Dealing With Eating Disorders In Relationships

2.5.19

Before beginning any post like this, I always like to point out that there may be subjects in here that people may be sensitive too, find triggering or upsetting, so please be aware of that if this could possibly affect you.


I've been in my current relationship now for almost 8 months, although honestly it feels like a lot longer than that. I never thought I could have a relationship that felt so strong or safe, especially with an eating disorder or 2 floating over my head.

It's hard to think about going out with someone when you've struggled with eating disorders. It's hard to put yourself out there, do the 'normal' relationship stuff, without all those little thoughts swirling through your head.

Food, and my relationship with it, has always been something I've struggled with when it came to the prospect of dating. Someone would ask me out for food or to the cinema or something like that, and I'd be checking the menus and nutritional information like a mad woman beforehand, and absolutely crapping myself over the idea of them wanting to buy sweets and popcorn to snack on. I'd find myself worrying over the idea that if it lead to anything else (I'm talking about sex guys, I'm talking about sex) that I would have indulged too much and look hideously fat by the time anything like that happened. It didn't help with those pre-date nerves, let's just say that.

It took me a long time to try and get over that 'control' of food when it came to meeting potential boyfriends (or just one-date-wonders in most cases) and it would be silly of me to try and explain how I ever did it, because I'm not 100% sure how.

I find that I seemed to have still been very disassociated throughout a lot of my 'dating time'. I remember each of them, don't get me wrong (and if any of those awful tinder dates are out there reading, then don't worry hun, you're not forgotten about), but I can't quite remember how I dealt with the whole food situation back then, I think I just avoided it altogether.


Most of the dates I ever went on were when I was around 17/18, so a while back for me to even think about really, and most of them never lead to anything more than a peck on the cheek. I used to think that was because I was little bit scared of guys, which... yeah, I definitely was, but I also feel like it subconsciously had something to do with the idea of having to alter my life, and my rigid eating plan, around someone new, and I couldn't handle that yet.

I was ashamed of who I was and how I behaved, so letting someone into my life, letting someone 'get to know me', just felt so uncomfortable (despite how much I desired the idea of love, romance and simply a boyfriend to hold my hand whilst we strolled down the street). It all just seemed so far-fetched to be honest, and it never seemed to slot into my brain the right way.

Did I want to go for meals, eating in front of someone I barely knew? No. Did I want to drink copious amounts of calorific wine, in bars filled with people? No. Did I want someone to take my clothes off and see me naked? Hell-To-The-Fucking-No! All those things that build that connection between two people on a date, or even in a full blown relationship, just weren't enjoyable for me yet. I was subconsciously terrified of letting anyone in.

I think that it's important to say here that if you're not ready to do that either, then that's okay. I'm recovering at a really bumpy pace - I spent years eating the same foods, at the same times and planning everything meticulously. It's only after taking my time, doing what I was comfortable enough to do each day, and then occasionally pushing myself out of comfort zone when life presented itself as a challenge, that I'm able to sit here today and say I'm living a much more free life in that sense of things.

If you're not comfortable eating on a date, around someone you don't know (or what it might be that's that's giving you stress), then don't do it. Don't push yourself too far for the sake of someone liking you.


Nevertheless, lets fast forward to the age of 19. I was with my first boyfriend - not the best of relationships I have to say, but it was my first experience of having someone so close to me and seeing how they would deal with my eating disorder.

I'll be frank, it was shit and they were shit. This person wasn't made to care for another or to adhere to a partner in their lowest point. It was exactly the experience you DON'T need when you're opening yourself up to someone and leaving yourself vulnerable.

I'd open about aspects of my eating disorder to this person and it was like it was going through one ear and out the other. I'd explain how I felt confused by food, and the fact that when I was with him I felt 'out-of-control' because I couldn't eat exactly what I wanted or know exactly what x,y or z was in it. I confided in them about personal topics and they weren't dealt with with care, but aggression and frustration.

I'd do the usual 'I feel ugly today' thing, and be greeted with a 'do something about it then?', 'lose some weight', rather than a comforting 'well, you're not, that's what your head is telling you'. Because, IT WAS, it was my head feeling messed up. Sometimes you just need reassurance that you're not all that bad - sometimes it's all you need to get you through the day - and I didn't get that.

I felt this person didn't understand what I was actually dealing with, and didn't seem to care about wanting to. They didn't want to sit down and let me try and explain what the demons inside my head were saying, they didn't want to try and make me feel more comfortable at their house in terms of food. They just let the whole thing swallow me alive. I was left feeling so messed up in terms of how I saw food, how I saw myself and how I saw the idea of a 'relationship'. And, unfortunately, the words said to me over that course of time, were the things that lead to a pretty messy relapse last year.

