National Eating Disorders Association

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My Wife and her ED

OK, so some background to start, my wife and I have been together since 91' and to be honest her eating disorder has been there since the beginning, but it really didn't get back till around 92'. It was really an issue right before we found out we were having our first child, and that was at her lowest and it was pretty low. Short of it, the doc made her gain a significant amount of weight during the pregnancy, so after that things got what I would consider normal. Since things were normal I got her a gym membership, as she was interested since I was also a certified personal trainer and long time powerlifter. So working out was normal then, it was something to do. Today, we workout together because I am focused on general fitness and this works for me. She freaks out if she misses a workout, I know when my body needs a day to be relaxed a bit more. More so lately she has become more obsessed with losing weight again, and I told her you gotta do it right. Meaning you gotta eat right and exercise in combination. She wants to jump from the next fad diet to the next to try anything that might get her to lose. Reality from having her count calories for a couple of months, for years now she has been starving herself with very low calories, which in turn has shut down her ability to lose weight. I said to her a few weeks ago, if I didn't convince you to eat you wouldn't likely eat all, and her answer was disturbing because she confirmed that she wouldn't likely eat at all. And that is where I am today with it, she is relapsing back into what got her to her lowest weight, and all she sees is that she is fat, and that she needs to lose weight, but she isn't losing because her body thinks its starving which will likely make her try even harder to lose weight. Its a vicious circle I have seen, one that has been going round for 27 years.

I myself am a recovering alcoholic/addict with just shy of 9 years sobriety, and from this I understand that most people with a problem aren't going to get help until they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. With my wife, I am afraid she won't realize she needs to get help until something tragic happens with her health. That is my overall worry today.

She has seen a therapist on a couple of occasions because of this and it has resulted in zero affect. So not sure if that will even help at this point because I don't think she even sees she has problem. She gave up on counting calories because it became a futile effort in her mind because she could never reach the bar I set, which was pretty normal for her age and activity level without using numbers.

I don't know what to do anymore with it, just more fear of something bad happening. And that I would prefer not to have happen.


Dear Lift,

No kidding, it can be unsettling when we see our loved ones minds taken over by what looks like obsession. From their standpoint, they often seem to be doing the right thing. "Being committed" and "accomplishing" are all things that society values, and besides, everyone else is on that new diet, so how could there be a problem ?

But you put your finger on it when you mentioned the mental flexibility part. If you need a break, you can take one, without experiencing that ominous feeling that something bad might happen if you do. Whereas she might not be able to do that, which is what tells the tale I believe.

But you are right : If the person doesn't think there's a problem, where is our opportunity to help them ?

It's a difficult matter for sure.