National Eating Disorders Association

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Don't know how to talk about it

my girlfriend just told me today (June 21) that she only feels good about herself when she doesn't eat. my reaction only ended up hurting her feelings; she said it made her feel "wrong," "bad," and "gross."

she has struggled with eating disorders in the past, and recent events in her life have been difficult for her. i'm so worried about saying and doing the wrong things again, and truly just want her to feel in control and not pressured, but i'm afraid for her wellbeing.

i hope to be able to create a dialogue to help her think things through, or at least to know her thoughts better, but i don't want her to dwell on it and fall deeper into it. i'm also not sure what she did to get through it the first time.

Don't know...

Hey there.

Yeah, it can be hard too know how to address this when she expresses positive feelings about restricting, and negative feelings about eating. What's a person supposed to tell them then, when they have made it clear that they aren't going to be seeing eating in the ways that healthy people do ? Getting into an argument about how they are "supposed" to feel can be a losing proposition it's true.

But you did mention what may be a connection between her current eating behavior, and some recent events which have been difficult for her. And it's true; if these events caused her to feel…not in control of her life, or brought up old and unresolved issues from her past, then there very well may be a connection.

What I'm getting at is that while you may not be able to effectively talk with her about food right now, it's possible that you could help her express her feels more openly about the other issues you mentioned. Given that her concern about those issues may have been, in part, what brought this on in the first place.

Keep writing ?

Hi, I'm sorry your girlfriend

Hi, I'm sorry your girlfriend has been struggling with ED recently, it sounds like this has been hard on both of you. I don't know what you said to her, but just know that there is a ton of misinformation around eating disorders out there, and I don't know about you but I didn't get much education on EDs in school, so it's not your fault that your reaction might have made her upset. Nevertheless, I would recommend apologizing to her (if you haven't already of course) and just express how you don't really know how to approach this, and are willing to learn from her and find out what she needs. It's really clear that you care for her a lot, and just want to see her get better, and something you might find helpful is this article on NEDA's website: Hope you can find it helpful, I'm wishing the best for you and your girlfriend. Stay well!



I think in these conversations it is important to let the sufferer take agency over the direction of the conversation. It can be incredibly challenging and draining to talk about one's ED. Some good questions/statements that have helped me in the past are:

'How can I best support you right now?'
'I am trying my best to support you. How can I be better?'
'How did it make you feel when I said/did....?'
'We don't have to talk about this right now, but I want to continue this conversation in the future so as we can work through this.'
'I am doing this from a place of love and I'm sorry if it coming across as intrusive/rude/inconsiderate.'

Another really important point to stress is that person's worth. Make it crystal clear that you love them and have good intentions. Something along the lines of:
'I can see that you are hurting/struggling right now.'
'I don't understand but I empathise and I hate to see you in pain.'
'I love you/I really appreciate you/I am very grateful for you and I want you to be as happy as possible. You are very important to me.'

That all being said, it is not your responsibility to cure them. Your goals should be to a) support and love that person, b) encourage them to seek professional help and c) continue looking after yourself so as you can continue supporting them.