OP: I have an eating disorder and my co-workers keep pushing me to eat.  What should I do?

Ask A Manager: “I have a medical condition, please stop pushing food on me.”  Also plz plz plz see a therpaist

Commenter: I absolutely have experience with eating disorders. This is an instance where workplace advice 100% counteracts the medical and psychological help that will save OP’s life. She does not have to tell her coworkers the details (she can stop at, “I have a medical condition that I don’t want to discuss”), but she cannot get into the habit of lying (saying she has eaten lunch when she really hasn’t, inventing food allergies and related illnesses that she does not have, making up reasons to avoid food-centric events like parties and communal meals) and actively concealing her illness. We cannot tell her that it is okay to do that or she may get sicker and eventually die. We cannot enable the disordered behavior. Honestly, writing to a workplace blog is basically asking for permission and support in continuing to act in damaging ways.

Alison, I’m not going to ask you to remove this email from the post, but I guess I’ll ask you to keep an eye on how many commenters suggest that OP should lie about eating when she hasn’t, that she should distract people away from noticing that she isn’t eating, or that she can get comfortable with lies about food. I don’t want to be telling her that it’s okay to do any of these things when her life is at risk.

I wrote out an entire response to this, about how people confuse symptoms and disease, before putting together that the commenter is reacting to something that isn’t there.  They’ve spent enough time in disordered spaces that they immediately assume everyone is going to jump in with helpful suggestions to make people think you’re eating when you’re not.  Since no one had said anything of the kind, other commenters assumed the quoted commenter is advocating either disclosing the eating disorder or continuing the triggering talk, and push back against that.  Which makes the QC freak out because they think people are advocating eating disorders.  This ends about how you’d expect.

I think of eating disorders as bad because you are not getting proper nutrition (and perhaps doing additional damage via e.g. vomiting).  Concealment is a sign you expect to encounter stress from people knowing your eating habits- which could be because you’re not getting enough calories, or because they’re nosy assholes, or some other reason.  There is a lot of evidence to support the nosy asshole theory- I’ve had people interrogate me on the pills I was taking at dinner and, when I didn’t explain to their satisfaction, grab the bottle off the table.*  I’ve gotten a lot of crap for eating the wrong foods, when it was what my body could handle at the time.  This has made me somewhat avoidant about large groups where I’m expected to eat something I can’t control, and grateful for things that will let me eat what I can in piece without being shamed.  So I read this comment and go FUCK YOU DON’T TOUCH MY FOOD.

But maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe concealment is an intrinsic part of some people’s eating disorders, to the point it’s better to endure the stress of food-shaming than to lie.   If they were a medic I’d dismiss it because the ED medical complex appears to believe “has control issues” means “isn’t controlled enough”, but they say they’re a patient and I have to believe them on what works for them.

*And by people I mean my skip^3 boss’s partner, at a company dinner.  

You’re right, that commenter is just wrong. Dealing with people trying to push food on you is horrible and awful and of course under these circumstances people will tell white lies to get out of extremely unpleasant and anxiety-inducing conversations that leave you in a bad emotional state for ages afterwards. 

And, like, look at the logic here:

We cannot tell her that it is okay to do that or she may get sicker and eventually die. We cannot enable the disordered behavior. 

I don’t want to be telling her that it’s okay to do any of these things when her life is at risk.

I loathe people like this and they are one of the primary things that make it impossible to get actual constructive support while living with an eating disorder. 

This kind of advice for how to save people with eating disorders is deeply infantilizing and paternalistic. This random stranger is telling other random strangers that they have an obligation not to let the asker get away with behavior that would be totally acceptable if she weren’t sick! That making any suggestion other than “immediately get therapy; because you are sick you deserve the mistreatment you’re getting, and you have no right to try to avoid the mistreatment” is enabling!

Helping people brainstorm coping strategies is not enabling them. It is objectively okay to tell white lies to random nosy strangers, even if you have a condition that affects your health. 

And notice how her comment is not directed at the asker. Why not say directly to her “lying about food is a habit that can make it harder for you to get support if you ever need it, make it harder for you to remember what’s actually true about your needs, and adds a level of stress and overhead to food conversations that may not be worth it. I recommend you find scripts for declining without lies.”? Well, because to this commentator and most people like her, people with eating disorders are not people. We cannot face tradeoffs, we cannot having coping mechanisms, we cannot balance different concerns; we have to be belittled, ignored, and screamed at (“you’re going to eventually DIE this is going to KILL YOU” was my mother’s favorite, too), because we’re just an eating disorder, and interacting with us is either enabling or fighting the eating disorder. 

Please, please, do not interact with people you know who have eating disorders in that way. Best case is we will hate you; worse case is you will harm us way way more than a white lie ever could.

Well for what it’s worth, to me you are not your ED, you’re that funny girl on my dash who writes good EA and SILM stuff.

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