National Eating Disorders Association

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Please give me advice to support my girlfriend's ED


When we first started dating, my girlfriend told me she had an eating disorder. And as time/our relationship progress, I am learning more about what that means/affects her. I want to fully support her and help her anyway I can so please advice or educate me. She doesn't like to talk about her ED but whenever she is ready then she talks about it and explains questions I might have, however I know talking about it gives her stress and anxiety so I don't want to go into it too much with her without knowing what to say to help her.

She saids that she keeps a journal where she writes down what she ate each day and she tries not to go over a certain calorie threshold. I asked before if she can explain why she thinks she is restricting, and she explains that she has a slight body dysmorphia and that is why even if her weight is up by just a little bit it stresses her out. And when she is restricting, she doesn't know why she does it but she feels like she should. She also explains that she is used to it and may not want to change gradually when I ask if she could would she want to. She is underweight for her age/height range, and she skips lunch and goes to bed hungry most nights.

I try to say things that will help ease her anxiety whenever I can, because I understand that I cannot directly change her mind and would only make her stressed out if I try. So whenever I get the chance I would tell her things for example, I fell in love with her because of her personality and that she will always be beautiful in my eyes no matter what, and that she isn't alone and she can always talk to me whenever she is ready. There's a lot more but I can't think of it from the top of my head.

Please help me so I can be better informed and help if possible. I want to be respectful to this community so I apologise if I have missed a guideline. Thank you


Oh brother, what are EDs "about" ? Lot's of times even the person can't tell you.

The general consensus among the ED tribe is that at their heart they are about control. If you can exert strict control and self-discipline, you can make those numbers on the scale drop. Seeing the numbers drop is emotionally reassuring.

Conversely, if the number goes up…you've probably seen how it goes ; the person begins to feel anxious and out of control. And that's not a feeling that anyone likes. The only way to start feeling back in control is to crank down on the restricting again.

There's the obsessional aspect too. Keeping track in the journal - probably she'd feel anxious if there were some days when she didn't keep track. Things might be slipping out of control, you know ?

When she says that "she's used to it" that probably means that she can't stop. "Gradually changing" is something that's going to feel…like it's just not the right thing to do. It would mean a whole different moral mindset, and that would be asking a lot of any of us.

It's not the same thing as being a control freak though - generally it's centered on weight and the body, rather than people wanting to be in control of everything. There's the weight thing and the body perceptions, but these are also seen as external indicators of control. And it's all there in black and white on the scale. Down = good, up=bad. Self-judging becomes pretty easy that way.

So in time of stress or uncertainty (when a person might not feel in control) it would not be uncommon to see a person's ED get worse.

Life isn't this simple of course, so you can see why EDs are classified as a mental issue.

And yes, for some reason they often seem to get their claws in the very nicest sorts of people. So there can be that angle to them as well.

In any case, just some brief thoughts.

Keep writing ?