National Eating Disorders Association

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Husband is secretly eating and drinking

Hi this is my first time posting and am hoping for some advice. Sorry that this is a little lengthy. My husband is morbidly obese. When we met, I was dieting and at some point, he also went on the diet. He initially lost X lbs. But after a shoulder injury he stopped exercising. Then covid happened so it made sense that he didn't resume with a personal trainer. But he eventually stopped exercising on the treadmill too.
Several months ago, I sat down to have a talk with and shared my concerns about his health. There was no vaccine and it had become clear that he was in a high-risk category. I shared my fears about the future and how I wanted to grow old together. There were other concerns discussed as well. He agreed to go back to counseling and that he wanted some time to decide what to do. He started meeting with his therapist.

Within the next week I discovered that he had been sneaking food behind my back and he lied to me about missing food and utensils. I was angry but wasn’t sure how to handle it (he was unaware I knew he was lying.) He could tell and asked me what was wrong. I told him I wasn’t sure how to talk about it the right way and asked him if I could talk to his counselor. He said yes but began to freak out because I’ve always been able to talk to him about anything. So I suggested we go ahead and talk about it. But he refused. He said he couldn’t handle whatever it was and wasn’t ready to hear it.

Ultimately, he said his therapist refused to talk to me. But he came to me and said he was going to start walking on the treadmill and seeing a weight loss doctor. He continued to refuse to talk about whatever it was I needed a therapist for (though he kept bringing it up.) His effort and therapy lasted a month at most. Eventually I tried to talk to him about it again. He was defiant. Asked for an ultimatum. I said I wasn’t interested in giving him an ultimatum but that I wanted to understand what he wanted for himself and if he in fact wanted to lose the weight or if he was content where he was. He said he was going to get back to the treadmill and make an appointment with his therapist. We considered marriage counseling and he said he would set up an appointment. None of those things happened. He got on the treadmill maybe 3 times.

I felt like I had said all I could and that it would be up to him to make a change. As you can imagine there are other things going on and he’s been under intense stress. I again found that he is hiding food but now also liquor. We already drink a lot. I can’t believe he’s drinking more in private.

I’m at a loss. I’m afraid. I don’t know what else to say or do. If I suggest going to marriage counseling, he’s going to get extremely stressed about what triggered it. I am worried about how he will handle any tough conversation. I’ve seen him tense up just because he thought I was going to have a serious conversation with him. I know this is a lot but hoping for some advice about how to move forward.


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Dear New.

Yep, this sounds like BED to me. Binge Eating Disorder. It's a formal eating disorders diagnosis. As you may have figured out, it can be a response to stress. A lot of things can cause stress, but a lot of the time it's the stress surrounding the disorder itself that provides the stress that keeps the thing going. So it can be pretty difficult that way. And frustrating and unsettling for the person who's trapped in it. Like it's become beyond their control, which can be scary for them. Plus what man wants to admit that things are out of control ? Or even worse, that they're helpless in the face of it ? Not many, that's for sure. So I think you can be certain that he's worried too, no matter how defiant he gets when confronted.

" I am worried about how he will handle any tough conversation. I’ve seen him tense up just because he thought I was going to have a serious conversation with him. I know this is a lot but hoping for some advice about how to move forward. "

So it's understandable why he might tense up. Because there are a lot of things involving how he thinks of himself that might be involved in that conversation. Things that men don't like to talk about or admit to. But as you rightfully suspect, things are unlikely to get better unless he does.
Which is going to mean that he's going to need to be willing to take some risks with all this. Going to couple's counseling….that's probably the first risk that he's going to need to take. It's his problem to solve of course, but as you've seen, when our partner has a problem then it's our problem too. So the dynamic between the two of you is going to have a lot to do with how things proceed. Which is going to have to involve some couples counseling. It's hard to see any way around it.

But yeah, he'll need to be willing to take the risk, and that's exactly how I'd frame it to him. Like what, he'd not be willing to take that risk ? Guys usually don't want to be seen as cowards ( which is NOT how I'd put it to him !) but you know what I mean, I'm sure. Being willing to take some risks for the sake of the both of you, may be a better way to put it.

In any case, I think you can be sure that he's worried, and it probably wouldn't hurt if you let him know that you understand that. In a loving manner I mean.
Because things are tough for the both of you now, which is a thing that he may understand as well.
In any case, just some thoughts. Keep writing if it seems to help ?

Thanks for responding. I didn

Thanks for responding. I didn't realize my message was posted. I know you're right we need couples counseling but I don't know how much we should try to talk leading up to it. I'm afraid of how he will react, not just to me but emotionally. On the other hand I've seen him get even worse over what he imagines is going on. He's being over the top affectionate and it's just making me so sad as he continues to drink behind my back. I wonder if it would be bad to find a counselor before I talk to him to reduce the time between.


As I understand, getting therapy appointments is taking much longer these days, because mental health workers are getting swamped because of all the stress over Covid. So yes, it might be good to make an appointment now, because of how long the wait might be.
As far as talking with him goes, as you might imagine, it's good when people have communication, but I think you've seen how touchy that can be. Like what the right things to say might be, that doesn't cause the person to feel attacked or become defensive. It's tempting to say how worried we are, but if we make it be too much about our own feelings and worry, that can make the other person feel like they are a burden, the guilt of which doesn't improve things for them at all.
What I tend to do when I'm talking to people who have these issues is try and put myself in their shoes, and then think of what might help me feel better. Not that there are any magic words, but if the person can feel like someone else "gets it" about what they are going though, that can help. I mean, imagine how alone he must feel with this all ? And think about what might feel comforting for you to hear if you were in the same position?
If we look at it that way, often we can come up with things to say that we might not find ourselves otherwise saying, so figuring out what to say can take some though beforehand, and some mindfulness too.
It won't hurt to acknowledge his affection either. It's probably a reflection of how much you mean to him when he finds himself in this difficult situation.
But yeah, I'm not sure that you should see it as your job to fix him. You guys are simply too close for that. It's going to be his task to deal with this, through therapy or AA or other outside resources. But you can be supportive of his efforts, as well as showing him that you understand how difficult it must be. So he doesn't feel so alone with it, you know ?