National Eating Disorders Association

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keegan.peaco
My girlfriend has an eating disorder

Hello, my name is Keegan and I just recently joined this website because I have no other options but to ask someone else what I should do. My girlfriend has an eating disorder where she will purge when she eats, or she won't eat at all. When I got into this relationship with her I was aware that she had something going on, but I hadn't realized it was serious until she started opening up with me. I have no actual experience with eating disorders but I tried to help anyways. She wants to weigh less because she wants to be skinny. I can understand that much, a lot of people want to lose weight and all that jazz. But she does it in unhealthy ways, like I found out recently that she's been taking diet pills to lose weight. Sometimes she would talk to me about what it would be like if she lost weight (which I don't know if it's possible or not because I'm not fully educated on how weight loss works) and I would just support her endeavors on weight loss because I wanted her to feel a sense of comfort with losing weight. Well, that was a bad choice. I subconsciously knew that it was unhealthy for her to be a weight that low for her current weight but I just wanted to support her and make her happy. Sometimes I would ask her why she purges because I'm genuinely concerned for her health since purging can damage your throat a lot (stomach acids) and she would say it's a control thing. She said she wanted to be in control of this, I'm not sure why because she never told me specifically but that's what she said. I was torn because I knew a lot of the decisions she would make were bad for her health but I also didn't want to offend her and hurt her so I supported some of the things she wanted just so she would be happy. That was my next mistake because she told me that I shifted positions too much and I never knew what to say to help her, which proceeded to that she doesn't feel secure talking with me about it anymore. So I'm assuming she's bottling up her emotions on the inside now and I know she still continues to purge, starve herself, and take diet pills. I don't know what to do. I want her to feel comfortable in her own skin, I want her to be happy, I want her to be safe with her weight loss. I just want her to be okay. Please help me.

_admin_moderator
.A portion of your post was edited

Hi,

Thank you for posting. A portion of your post was edited to conform to community guidelines. We ask that members refrain from posting specific numbers as they can be triggering for some people. The full guidelines can be found here:

www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/community-guidelines

Best wishes and please continue posting.

NEDA Moderators

mycatblue
Welcome to the forum

Hey Keegan,

I can tell that you really care about your girlfriend and want to help her. That is really great, a support network is really important to a successful recovery and she is lucky to have a people in her corner. You are right to be concerned with her health and want to find her help.

Have you suggested that she see a therapist or a doctor? Seeing a professional is really the best place to start.

Please don’t beat yourself up about saying the wrong thing. It is really hard to know what to say to a loved one, most of us don’t really understand the thought processes of a person with ED. You can be a lot of help to your girlfriend; don’t underestimate the important of your support and love. If you do want to talk to her again you may want to learn more about ED first and maybe even map out the conversation before you talk to her.

NEDA has some great resources for learning about ED and recommendations on how to start a conversation. This a great toolkit (and not just for parents) that can help you learn a bit more.

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/parent-toolkit

There is also a helpline staffed with volunteers that can help you locate resources in your area: Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am - 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm @ 1-800-931-2237.

Helping someone with ED can be overwhelming at times, remember to take care of yourself. Best wishes, please post and let us know how you are progressing.

BobJ48
Keegan,

Keegan,

People with EDs move through a bunch of mental stages as their ED develops. In the beginning it can be this wonderful thing - Look at all of the self-control they are able to exhibit ! Each time the numbers on the scale go down, it just goes to show what a good and successful person they are. Of course if the numbers go up, then conversely that means they are not in control of their lives, and perhaps are the bad sort of person that they suspect they might be. But as long as the numbers keep going down, then there's no reason to worry about any of that…right ?

How she responds to your concern is going to have to do with what stage of things she finds herself in. As long as things seem fine to her….then how can there possibly be "a problem", you know ?

"She said she wanted to be in control of this, I'm not sure why, because she never told me specifically but that's what she said."

No kidding : Control is a *big* ruling theme when it comes to EDs. Not so much that being in control of everything is healthy for us, but it has more to do with the opposite of that : NOT being in control is *definitely* a bad thing. So that's what she meant I think.

So it really can turn into a big internal control struggle, and the person can begin laying a whole bunch of toxic negative judgments on themselves, as the control theme works it's claws deeper into them.

"That was my next mistake because she told me that I shifted positions too much, and I never knew what to say to help her, which proceeded to that she doesn't feel secure talking with me about it anymore. So I'm assuming she's bottling up her emotions on the inside now…."

At some point she's going to reach the "Uh oh" stage though. Where she does begin to allow herself the idea that she might be in trouble. That there might be "a problem" you know ? Even now she may be beginning to wonder about that.

So her comments on you not being able to come up with the right words to support her may be a reflection of her own growing doubts. Because even she may be starting to wonder what the right words to support her might be. If you follow what I mean ?

Still it's going to be difficult to support her in her actual actions, if she still sees weight loss as the solution to her inner doubts. EDs are a trap, and are bad for people, so they can't reasonably ask us to support then in their urges to simply loose more. But if we urge them to stop, that doesn't feel right to them either, because to them that means that we'd be happy seeing them be out of control.

One thing to keep in mind is that people who purge a lot generally find it a shameful thing, so that may be one part you could talk to her about. Not so much that you can tell her not to do it, but perhaps you can help her with the shameful feelings she's likely to be having about it ?

If she is willing to talk with you, I mean. When a person starts to have doubts about what they are doing, it can be difficult for them to admit to those doubts.

At least at the beginning I mean.