two girls who had eating disorders. The first girl got over it by the time I met her so I didn't hear much of her story. But the second girl had it when I knew her briefly and there was a time when she was not around and my group of friends and I were all shocked about it. We noticed that she was always physically active more than anyone else and we thought it was weird but we never said anything and said it was her thing. I felt a bit awkward after when I found out that I could have said something but didn't.
I'm quite comfortable with my weight. Sure there are days when I feel fat but there are also days when I feel beautiful. However, I know most of my friends aren't comfortable with their weight.
I wish I could approach the woman on the elliptical. It's a bad feeling when you realized you could have helped a person just by telling them something as simple as 'You don't look well, are you okay?' and hopefully they will come to realize what they are doing isn't really healthy and they'll stop.

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Han

P.s. I understand how tough it is to talk about it – even now my cousin is better I still struggle to talk about losing weight etc.

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Marthe

uh-u, great post. Uncomfortable post. The best writing usually is.

I think the best thing to do is to approach the girl. If an offensive reply is the worst that can happen, do you really have much to lose? But oh so much to gain if that girl really needs someone.

I'll share two stories that support my argument;

The first story is a personal story. If you can even call it a story, as it is happening right now. I've lost 14 kilos in the last three months. I've been depressed and I'm struggling with food. Most people complements me for losing weight. My mum and my boyfriend is worried. No one else seems to care. And I would give anything to have someone reach out and show that they see me.

The other story is about a boy. I live next to a park, and in the the park is a swing. During the day, lots of kids are playing, I can see them from the window. During the late evening, a teenage boy is swinging. He comes evening after evening, I can see him from my window. He looks lonely. A part of me wants to go and talk to him. I don't. About 10 months ago, someone hanged himself in that same park, right next to the swing. I don't know who it was, but I've never seen that boy swinging again. It might have been him, it might have been someone else. But I'll never know. And I'll always wonder what might have happened if I had just reached out a hand.

So I vote for approaching the girl. You'll never know what could happen. Maybe you could save someone? Maybe not. But at least you've done something.

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Roselie

There are no easy answers in these things. But I do know that most times someone even if they have a problem they won't talk to strangers about it.And it's natural. It's private. And it's very possible that they haven't even admitted it to themselves and even what their loved ones say doesn't matter.And even if you were her friend and you asked her she'd be in denial.

And there are many more who slowly kill themselves like those who overindulge in fatty meats and processed crap and die young from heart attacks. Aproaching this issue about the girl who used veganism as an excuse to be anorexic has many more things to be careful about when you broach it and despite of the good intentions, if you don't know much about the subject yourlsef, you could be doing more harm than good. There are a lot more than stake here and I am telling you as someone who has been helped by veganism to heal parts of my eating disorders. There are animal issues, humanitarian issues, environmental issues and health issues interconnected at this. It's not easy to tackle it and do it justice. I highly recommend
Gena's Choosing raw blog who is a vegan that was helped by veganism to beat her anorexia and has started a series exploring the role veganism can play in someone's eating disorder, the good and the bad it can do, and the misinformation about it. I *really* believe you should talk to her before you write anything, and read her posts like this http://www.choosingraw.com/green-recovery-the-plant-based-road-to-healing-from-disordered-eating/ to see what I am talking about,the other side of what we are taught. There are omnivorous people too who are anorexic and no one blames the diet just the people.All in all that's a subject that *should* be discussed but *only* if we have done our research and know what we are talking about so please check out the link I gave you and the author.

As for the girl you asked about, I think asking her outright will make her defensive and/or hurt and do more harm that good. Instead get to know her and at some point reference her to your blog (which I love by the way) where among other posts she'll find ones that concern her (supposing she's having an eating disorder).And maybe at some point you 'll get the opportunity to broach the subject (most likely generally but there's the chance she'd be willing to talk more if you get to know her better).

Good luck!

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Allison

When I was younger my best friend had anorexia. We had been friends since we were in elementary school. I was always naturally skinny, and she was kind of pudgy. In early high school, she adopted a "raw food diet" as an excuse not to eat anything.

