National Eating Disorders Association

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Desperate for help on my boyfriend's strange disorder.

I have been together with my boyfriend for two years now and he's been suffering from this eating disorder for thirteen years now. His careless mother hasn't tried to help him in years, so I stepped up to the plate to try.

Well. I have tried with little success. For those two years, I have tried everything I could to find more foods this boy could eat. But, to no avail. I desperately need help, I have no idea what to do about this anymore.

A little bit of an explanation. When he was younger, at around four, my boyfriend was forcefed by a babysitter. Since then, he didnt eat anything except for certain things I will list off shortly. His mother is a vegan who is also allergic to gluten, so what is in his house food wise was and still is very limited.

I have tried so hard to get him to try foods that I enjoy or think he might like. When I ask him to try just a small bite, he throws a bit of a fit and just takes the tiniest amount. Then complains he doesn't like it for various reasons, such as the texture or the flavour, yet I made sure they are foods that are very similar to the foods he already eats. I'm also very convinced that the sized bites he takes aren't anywhere near enough to judge if you really like a food or not. In the two years I have known him, I have asked him to try 40+ foods, he has only ever tried about half of them.

There is a trend, he tends to really like crispy, crunchy, and starchy foods. But I want him to eat healthy. He wont even touch veggies, not even something as simple as an apple...

So please. I'm just a 17 year old girl and I dont know what to do. His mother doesn't care anymore, his dad starved him to try to convince him to eat and my parents dont care, either. He has nobody but me, and I'm turning to the people here to help me. I am desperate. He is so unhealthy, I just want him to be healthy and well. I've tried everything. This is so stressful for me and I know it stresses him out, too. Please, if you have anything to offer, anything at all, I offer my sincerest gratitude.


Food Phobia

Hey Lex. Sorry your note sat here for a while, but perhaps you will still see this.

I suspect your friend has what might be called a severe phobia about eating "unsafe" foods, and that the unbalanced nature of what he does eat will continue to have negative effects on him as time passes. Even the foods which he will eat seem not to be consumed in large enough portions for him to maintain any sort of a healthy weight, so he may have fears about weigh gain as well.

I guess what the question is…does he seem to worry about his eating habits, or would he tell you that everything is just fine ? His attitude towards this will make a big difference in the sorts of help he is willing to get.

If he would tell you that his eating is not an issue, how does his attitude towards his home life seem to be? Does he seem to have concerns about that ?

It really does seem like he needs some help, but finding an area of his life which he *is*concerned about will be the path by which he gets that help….if you know what I mean ?

Perhaps his parents could use some education as well, but if he already has problems with trusting them and what they say, it's hard to see where they could turn things around.

So it may be one of those situations where he needs to be the one to take steps for himself, you know ?

I'm not sure if he is in school, but if he does seem to have things that he worries about, seeing if he is willing to talk to the school counselor may be one way to break the ice, as far as him beginning to open up about his issues. Because opening up about his concerns, whatever they may be…that may be the key to all of this

In the mean time, even though your attempts to get him to eat may not seem like they are having any effect, still, he is fortunate to have a caring friend like yourself.

And I suspect he would say the same thing.

Bob J.

Thank you very much for your

Thank you very much for your comment, I really do appreciate it!

He has accepted that something is wrong and he knows that he cant keep living the way he is. He wants to gain weight and is happy when he does, however, it doesnt last long. You are right about the portions, too, he often throws food out because he "just cant eat it", but he has a high metabolism and is snacking frequently. Him throwing his crackers out leads me to believe that he is sick of them in the inside after eating them for years and years. So there's hope.

He does want to change his ways. I know that he does. I can see it. But its just hard for him because he's weary of foods with different textures.

He is concerned about this, it just seems like he's sort of given up trying to change because just about every food he tried, he hates, and though I try to hide it, he sees how upset it makes me. I do feel very down on myself because I cant help him more, I just need more ways to coax him into trying new things or ideas on healthier foods he may like, because I've tried all that I know.

The school counsellors where we are are not very kind. We have both had bad experiences with them and personal issues and they are very closed to that aspect. They are all business, they dont seem to care about listening to students at all. As for his parents, they are separated, and educating them wouldnt change a thing, I'm afraid. His mother is too proud to admit that she's wrong, so she thinks she has done a fine job raising him when, in fact, he was neglected quite a bit.

You dont even understand how much I appreciate the help, though. This whole time, I felt like its been just me helping him because I'm the only one who cared enough to. You may not think it as much, but it really does give me hope he can change.


Trying New Things.

Dear Lex,

I have a certain amount of sympathy for the way he finds himself feeling. I was *really* thin myself when I was young, and I remember how there were so many aspects of food that I disliked. The taste, the textures, things were too cold. I can eat pretty much anything these days, but I really can remember what it was like to find so many foods distasteful.

I wish I could remember what made the difference. I suspect I just forced myself to eat new things, and over time I began to discover that I actually could tolerate things that had seemed yucky in the past. But I can also understand where if you *did* have something you could tolerate, then why not stick with it.

In any case, I actually do talk with a lot of people who have eating disorders, and one of the things that has helped me is trying to put myself in the other person's shoes. If you can get to a place with him where he thinks that you "get it", then it will help him feel safer talking to you about things.

I know this is going to seem like an obvious answer, but if he wants to get himself to a place where he can eat a larger variety of things, he's just going to have to try eating more things.

But I think it might help to stay with the phobia analogy. When people get treated for phobias, they use what's called "exposure therapy". Which means that they expose people to the scary thing *gradually* and in small stages.

So it might be good to try something like picking *one* food, and just eating a tiny amount of it the first time. But then eat a little more the next time, and a little more after that until he finds that he can eat a full portion.

This would have to be something that the two of you would have to plan out together though. So that it's his idea too, if you know what I mean? So he has an investment himself in it himself. Like perhaps you both could sit down together and make a short list of things that he might like to conquer, and then he could pick just one of those things to work on, and eat a little bit more of it every night. Like making it a project, you know ?

I'm not sure if this would work better with strong flavored foods or more bland ones. I know for myself, when I have no appetite at all, strong flavored foods are more….engaging, I guess you could say. I remember having this recipe for hot clili that I would actually *cook for myself*. It would keep for several nights, so I could just reheat each evening until I'd finished it off.

In any case, I'm just talking off the top of my head, but thinking of this as a project, and the importance of him playing an equal part in it's planning…that's probably the approach I would take.

Because from what you've said, it does seem like I knows it's a problem, and something that a part of himself would like to see change.

Which is hopeful I think.

Bob J.


Hi Lex,

Just thought I'd add a couple of links here for you to check out which can provide support and guidance for you and your boyfriend at this challenging time.

Tons of luck with this all and warm thoughts your way.