National Eating Disorders Association

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Best Approach?

Hi everyone. I've had very minimal exposure to eating disorders growing up. I had not known anyone who has suffered, until a short while ago, the time that I had met my girlfriend. She has Anorexia and I'm not quite sure how to go about it. She has suffered on again off again for about 4 years. We have our whole lives ahead of us. We plan to get married within the next year, but I won't let us do so unless she is at a healthy weight. So I guess the real question I'm asking is, how can one be a supportive boyfriend when you can see the destructive behavior with your own two eyes? I can see the decisions she is making and I know that this is very much a mental struggle, but I can't help myself from commenting on what I feel she should do to gain weight or when she is doing something that could negatively impact her weight. She has thrown the idea of treatment out the window, she's pretty sick of that whole process (she's been through treatment 4 separate times). I just see no improvement and I don't know what I can suggest or do in order to help. Our future is in essence contingent upon her overcoming her eating disorder. What would you do in my situation? I'm sure this description is quite vague so I apologize for that. What's the best way I can talk to her about her eating disorder? How can I learn more about what exactly it is she's going through? I always try and give her positive comments and support when possible, but it's very difficult when I don't exactly know if I mean the words that I'm saying. How can you balance a positive supportive role but also be able to get your point across from time to time? Or should you not try and do both? Thank you in advance for your help, and if you have any further questions that would help clarify the situation please let me know.

First of all, thanks for

First of all, thanks for sharing you problem on here! You sound like an amazing and supportive boyfriend who cares about the health and well-being of your girlfriend, and that is really amazing of you. Having struggled with anorexia, bulimia, and exercise bulimia on and off for the past 5 years, I can tell you that an eating disorder will absolutely ruin a relationship. Trust me, it has happened to me twice, and straining my current relationship as I am going through a slight relapse again. The most important thing I have learned is that you can never truly love someone else unless you learn to love yourself first.

The hard truth is that this eating disorder will destroy your relationship if she does not make any effort to get better. If you guys have been dating for only a short time, it may not seem like a huge deal, but trust me it will get worse. She needs to get treatment if you guys want to continue having a healthy relationship. Not only is this eating disorder damaging her mental and physical health, but it will damage your mental health too from dealing with constant worry. It really creates an unhealthy relationship that can be poisonous to both members. While I don't suggest giving her an ultimatum (choose the eating disorder or me), you do have to consider what this relationship will turn into if she is refusing to get treatment or help. Honestly, she has to decide for herself to get help. This is something that cannot be forced. I personally know that no amount of yelling or convincing or begging from others to get help will work. You have to decide that YOU want to get better for YOU.

From her perspective, she is probably really afraid. Eating disorders can ruin your life, and recovery can be terrifying. For her it seems easier to just stay in that safe place of starving that she has known for so long. She needs to realize that she needs to recover not only for herself, but for your relationship to be healthy and flourish.

I know this was all over the place, but I hope it helped!!

Thanks for reaching out and I

Thanks for reaching out and I applaud your support for your girlfriend. As you know, eating disorders not only take a toll on the sufferer, but the family and significant others as well. I can’t offer insight into your specific situation, but NEDA is a great place to find the support you are looking for. I would suggest the NEDA Navigator program. From the NEDA westie: “NEDA Navigators are volunteers who have first-hand experience with eating disorders and are well into their own, or their loved one’s recovery. Navigators are familiar with navigating the complex and overwhelming systems and emotions involved with seeking help and working towards recovery and have been trained by NEDA staff and Clinical Advisors to be a knowledgeable, informal source of guidance to others. As peers who understand the struggles involved in this journey, they provide direction, wisdom, and hope to others during a difficult and overwhelming time”
I think they could be helpful in helping you and your girlfriend navigate the next steps. I hope this helps!

Hi Comets,

Hi Comets,
You're such a great support to her for seeking out more information on the forum. It's not hopeless, but it is tough. This link gives a bit of information on how to address the issue.

There's also a toolkit on the NEDA site (it says for parents, but it's good information for anyone who loves someone struggling with a disorder).

We're here on the forum to support one another so ask questions. None of us are medical professionals but we understand what you and so many others are dealing with right now. We will always be here to listen and offer any helpful tips we can.