5 Real Reasons to Date Someone Who has Struggled with an Eating Disorder
1. They’re just like you.
Despite the stigmas that surround eating disorders, people with them are just like people without them. They have jobs and families; they go to school and have friends and hobbies, dreams and aspirations. They’re just like you and me. And not only that, eating disorders do not affect only women – they affect men, too, and people of all races and socioeconomic statuses. My time dating a girl with an eating disorder has helped me learn how to handle my own problems with depression and anxiety and gain a deeper understanding of just how much we each have in common with one another. It may come through shared empathy and coming to the realization that we all have demons we need to face down, or it may come in the simple form of realizing one of your closest friends or family members has an eating disorder – the same people you watch movies with, party with, talk with, and love – those are the people affected by eating disorders.
2. They’re brave. Unbelievably brave and they can teach you things you never thought possible.
My girlfriend has achieved impressive academic, personal and professional success while struggling with her eating disorder. In the midst of these achievements, she was hospitalized several times and bravely went through rehabilitation. I personally never knew someone could be so absolutely courageous. Before I met her, I thought I was more or less doomed to a life of depression and that I had no real way out of it. I quickly learned through my girlfriend the true meaning of being brave. Bravery is staring down your problems, accepting them, coming to terms with them, and addressing them. Whether it’s through personal behavior modification along with a therapist, psychiatrist, or with a network of others who are afflicted. She still struggles from time to time with her eating disorder. We all have our own struggles and I still have mine too, and what she has taught me is that problems can only be solved when they are understood. “Shrugging them off” or being “tough” doesn’t solve anything.
3. She likes to cook (and so do I).
Along the way in fighting her eating disorder, my girlfriend and I have both learned to grown fond of cooking and eating mindfully because well… after all, eating is necessary for living but it is also central to eating disorders. Through discussing her struggles with bulimia nervosa and how it makes her feel psychologically, I came to the realization of just how important being healthy is. When you don’t eat or you don’t eat healthy, you feel tired and anxious, weak, and a myriad of other unpleasantries. When you eat mindfully, you have more energy, your hormones stay in balance and overall you feel healthy. Because of her, I recognized my own ability to cook and we got into cooking together which has become one of our favorite, most relaxing, and most useful skills. Nutrition is important and I would have never taken such an in-depth look into it if it weren’t for my girlfriend.
4. I’ve learned that the media and reality are very different things.
Movies, television, video games, and advertisements – they all make use of buff, slim, shiny bodies, both male and female. Sure, I work out, I eat pretty well but I don’t have visible abs or massively cut pythons for biceps. And I’m not saying there’s a problem if you do – fitness in moderation is healthy. Seeing images on the screen or on billboards that make you think your body isn’t “good enough” isn’t healthy and it also isn’t reality. The reality is, people come in different shapes and sizes and peoples’ thoughts and actions mean much more than their physical appearance. It goes without saying that what we see on television is rarely ever reality anymore but by dating a girl like my girlfriend, I have learned firsthand just how important it is to realize that the media is not reality and to accept our inner beauty.
5. It doesn’t define her.
The reasons you should date someone who has or has overcome an eating disorder are the same reasons you should date anyone else. Because you love them, because they’re fun, they share your interests, values, common beliefs – anything. There is no reason you shouldn’t date someone with an eating disorder and just because they have one doesn’t mean it defines them. If someone asked me to describe my girlfriend, I’d mention her intelligence, her love of biking, helping people, learning, hockey, and her sense of humor and all the love and understanding she has shown me. Her eating disorder wouldn’t be on the list because it isn’t what defines her and it isn’t what defines anyone.