It was ironic that prior to this relationship, I was doing so so well in my recovery. I ate well, looked after myself and didn't let the fear of food stop me from going out, working and seeing friends. I barely partook in any ED behaviors and I could almost see a light at the end of the tunnel - what a relief. I was at the highest, content point that I'd been in a very long time.

It's a shame that this relationship tore me down so much. I wonder how I feel now if all that hadn't have happened? But, we live and we learn, and it truly was a huge learning curve to me about trusting people or confiding in them because, sadly, some people don't want to help you. That's the sad truth. Some people don't want to understand why you think the way you do or nurture you into your best self. Some people will find you a burden, or think you're doing it for attention, but fuck them. Find yourself someone who's going to listen to you, and listen well. We all deserve someone who's human enough to want to understand.


When said 'ex' and I broke up, I was heartbroken.

You know how first heartbreaks are? I sobbed like someone had died, sat in bed staring blankly at Netflix for hours on end. It was a feeling I had never dealt with before and never would want to experience again. The thing that was strangest to me though, was that my appetite completely disappeared. It vanished. I didn't want to eat a thing.

Now, there's this weird stereotype that people with ED's don't want to eat, but the irony is, WE DO. We love food, we thrive off those small tiny meals we let ourselves have on our rigid little meal plans. We can't wait till it hits 6pm so that we can finally get to snack on that 75 calorie apple. The whole thing is that we love food so much that it terrifies us. It terrifies us that we have this huge obsession with this thing that can make us look or feel a certain way.

Even at my absolute lowest weight, I would eat. I would eat very little, sure, but I would count down the hours until the next time I would allow myself to enjoy some kind of food.

It's an obsession, it's a fixation on your body and your 'emptiness', it's not a hate for wanting to eat, it's the feeling that eating gives us afterwards.

I mean of course, I can't group everyone together, but as someone who's discussed this for a while, I've learnt that that's a lot of people's outlooks on things.

Anyway, back to what I was saying, this 'lack of appetite' was new to me. I had always been so obsessed with food, thinking about when the next time I would eat would be. But this, this was like my Anorexia's Christmas's had all come at once, screaming 'yay, she finally doesn't want to eat' and fantasizing about this new tiny body I could have. I found myself loving the emptiness I was feeling, thriving off the idea that my body didn't feel hunger anymore. For about a week after that nightmare of a break up, I think the most I ate was a Boots meal deal on my way home from London one evening, but it felt *toxicly* liberating.

I told myself, 'fuck him, I'm going to get really skinny and really pretty'. I thought this lack of appetite was going to last forever and I was going to finally be that tiny anorexic girl again. Obviously eventually, my own brain decided to over-ride that. Thankfully I was at a point where I didn't truly want to go back down the rabbit hole. But, it's interesting to me to think about not just how that relationship affected me, but the break up too. It all in all, was the worst thing that happened to my mental health - it's sent me on a slippery slope - the lack of love and nurture I experienced swore me off trusting anyone with that side of myself and my emotions. I never thought I'd get into a relationship after that again.

"Even though you might feel weary of it all, there will be room in the future to know love again."

The end of 2018 hits and Josh and I get together. I won't bore you with the details of how, but it happened. I got over those trust issues and opened myself up to someone new. Thankfully, this time, it was the right person.

As I said at the beginning, we've now been together for 8 months (despite it feeling like 2 years), and I can't honestly express to you how grateful I am to have met someone like him. The past 8 months have had their ups and downs eating disorder-wise, of course, but to have someone beside you who's willing to help you piece yourself back together is what anyone who is dealing with something like that truly deserves.

Oddly, I was nervous about dating Josh. He was the 2nd person I'd been on a date with since my ex and I really wasn't sure if I wanted to 'burden' someone with all my issues again, but I couldn't help it, I fancied him... I fancied him a lot.

Our first date was dreamy, (I want to go into detail and tell you all about how cute he is, but I'll save it for another time), he asked me all about my writing, how honest it was and how I have the confidence to write about the things that I do (I'm still at it now, clearly haha) and I got to explain myself, my experiences, my eating disorders, in the most comfortable way possible. And, I felt calm discussing it. I felt like he wanted to know and wanted to listen. It was refreshing, honestly. Even when the prospect of food came about, I didn't panic. I had a twinge of 'do you really want to let this hunky boy see you scoff down a cheese burger?' but all in all, I just wanted to be in his company. Luckily, we both just decided to go for another drink instead, so there was no cheese burger scoffing that night.

I'd never had a first date like it. I'd never sat there and opened myself up like that and felt like someone had reciprocated it so kindly. It was clear to me that he was a caring person, and after feeling like a neglected puppy for so long, it was nice for someone to kind of say 'I'm here, I'll listen'.


