“That dress makes your butt look big…”
What happened to the age old mom’s wisdom “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” Perhaps people feel the need to give “constructive criticism.” Most likely however, the recipient of this “advice” ends up thinking they are fat and ugly. If you don’t have an eating disorder and have a good body image then perhaps these negative thoughts are fleeting. Imagine, however, the recipient who does worry about her size, shape and, like the typical American, overvalues thinness. Imagine that she constantly compares herself (negatively) to others, struggles with self esteem and is supersensitive. This scenario could be a set up for an eating disorder.
Can one comment cause a spiral into an eating disorder? No. The causes of eating disorders are complex and involve numerous factors including genetics and psychosocial traits. However when my clients talk about the development of their eating disorder almost all can identify a bone-headed comment that was directed towards their body. These comments haunt them for YEARS.
So, what can you say? Listed below are comments about appearance that WOULD be welcome:
1. You think I look nice.
2. You think I look very nice.
3. You think I look beautiful.
4. You think I look happy.
5. You think my smile is contagious.
6. I have a big piece of spinach in my front teeth.
7. My blouse button has come open and my bra is showing.
8. I am wearing two different shoes. (Please feel free to mention that.)
9. My clothes are inside out.
If in doubt, don’t say it!
Pam Chin-Lai, MS, RD, LD, CEDRD specializes in the nutritional rehabilitation of eating disorders in children, adolescents and adults.