Eating Disorders

Not Everyone Will Understand Your Eating Disorder (and That’s Okay)

What to do When People Don't Understand Your Eating Disorder - two people sitting back to back with wall between them
There are boundaries we can all set to put our eating disorder recovery and mental health first.

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Content Warning: eating disorders

I assumed people would know better than tell me about their latest diet trend when they knew I had a history of disordered eating.

I assumed incorrectly.

After spending over ten years in eating disorder recovery, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge, information, and coping strategies to combat my eating disorder.

However, I’ve realized that not everyone has the same level of familiarity regarding eating disorders.

Not everyone has attended enough cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) sessions to rattle cognitive distortions off the top of their heads (black-and-white thinking! Personalization! Magnification!). Not everyone recognizes the harm in food or fitness tracking apps. And not everyone fully understands what I’ve gone through.

That’s okay.

When Others Don’t Understand Eating Disorders

I can’t control what people think, and it isn’t my job to educate the world about what they’re doing wrong or right when they talk about body image, food, or weight.

Related: When Your Partner Doesn’t Understand Your Eating Disorder

What’s in my control is gently correcting folks when they perpetuate eating disorder stereotypes or pulling family members aside to remind them about triggering subjects, such as diet talk and body-shaming.

Another thing in my control is being mindful of my media consumption.

I can mute, unfollow, and block social media accounts that hinder my eating disorder recovery.

Engaging in online arguments over someone’s “progress” photos isn’t worth my time or energy. Time to unfollow!

For the things that make me most upset — sometimes I feel there are people who will never understand the devastating toll eating disorders take on someone’s life — I have my therapist to vent my frustrations to. I also write out these annoyances in my journal to get them out of my head.

Acknowledging Others’ Unique Experiences

Lived experiences with eating disorders are so personal. even others with eating disorders will have gone through different journeys.

It’s unrealistic to expect an in-depth understanding of eating disorders from everyone we interact with.

The deeper I sink into recovery, the more I want to be vocal about eating disorder awareness. I want to shout on top of buildings that fat isn’t a feeling! I want everyone to know as much as I do about diet culture’s toxicity and how intuitive eating is a life-changing experience.

While it’s a nice thought, that amount of advocacy work would be mentally exhausting.

I’d probably burn myself out, start feeling down and may even revert to old eating disorder behaviours.

Advocating for Yourself

Nowadays, if someone was to start telling me about their latest diet, I’m prepared with a list of retorts: “I’d rather not talk about food and weight loss.” “I’m not interested in having this conversation.” “This topic is hard for many people, so I try not to talk about it. Let’s change the subject.”

I’d love to get to the point where I can point-blank say, “I have a history of disordered eating, and this subject is upsetting for me. Please don’t bring it up again,” but I’m not at the point yet.

I still don’t feel fully comfortable advocating so strongly for myself and justifying the boundaries I’ve set for my eating disorder recovery, mostly out of fear someone doesn’t understand.

Related: Advocating for Your Recovery at the Doctor’s Office

For now, I’m going to focus on understanding as much as I can about my eating disorder. It’s okay to let go of everything else that gets in the way.

I’ll continue to work on asserting myself, keeping an eye on my social media usage, and getting the most out of therapy.

There are boundaries we can all set to put our eating disorder recovery and mental health first. After all, that should be the priority before educating others on our own lived experience.


I’m Chloë, a Canadian eating disorder recovery blogger! My passion for writing inspired the launch of my personal blog in early 2021, to create a sense of community for people going through mental illness. I know I’m not alone in my struggles with disordered eating, depression, and social anxiety, and always enjoy connecting with other mental health advocates. Besides reading and writing, I also enjoy yoga, hiking, and hanging out with my cat.

SITE DISCLAIMER: The opinions and information shared in any content on our site, social media, or YouTube channel may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We are not liable for any harm incurred from viewing our content. Always consult a medical professional before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Libero does not provide emergency support. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433 or another helpline or 911.


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