Let's time travel our way to the present and I'm in a very confident (yet, occasionally all over the place) mindset around food right now. I eat as well as possible, yet still allow myself to have treat if I fancy it (sometimes I find that triggering, but I've gotten to place where I always seem to pull myself back on track.) I'm still kind of uncomfortable with my body - I say 'kind of' because, it's still hard for me to not sit (or lie-down *wink wink*) without thinking about what I look like, wondering what I look like from x,y or z angles or worrying that I'm squishing someone cause I'm 'so fat' *rolls eyes*. I'm very hung-up on my appearance still, but considering I never took my bra off, treated myself to sexy lingerie or found myself taking a naughty picture in the past (lol, I'm sorry mum), it's safe to say I've come a long way from where I was.

Josh has been through a lot with me since we got together. I've had points where I've been starving myself, where I've hated myself so much I've almost drowned myself with packets of pills, where I've been purging food and where I've binged and binged for weeks on end. Yet, there has not been one moment where he's not wanted to help me.

A while back, I was upset about something (probably the size of my thighs, let's be honest) and Josh said to me 'I'm going to read about this, I want to understand this better', and he did. He took the time to figure me out. No one, besides my Mum and Dad, had ever gone to that length to understand me before. No one had put that effort in to try and make me feel better again.

He's the kind of guy that kind of gets when I say 'I feel ugly today', that I'm actually saying 'help, I'm spiraling, I feel down about myself and just need you to tell me it's okay'. And he always makes me feel better, and reminds me that I'm not losing my mind like I feel I am.

Since the day I met him, I felt like I could trust him and I think that's extremely important. When you're dealing with something like an Eating Disorder in a relationship, the best thing you can do is trust and be open with the person your with. Obviously, it's good to know if their the right person to trust first of course, but being honest with this kind of thing is the only way the person your with can understand you, or at least try to.

Naturally, on occasion, Josh still doesn't get what I'm thinking sometimes. Why would he? He doesn't think the same way about food or himself as I do. For example, I had an absolutely crappy day the other week and when I went to meet Josh at work, he told me to pop to ASDA and get something for us to cook for tea. I panicked. I walked to ASDA, picked up a basket, turned round and instantly went lightheaded. 'I DON'T WANT TO BE IN A SUPER MARKET', I thought. The last thing I wanted at that moment, was to be put in charge of picking ingredients for food, or to be walking round isles of confectionery - chocolate taunting me from the shelves. I picked up some random stuff that I know we'd cooked before and left. Josh couldn't sense that I wasn't feeling that great... again, why would he? He only asked me to go to ASDA. So, that's when I had to explain. I had to dissect the situation and make it clearer to him.

Explaining yourself is honestly so key in letting your boyfriend/girlfriend or whoever recognize what is going on. At the end of the day, eating disorders are confusing as fuck, and everyone's head doesn't work the same. People have different habits, people have different 'fear foods', some people eat more, some people eat less, some people weigh more, some people weigh less - no matter what you do, what you look like or who you are, your eating disorder is valid and explaining yourself and confiding in your partner is the only way they're also going to understand just how valid it is.


Being with Josh isn't going to be the answer to all my ED related prayers. He's not come into my life to fix me and make my life all rosy again, I'm in charge of that, but he can be right by my side whilst I do it.

Before I met him, I was terrified of cooking, being in the kitchen, people watching what I cooked or what I ate. I told him this and over the past 8 months, although I've not become Gordon Ramsay, he's helped me try and get over that. Sometimes it involves tough love, mostly about how irrational I'm being sometimes, but it's made me grow as a person and I really appreciate that he was willing to help stop me feeling that way.

I know it's within our ED nature to hide things, there are still some little things that I keep hidden deep down inside me, but to make a relationship work, you have to let your partner in. You have to let down those walls and let them support you, or at least know what's going on.

If I couldn't explain to Josh that 'today I would really like to eat a little healthier because the other day I treated myself to a take away with my friends and it's left me a little anxious and guilty' then he wouldn't know and would probably suggest something more indulgent than what I was comfortable with, leaving me feeling worse.

Me being able to confide in him like that, means he's able to say 'okay, cool, let's look at some recipes and make some good for us' and I don't spend the rest of my evening planning how I'm not going to eat for a week.

"I don't need a love that sweeps me off my feet, I need one that tends to my roots."

If I think back to 4 years ago, I would never have imagined that I would be living the life I am now. Yes, eating disorders are still in my life and yes, sometimes it's hard not to let that get in the way of my relationship, but at least I'm trying my best with it.

It helps to have someone close to you, to confide in and let all those confused thoughts out.

Let your partner know what you're going through and don't let yourself go through it alone, and equally, if you're in a relationship with someone with an ED, learn about it, let them tell you what they're thinking (no matter how irrational) and try to be understanding. Put yourself in the mindset of someone who's afraid of spiders, and just replace the spider with food... sometimes even something as simple as that can make the whole thing easier to look at.

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