When you're close to someone who has anorexia, you have the horrible choice of saying something– and having them shut you out– or not saying anything, and hoping you can stand there like some kind of mute support waiting for the day they realize they need help and then you'll be there. Kids, that day will never come.

I made the choice not to say anything. The day I came to say goodbye because I was leaving for college was the day she told me her mom was forcing her into in-patient therapy for her disorder. We didn't talk a lot when I was in college, and I lost her as a friend anyway.

Lesson learned: always say something. When they try to shut you out, fight it. Your real choices aren't losing them as a friend or keeping them as a friend, but losing them as a friend when they shut you out or REALLY losing them to their wasting body. Five years later, I still haven't gotten over the guilt of not having said anything.

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Anonymous

I guess I've had eating disorders since I was about 14, and although I've kind of kept them under control and never got so skinny that I look ill it's still noticable when they become more difficult to deal with. It'd be nice if someone did bring it up, because crossing that barrier and admitting you have a problem is the most difficult thing in the world. I don't think bringing it up with a stranger is the best thing to do, because in my experience most people with eating disorders are ashamed of them and terrified of being found out. But if you've got a friend showing symptoms, even an accquaintance you know fairly well, then go for it. A lot of people need help but don't know how to ask for it.

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Anonymous

My best friend has an unhealthy relationship with her body. Last year, she went from 110 to 85 lbs in 4 months. When she went home for the summer, her parents forced her to gain weight. She has a fear of fat, so she chose to "gain" through muscle. She still speaks of how she wishes she could rid her body of every ounce of fat.

We're now roommates (college) and she claims she's back to her "starting" weight. Yet, she still eats one meal a day. At least now she recognizes that she must eat. Every day, she does 2 40-minute weight-lifting regimes and walks 5 miles.

Even if she is at a 'normal' weight, it pains me to see the unhealthy thoughts she has. I constantly suggest support groups, student health services, therapy, and nutritionists and I've offered to go with her for support. I eat meals with her, I encourage her and praise her when she does eat more than usual, and I let her open up to me about her relationship with food. I don't say much because I don't want to be shut out but I fear the day something terrible happens and I could've done something. I don't know what else I can do. I'm only 20. I have no resources, no connections and no guidance.

I would approach that girl, without a doubt – but what comes after approaching her? What do you do about that defensiveness? How do you break past that barrier and show her that there's only love, caring and openness?

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Grace

I think someone needs to talk to this woman. If she tells you she has cancer then you can just say "I'm sorry to hear that." If she is offended, she's offended and she will get over it eventually. But by talking to her, you could literally save this woman's life and help her see she is beautiful no matter what size she is. The chance of helping her is worth the risk of offending her

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Katy

I'm a recovered anorexic. For almost three years of high school, i starved myself. My new friends, most of whom only knew me at my skinniest, never knew anything was wrong. My parents avoided the topic, and even during the months when i had 4 therapy meetings and a weigh-in every week still couldn't call my diagnosed condition "anorexia". Looking back, I can't blame anyone. My parents and friends offered incredible love and wordless support, even if they were unable to verbalize their fear and concern for my health.

I do. however, think it is a problem that as a society we are unable to vocalize about eating disorders. I was lucky that I had such strong support, but what about people who never did? I always wonder how my recovery and progress may have been helped if speaking about my eating disorder was not so difficult for those around me.

A word to the author- I think what you want to do for this woman is incredibly thoughtful and commendable. However, one thing you may not have considered is that she is aware of her eating disorder and has chosen to ignore the support offered to her. This is incredibly common for ed sufferers- even at my lowest point, i refused to listen to my doctors telling me i needed to gain weight to survive. Additionally, about veganism- I am a vegan. I went vegan in the middle of my ed treatment. Although it started as a way to loose weight, it has morphed into a passion for animals and humanitarianism. I have been a vegan for almost two years, and 'recovered' for about 8 months. I think many people assume that anorexia and veganism, when combined, are inextricably linked- i disagree.

This article was incredibly well-written and articulated the discomfort surrounding talk of eating disorders very well. thank you.

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Danielle

I suppose I'm proof in the vegan pudding that not all vegans have eating disorders! My curves will tell you that much!

