Tip Day: Dealing with Dumb Comments

By almost overwhelming request in last week's scientific random poll, you all wanted to know how to deal with dumb, annoying, and triggering comments about food and weight.  And because I love you all to bits, here are my thoughts.

1. It's unavoidable. People are going to say something stupid.  It's inevitable. You can't prevent it.  There's nothing you can do to stop it, so don't waste time trying.  Save your energy for figuring out how to cope.

2. Take a deep breath. Before you do anything--before you freak out, before you call someone a douchebag, before you start crying--breathe.  Anything you say or do will still be a good idea after you take a few good, deep breaths.  It gives you a few seconds, a little time to calm down and let your wise mind get stronger.

3. It's not about you, it's about them. When someone says something about how you look or what you're eating, it says that that's what they're noticing. It doesn't say anything about you.  People are going to notice things, they are probably going to look, but bringing it up (unless it's a matter of acute concern) is kind of rude.  So don't take it personally.

4. Know your limits. Before you go into a situation, try and get a grip on what you're willing to let slide, what you're going to comment on, and from whom.  There are people in my life who have never understood, will never understand, and there's no point in getting them to understand.  My response is generally grunting or something similar.  I've had other people who have a chance at understanding what's appropriate and helpful and what's not.  So I will speak up with them.  Knowing the difference can save you a lot of hassle.

5. Don't explain.  You don't owe people an explanation for how much you're eating or how much you weigh. You can answer questions and still provide minimal information. If someone comments that you're too thin, you can just say you have trouble keeping weight on.  If they comment on your food, you can say that you're working with a doctor and nutritionist to meet your nutritional needs.  It's your health and your life, and you don't need to explain it to anyone if you don't want to.

6. There's a time and a place for snark. Despite my having plenty of appetite for snark here on my blog, I generally steer away from it in my real life.  I've had complete strangers and random medical professionals tell me idiotic things.  Generally, I let it rip to complete strangers and others I won't have to deal with.  When it's a person I have to deal with a lot, I keep my answers much more aboveboard.

7. You can choose not to answer.  It's not the same as letting people walk all over you.  It's not the same as being evasive.  It's you being in charge of your life.  It might piss some people off.  That's okay.  Your goal isn't to make everyone happy.  And with that, see the next tip.

8. Keep your goals in mind. When dealing with difficult situations, I try to ask myself the goal of this interaction.  Sometimes, it may be to educate the person about stupid things they shouldn't say.  Sometimes, the goal is to get them to shut the hell up.  Others, it might be getting through the interaction without strangling the other person.  That goal will help guide how you choose to respond.

9. You always have a choice.  Your choices can suck.  You might not like any of them.  You might wish you had different ones.  But you can always choose how you respond.  Are you going to choose health, life, and recovery after someone comments on weight gain, or are you going to go back to the eating disorder?  The first one may feel more uncomfortable now, but it's more rewarding in the long run. You can choose to walk away from rude, insensitive conversations. You can avoid people.  You can surround yourself with supportive people. You can choose to attend a holiday dinner to keep the peace and put up with dumb diet talk.

I hope these ideas help.

Share your suggestions in the comments section!

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Bee said...

Thanks so much lovely! Really useful:)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much. I really struggle with getting triggered by stupid comments, and starting to doubt my goals/wise mind - even if I have been doing fine prior to the comment. Even the 'well meaning' ones, um... not always so helpful.

I'm printing this out - great post and great advice. I need to remember this.

Anonymous said...

I like this :)
my dad once said something really helpful to me about dumb professionals which I thought might be good to add. not a direct quote but the gist was -
they GO HOME at the end of the day to their families, their lives. it's a job to them even if they're good at it. if you let someone else's stupid attitude at work affect your ENTIRE life and have you living every minute of your day in this eating disordered hell for longer than you need to, you're the idiot.
(not tactful - but true). also I think it has a lot to do with maturity and boundaries. in recovery you have to grow up a lot (again, harsh but true) and realise that you control your own actions and other people's idiocy doesn't have to affect you - also that the world doesn't have a responsibility to be 'safe' and 'non triggering' for you but you can change the lens through which you view it.

Danielle said...

Thanks so much for posting this(: People have been commenting on my weight a lot and saying they were jealous of how thin I was and I was getting really offended. I'll have to try you tips next time that happens, or just time the opposite happens.

Unknown said...

i've found that if I make room for the comments, rather than try to ignore them, i'm less inclined to act on them.

hm said...

Great tips!

I recently sent an email out to my closest friends and family members, in which I asked them very specifically not to comment on my weight, my food, their own weight, their new diet ideas, or their exercise regimens. I explained that when people I love call themselves "fat" I internalize it and it triggers my thoughts and behaviors towards myself, that when they rejoice about their recent weight loss I feel guilty that I haven't lost more, that I would feel competitive of their exercise or diet ideas, especially since right now in recovery many of my food choices are being dictated and my exercise has been limited. I explained that I can support them and be happy for them for a million reasons but right now not for those.

I was overwhelmed by the number of email responses I received full of support and appreciation for sharing what I needed- people telling me it is so helpful to know specifically what might help or hurt me in this process of recovery.

Anyone not on my mailing list probably doesn't even know I have an eating disorder (whether they suspect or not I don't give a shit and would never fill them in even if they asked), definitely doesn't know I'm in recovery from one, and I don't give a rip what they do or don't say to me. It's all about who matters. I'm only social with very specific people who I love and I know love me- if there isn't mutual affection and loyalty, people owe me nothing so I don't care what they think or say.

Treatment team members though owe me respect even if there's not affection or loyalty- and that one I haven't quite figured out. I can express myself appropriately (w/an email) to people I love and trust- but when people in an apparent "authority" position offend me, I end up either playing the silent victim or the raging temperamental bitch- one extreme or the other.

Wish I knew how to change that. But at least expressing my needs to my loved ones is a new and successful step for me.

Incredible Eating Anorexics said...

thank you. i really needed to read that today.


Mary B said...

Thanks for your suggestions. I was just addressing how aggravating it is to deal with people who will never understand what we are going on my own blog (Anorexics Who Cook).

Yali said...

This is a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing your tips and your wisdom with us. So many of these points are so intuitive, but we forget them when we are caught in a situation. I really admire your bravery and strength for what you write on the blog! you give those of us in recovery another foundation to stand on when our knees feel weak. Keep it going! :)

K-pedia said...

I have to say that my approach to idiot comments has changed along with the path of my recovery ...

Early on, when I was first learning how to intuitively eat again, I admittedly was eating weird and unhealthful things. This was because I hadn't allowed myself to eat chocolate cake in years and years, so damnit, I ate cake. I had a coworker tell me that my diet was terrible and it was going to make me fat.

I looked at him right in the eye, gave him a menacing stare, and said sternly, "My diet is none of your concern." He sat at the other end of the break room from that day on.

Today, I might not take such offense to a comment because I realize how dumb that person really is, but I can't tell you how good it felt to stare someone down like that. It was as though I was battling a physical representation of ED. AND I WON.

Great post; I think this is something we all have to deal with every day, and I'm sure we all get tired of the stupid remarks. It's nice to commiserate a little.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, this was VERY helpful. I get a lot of upsetting comments that people dont realize are triggering or upsetting. Eh, I love blogging to much to give it up so I just try to ignore them. Sometimes my anger gets the better of me and I reply with a sarcastic tone...

Dana xo

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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