Our loved ones often want to support us in recovery, and as part of that may comment that we look great, or look better. In theory, we should be pleased about that, right? Unfortunately, for people are all sizes and with all behaviours hearing words like that often translate in our heads to, "You're fat.", whether our journey has involved any weight change. There is often something about eating disorders that requires validation, "proof" that we really are sick and deserve treatment and support. When we hear that we look good, or look better, we often feel invalidated by these comments, and out default is, "I need to lose weight." Body comments are common in our society, and usually our loved ones mean no harm, but stamping body comments out of your lexicon to anyone, not just people with eating disorders, avoids the risk of inadvertantly triggering someone, and also avoids feeding into our increasingly body-centric society, which in turn can be triggering. Say things like, "I'm glad to see you," or things not focussed on looks or weights. The Mighty describes our common inner processes when we hear these words, and how it often drives relapse-based thoughts.
This is also a very helpful article about Five Things You Shouldn't Say To Someone With and Eating Disorder. There are many things that can be triggering, but these five are no-no's. I would add to the list another one that has been hurled at me: "You're too intelligent to be doing this". It says that I have made a choice, despite my intelligence, to be eating disordered. Intelligence and eating disorder development have no relationship. Eating disorders are brain-based illnesses that are often handed down from generation to generation.
In a diet-based culture, we are very used to complimenting each other on weight loss: "wow, you've lost weight; you look great", and comments of that nature. Probably the only people with eating disorders who are complimenting each other on weight loss are those immersed in the proana and promia subcultures that infest our social media feeds.
Also, in general, in non-disordered people, comments like that enourage yo-yo dieting, which not only does damage to their bodies as they reach for the newest fad diet, but for the majority of people who diet, they will regain any weight lost, within a year or less of weight lost. We know that they often feel shame and embarrassment, and this is the same thing that people with eating disorders feel, except in disordered people if can lead to further restriction or eating and compensating for it.
Basically, body comments for anyone seldom have the intended effect, and can lead to more dangerous restriction and crash dieting. Why You Shouldn't Always Compliment Someone on Their Weight Loss explores some of these complexities.
More good advice in 5 Things You Shouldn't Say To Someone With An Eating Disorder, published by Huffington Post.
You're probably getting the idea now. As people who struggle with eating disorders, it is often our bodies that cause us so much pain and angst, and because it is an eating disorder, it isn't rational (although it often presents itself to people who struggle as such). We can twist and distort anything you say to us to demonise our bodies and our nutrition. Sometimes the difference between compulsive over-exercising and healthy exercising is just one well-meaning comment.