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Anonymous

I believe my sister has a problem. She used to be a runner in high school and would eat like an average high school girl. However, since going to college and no longer participating in athletics, she feels like she shouldn't be eating because she'll gain weight. I suspect she became a vegetarian at the same time as an excuse not to eat, which is only made easier by the fact that the rest of my family are vegetarians. She gets angry when someone in the family tries to tell her to eat more. She has actually fainted a number of times, but claims it was because someone was talking about anorexia and it "freaks her out." Additionally she gets a lot of male attention, which I believe has to do equally with her thin figure as her flirty attitude. I'm trying to set a good example by losing weight by exercising and eating healthy. All in all I'm worried but I don't know what to say. I've tried talking to her, but like I said she only gets angry.

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Jenny

What an excellent discussion.
As an exceptionally meek pacifist, I would not approach her. As a former food-issue-haver, I would not approach her about weight. As a caring soul, I would offer friendship with no judgement that could potentially open the door to a caring conversation.
This is such a sensitive topic in our culture, and it goes both ways. I've been told "eat a burger" when thin and I've heard "step away from the burger" directed at an obese person. Both undermine the person and make them feel bad.
The embarrassment of being "found out" could make her hide it more… the "Oh, crap! I've lost control of my image and now people are catching on – How dare I lose control like that? I must punish myself for being so careless!" syndrome.
When I was going through this, I had compliments on my thinness. After being "found out" by a few people my best friend finally spoke up. At the time I heard "I blame you for my personal insecurities and budding eating disorder and I am jealous of your weight, but now I am worried" and a decade of health (mental and physical) later I realize there was more to it than that (though she did use the word "jealous" and it would have NEVER occurred to me on my own). This really just made me want to hide it more and go "look – all better! Now leave me alone." I failed PE in high school several times because I never wanted anyone to know that I worked out.
The disorder is almost never about the weight (especially the weights of others!!!), and focusing on that as an outsider minimizes the support she really needs.
A few years ago I lost a very close friend to heart failure due to a lifelong eating disorder. We'd talk about it candidly sometimes, and we'd ignore it sometimes. She had support and all sorts of treatments and honestly, she was never ready for them to "fix" her. Her disorder defined her to many people, but that was such a disservice to what a wonderful woman she was.
I got little off topic – sorry. Like I said, sensitive subject. I'm sure there's a point in there somewhere…

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JoAnna

…I genuinely do not see the difference between walking up to this gaunt stranger in the gym and asking her about her weight, and walking up to an overweight stranger (define "overweight" as you will) eating in a restaurant and asking her about hers. It's not your business, and it's beyond rude to approach someone that way, just as you wouldn't say something to a stranger about her spending habits or child-rearing (short of someone beating their child in public, obviously).

Approaching a friend is acceptable and should be encouraged – it's your job to do some policing of your friends' health.

If you want to help the stranger, strike up a conversation about something completely different, become her friend, and then with time you might earn the right to say something about her weight.

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Birdie

Maybe she would be offended outright. She probably would be. But maybe what she needs is someone to take interest and get to know her, become her friend. It might take some time, but little by little, it would get easier to bring it up, to work it into conversation.

And I think what's most important when approaching situations like this is the way that you word it. "I'm concerned about how thin you are. I really worry about you." Even coming from a stranger, and even though she'd likely react defensively, it's better than going straight for the throat with, "You need to eat more. You need help."

Things like this are heartbreaking and, you're right, very uncomfortable. But we as decent human beings need to shuck political correctness and start approaching these people. Because if their family and friends are too afraid to say something, it's our responsibility to step in and fill that void of concern and common sense.

I hope that someone steps in soon, before the woman on the elliptical just fades away into nothing.

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Bitterbetty

I agree most with the last comment. Befriend before you judge. She may need support, but being judged is hurtful.
If you befriend someone out of concern, totally acceptable, but until you know her whole story, and gain her trust, your advise will be worthless.
I made friends with a homeless guy outside my office. Started with an offer to get him a muffin when I went in for coffee. Later, I asked if he wanted to have coffee with me.
I started to ask questions. Turned out he was a very nice young man.
It is a very long story, but he ended up needing someone to notice and care about him.
Then he was able to gain some confidence and he got a job at the flower shop where he used to panhandle.
He bloomed.
But it was the friendship that mattered. and that took time and trust.

