Although I’ve struggled at times with body image issues, I have never had eating problems except for that fact that I probably eat too much Bojangles chicken. That being said, I have learned a lot about eating disorders from being in a long relationship with someone whose life centered around one. Allow me to let you in on a couple things from the guy’s perspective that come along with these “great” points that the oh-so-honorable author of this post makes (Spoiler alert: all of them are crap).
“Her obsession over her body will improve her overall looks.” Sure, girls with eating disorders are often obsessed with their looks. Does that end up benefiting you though? No. Obsession is never healthy. This just means a ridiculous amount of time spent in front of the mirror. A simple trip to the mall can, and will, turn into a sad affair often coupled with tears due to either A) how the clothes look when she tries them on, or B) the size she has to pick up so that they fit. There’s no way she’s coming out of the dressing room to let you see, and she’s not going to buy anything either. What happens in instead of a fun trip to the mall, all the sudden you have an upset girlfriend that you can just cheer up with a joke or two because these self-hatred is deep-seeded. As she’s holding up shirts, you’ll very likely notice the cuts on her wrists. You didn’t even realize that this is a real thing that people do to self-medicate, not just something people joke about when they’re upset. You’ll find it odd that you hung out last night and thought it was a good time, but she still couldn’t resist the urge to cut herself after you left, using one of the many hidden razorblades in her room.
“She’s better in bed” and “She’s fragile and vulnerable.” Oh, she’s fragile alright. If you enjoy random bursts of tears when everything seems to be going well then you will be all about this. The logic here is that she is so insecure that she will constantly want to have sex with you and please you because it would be the worst thing in the world if you left her. Normal insecurity and eating disorder insecurity are two different breeds. It’s important that you understand that eating disorders are almost always a symptom of depression. Do depressed people always want sex? No, they want to be left alone. This can result in your feeling that she doesn’t really want anything to do with you, but the truth is there’s likely a chemical imbalance in her brain causing depression and also biological factors screwing with her in the form of an eating disorder (I’ll take this moment to refute the common misconception that eating disorders are NOT just a lack of discipline or wanting to be skinny: real ones are diseases that have been seen on neurological tests/scans). But back to how this affects you…she hates her body so much that she doesn’t want you to see or touch it. You can tell her all you want how great it is, she won’t believe it. You’re approval doesn’t actual mean anything; it’s her approval that’s the golden ticket. You won’t understand because you can see with your own two eyes that she has a beautiful body and you wouldn’t change it if you could, but at the end of the day her low self-esteem is causing you to strike out night after night. Bonus fact: If it does happen, it will seem obligatory and lackluster and I think we can all imagine how much “better” that is. It’s not.
“She costs less money.” Here are the possibilities when you’re at a restaurant with your eating disordered girlfriend. She orders a salad or something small, she doesn’t order at all (awkward), or she orders a regular sized meal and eats no more than five bites. Regardless, she’s visibly stressed out because you’re at a restaurant and the sole purpose of your being there is to EAT… the single greatest fear in her life. You might even get one of those outbursts I mentioned earlier. Big menus become enemies to be contemplated with a racing heart for no less than fifteen minutes. You can see her counting potential calories and sweating over it. She opts for the small salad even though she wants something more substantial but won’t allow herself it. She then proceeds to excuse herself shortly after nearly finishing the salad and you think nothing of it because the Lakers are playing on the screen across from you. She comes back and smiles and you continue on. She’s so good at this act because she’s been practicing it for so long that you don’t even realize what just happened. Truth is, she feels so much better than she did with all that salad in her stomach. As you’re reflecting on the day later on, it hits you later on that she just threw up the small meal she ate because the stress was too much. You asked her and she blushes and apologizes. Eventually you will stop going to restaurants, just like you stopped going to the mall, because you don’t want to cause anxiety and want her to relax so you can at least have a pleasant time with her. Believe me guys, at the end of the day you want to be able to enjoy a meal out with somebody you like/love, even if it costs you an extra $15 or $20. You take it for granted now, but you shouldn’t.
Eating disordered girls are just like us in the sense that they throw up if they drink too much. I would venture to say that throwing up due to alcohol consumption is a more regular occurrence because normally there is not a lot in the stomach to start. Instead of helping your girlfriend when she is too drunk by making sure she is okay, you instead have to watch her stick her fingers deep into her depths of her throat because although she is nauseous, she can no longer throw up naturally. This is not a gentle stimulation of the gag reflex: it’s violent and ugly. The gagging sound that results from doing this to yourself is something that you won’t soon forget, and you’ll vow never to throw up that way. You’ll want to stop her so bad, but there’s not much you can do at this point in the night, even though you told her repeatedly throughout the evening that she should take it easy because you’ve been down this road before.
At the end of the day, the eating disorder is her best friend and worst enemy, but for her it’s a lot easier to see the best friend aspect because of the sense of comfort and control it brings her. You, her boyfriend, are supposed to be her comfort when things aren’t great, but you can’t compete with this evil force in that category.
Far removed from all of this might be the fact that you’ve grown to love her for a multitude of different reasons. And because you love her, you want her to get better. If you’re lucky you might eventually convince her to get help. She’ll see a therapist, which won’t quite do the trick. They will recommend an intensive treatment program for her, which she’ll begrudgingly start. After you don’t see her for a few months while she spends 10 hours a day at an eating disorder treatment center, you will realize that in order for her to fully recover, you have to let her go. It’s not necessarily what you want, but if really wish the best for her that requires her recover for herself, not for you or anybody else, and you’ll both realize she has be alone for a while so she can focus her entire self on her recovery, because any less will not suffice in such a battle.
I am not saying that eating disordered girls are totally incapable of being in a healthy relationship; I’m merely saying that the mentioned article is complete bullshit, not just in the sense of being offensive but practically speaking.
[Image via ShutterStock]