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Rachel

I'm vegan. I'm also about 15 pounds chubbier than I should be.

While I applaud anyone's decision to embrace compassion and become vegan, vegan doesn't mean skinny! And I'm not suggesting you think that at all.

If I had a friend who became vegan and also became way too skinny, I would tell them about this cute vegan bakery I just found, or this other amazing vegan restaurant I found. If they weren't open to exploring all of the amazing and delicious vegan foods they could be eating then that might suggest something else was going on.

P.S. Eat the vegan donuts from Whole Foods. You will not be sorry.

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Sarah

As a teacher where 90% of the people I work with are women. EVERY OTHER CONVERSATION IS ABOUT A DIET. I hate it!!! I hate how it makes me feel about myself and i'm pefrectly fine and healthy! They'll do crazy things like a fast or eat a fruit bar for lunch. Then I feel bad for actually eating a lunch even though I shouldn't. I'm a girl and I eat. Get over it.

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Jessika

I'm overweight. The benefits of weightloss has been more than implied by some doctors (I have a serious medical condition), and I know that they're right. But then the condition is, among other things, an impaired metabolism so losing weight is not easy.

At my gym they are more vigilant about women (and men) that over-train (i.e., goes every day or twice a day) while they're too slim (as described in the post). If someone over-trains and doesn't appear to be eating a sensible diet, staff will enquire about this person's health.

As for my own weight, I've never been taunted. The subtle, and not so subtle, advice about dieting hsa never come from well-meaning friends. If it did I'd ignore them. I have a very strong sense of integrity, I guess it keeps rude comments away as well.

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Anonymous

Over eating and under eating are sensitive subjects that people don't like to talk about with strangers.

But when someone you respect tells you you've gained or lost an unhealthy amount of weight, it can be just the thing to spark a change.

So if you genuinely care about the girl at the gym, say something nice to her and start a friendship before you address her problems.

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Cynthia

I had this exact discussion with one of my housemates, who was spending our dinnertime ranting about this girl who was too skinny and ate wayyyyy to little and etc, etc.

As a clinical psychology major, as a woman in my society, as a friend of fat and skinny people, a yo-yo dieting mother and a sympathetic friend to both an anorexic and bulimic, I am just floored by how my housemate and many others approach talking about eating disorders, or talking to people who appear to have them.

Fact: Eating Disorders have a high comorbidity with MANY OTHER TYPES OF PSYCHIATRIC CONDITIONS including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, OCD, Depression, etc. etc.

I take this information to mean that, when you approach someone to "talk" about their eating disorder, you may be VERY VERY FAR FROM THE "REAL" ISSUE. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you ARE very far from the issue. So in general, approaching someone with the mindset of having a "I'm concerned for your skinny body" conversation may not be helpful in the least. Not that the conversation won't be helpful, but that the way in which you approach being "helpful" is what may be rude, inconsiderate or small-minded.

Never having been the anorexic, I cannot speak for your observed victim of over-exercising. But as someone who does understand chronic anxiety (imagine waking up every morning feeling as if it was the morning of your SATs, your MCATS, imagine extreme physiological and psychological stress for no discernible reason) I can appreciate what it is like to struggle. I enjoy answering questions about it – I do not enjoy being approached, being asked why I look disheveled and being expected to "answer from a disordered point of view"

I hope I made my point clear.

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Anonymous

I think the only people who should discuss eating disorders with a sufferer is a close friend or relative. It has to come from an incredibly loving, gentle, supportive place. I made a full recovery from an eating disorder through years of therapy. The only person who could get me to go was my brother because I so deeply respected him. However, if a stranger in the gym walked up to me and had said something it probably would have dropped my self confidence even lower than it already was. Not to mention I would have been outraged at the audacity of a complete stranger. That person didn't have to "tip-toe" around anything, because frankly it was none of their damn business. My weight, my lack of health, my ability to kill myself is nobody's business but my own and maybe a select few close family members.
By your reasoning, I should begin walking up to obese people and tell them to put down the fast food, because after all they are killing themselves. The strangers that go out of their way to walk up to me and tell me that smoking kills while I'm politely standing off the beaten path also think they are doing a service, while they are being incredibly rude. Just because something makes you uncomfortable doesn't mean you have the right to say something.

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T.

I know, from personal experience, that unsolicited concerned comments from strangers with regards to body shape occur fairly frequently for folks who are viewed as overweight. I'm a fat girl (no, please don't say "Oh but that's so negative!' – fat is just a descriptor, like tall; blonde; thin; bow-legged) and I've had strangers offer their point of view. And I don't really care for it. But that's because I do not appreciate unsolicited input from strangers on any topic pertaining to my person. Period. Paying a compliment for a nice outfit, or telling someone they have something stuck on their shoe, sure, whatever. But beyond that, if we have not had an intimacy – whether a nurtured friendship, or an intellectual connection, or our participation in a group of some sort that implies that our opinions are welcome – it all should be kept to yourself.

That said, if you see someone for whom you really genuinely have a concern and you just can't *not* do something about it, find a mediator that can help out, like a fitness coach at the gym. Go talk to that person and say, "Hey, I had some concerns, and they may be entirely unreasonable, but I was wondering what you think about (explain situation)?" And if the mediator says "Hm, that does bear looking into," you've done your part where a professional can be involved. And if the person says, "That really isn't our right to be concerned," then leave it.

My opinion, and it's not meant to be as aggressive at the original poster. I appreciate the curiosity and boldness it took to start this discussion.

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Anonymous

Speaking as a "recovered" anorexic, I think you should talk to her. Every person with an eating disorder is different, but I know that I desperately wanted someone, *anyone* to say to me, "Girl, eat a g—–n sandwitch! You look like you're about to die!" Nobody did though, because, as you say, we've gotten to this point where honesty=offensiveness.

If you're worried that she might have problems hearing something from a total stranger, you could at least try striking up a conversation first. Maybe if you get to know her a bit, she'll be more open to what you have to say.

(Note: I'm putting "recovered" in quotes because I'm at a healthy weight. But I still struggle with the abnormal ideation that comes with an eating disorder.)

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Anonymous

thank you so much for this post.
i've spent much of this week worrying about a flatmate with an eating disorder and who is also grieving for her mother and working through some complex control issues.
being her friend can sometimes be hard as i don't know when i can blame her behaviour on these things, and when i have a right to feel upset, hurt or personally offended.
this has really helped me.

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The Many Colours of Happiness

I used to have a severe eating disorder. I was that girl that people would stare at and whisper about behind their hands.
But no one ever said anything to me. Not even my friends. Because people are so politically correct, so worried about being offensive.
I'm not sure what my reaction would have been. I may have yelled. I may have cried. I may have simply just shrugged it off.

But it would have struck a chord. It may have even gotten through to me.

I say politically correctness be damned. If I see someone wasting away in front of me, I will ask them about it. I will show concern and care, even if they don't want it. Just because I may, in some small way, get through.

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SnapandPrint

I wouldn't say anything to the woman. I would not assume too much about why she is thin. For all anyone knows she may be recovering from illness so the last thing she needs is someone to say soemthing to her and make her feel bad.

I speak as a tall, thin, woman who has always been thin and treated badly because of this. I was dragged into the nurse's office in 7th grade and accused by the nurse of being anorexic when I wasn't because I was so thin. It was hurtful and made me so angry because she did not believe I was just thin and came from a family of tall thin people.

I started wearing aggy clothing to hide my thiness and stop the hurtful comments people said about how thin I was. It is as hurtful to be commented negatively about when you are thin as being harrassed for being overweight.

So I would not assume I knew anything about the woman and keep my comments and thougths to myself.

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Insomniac Lab Rat

Approaching a stranger you are concerned about is a tricky situation- because you don't know the situation or the person, or how she'll react.

During a bout of depression when I was 16, I became an emotional overeater, and went from 110 lbs to 135 lbs in just over a month. I eventually developed anorexia, but the weight went off slowly, and since I was so thin before the depression, I don't think any of my friends or family noticed anything other than my losing the weight I had gained. No one ever said anything. I might have responded to a friend or family, but not to a stranger.

When I went to college, I got help. I became healthier than in the past, and while I still occasionally struggle with self-esteem or feeling "fat", I consider myself recovered. During college, every time I went home my mom/aunts/cousins/grandmas were concerned about my weight, asking me if I was eating, and how much weight I had lost. I'm convinced they only had pictures of the few months when I was heavier, and they thought I had lost the 15 lbs off more recently. It always bugged me a little that when I actually needed help, no one noticed…but when I was healthy, everyone obsessed over my weight.

Talking about weight is tough. It's easy to offend people. Sometimes, people are thin because they're physically sick, recovering, or are just plain thin. Sometimes people need help, but if they aren't ready for it, they probably won't accept it.

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Anna

My best friend in high school was a serious cutter, anorexic, bulimic, and severely depressed. She told me she woke up one morning not knowing how she went to bed. There was blood all over the sheets. She had taken a bottle of some kind of pill and cut herself badly. I told the school counselor who then told her parents. Then she got help. She was furious with me and our relationship suffered. When we were 19 she thanked me for saving her life. I would do it over again. Always say something.

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Anonymous

I started following a vegan diet when I was 15. My life was falling apart and I was SO VEGAN. This lasted 2 years and I had to completely change how my mind worked when I realized I had been trying to control my weight under the guise of veganism. I honestly didn't know. I still struggle. I've had friends with eating disorders and I have talked to them. When you need help, sometimes you don't know

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Jesika Lin

thanks for posting this. i know lots of skinny healthy people who eat more than my 230 pound self. i also have an aunt who does exactly what you described– she uses veganism, celiac disease and being "healthy" as an excuse to eat virtually nothing and exercise to a degree that should be considered self harm [like, more than eight hours a day]. her body's literally falling apart because theres nothing to fuel it. its a hard subject to talk about, and coming from a plus sized person like me it just sounds like im bitter and jealous. its also hard because shes an adult and ultimately its her decision to hurt herself and not seek help.

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Lesley

This is such a difficult topic, as the comments before mine and your post itself make clear. I can't say that I've ever had an eating disorder, but I have felt almost crazy at times like maybe I have had one and wasn't aware because of the paranoia I'd feel when people would be asking me if I was okay. I used to weigh 30 pounds more than I weigh now from being on a couple of medications in college that caused weight gain (that's the only explanation I can think of, since I didn't change my lifestyle or diet really at any point). I had never been worried about my weight to that extent before but I felt very uncomfortable in my skin because it wasn't what I was used to and I couldn't seem to get rid of it.

Those who met me in college knew me at that weight so they didn't really think anything of it. But when I got off of the medications and my body returned to 'normal', the people around me started worrying.

So in this way, this irony thing started happening where I'd start feeling better about myself and then suddenly I'd have people asking me if I was eating enough, or rolling their eyes when we'd go bridesmaid dress shopping and be like "yeah well of course everything will look good on her." I know that sounds so awful to be complaining about something like that but it makes me so self-conscious and almost embarrassed, or feeling like I'm not allowed to be feeling good about myself.
Pair that with recently diagnosed food allergies after years of illness and it's made me feel like maybe everyone thinks I have an eating disorder now, so now I have to make sure I eat in front of them even if I'm not hungry.
At last I have a valid excuse to tell people why I would have to run to the bathroom after a meal, or why I might not be feeling well enough to eat at social functions, etc. But of course then being on a diet to exclude my allergenic foods made me lose more weight, yet helping me to feel better health-wise than I've felt in as long as I can remember.

Sorry this comment is getting so very long! I've just been dwelling about this issue a lot lately — where just as plus size women have been so mistreated and felt ostracized, there is so much talk about "real women have curves" or "you need to put on some weight" type comments that cast a disparaging look on people who actually are a size 2 or 4. It's like we can't win no matter what size we are. If we're plus size we feel 'too fat' and if we look like a model we're resented and feel like everyone assumes we're sick.

I guess then we have to turn inward to try to be as happy with ourselves as we can, because we can't please everyone and I fear we may never be able to reach a point where everyone is just accepted and not made to feel bad about the skin and the body they are in. Sending everyone in this comment thread a hug and light and positive energy. It's very hard for us right now. Thank goodness there are blogs like this to help us through.

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