National Eating Disorders Association

3 posts / 0 new
Last post
Multiple Family Members with Eating Disorders

I have been married for 20 years and my husband has always been an exercise enthusiast. His mother is also, and 10 years ago she admitted to me that she had exercise bulimia. She cited to me several examples of disordered behavior. When she told me this story she said she is much better now and not to worry that she is healed. My husband idolizes his mother and credits her for his love of exercise and fitness. When she visits our house, she often times brings her own food, brings a dish to share (that is so gross she is the only one to eat it)or she says she's already eaten and not to worry about her. When she visits, she, my husband and sometimes his cousin talk about foot constantly. She tells my husband how great he looks and that she's so glad he's eating healthy. They talk about all the different diets to the point where my sister-in-law and I just leave the room. Family gatherings have become difficult because of everyone's eating preferences and schedules. About 3 years ago, I brought up my concern with my husband , his mother and my father-in-law because of the impression it was making on our teenage children. I was berrated for not understanding that they were just trying to be "healthy" and that I should just let everyone eat what they want to eat without interfering. Fast forward to the present, along with my husbands day job, he is also a fitness instructor. He has lost some noticeable weight. I voiced my concern to him as gently as I could, but he said he is "healthy" and feels great. I am concerned for him, and now I am concerned for my teenage daughter who has been suffering from panic attacks recently and I see her starting to take on some of the food eating habits exhibited by my husband and his mother and cousin. I am in the process of finding her a therapist and I don't know what to do about my husband who thinks he is a great example and flaunts his eating and exercise to the kids. Is he being healthy and I don't see it? Or does he have a problem? When he says he's being healthy, I don't know how to counter that. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Hi momliz, your post has been edited to comply with NEDA’s community guidelines Specific details about food and weight may be triggering for others and are not allowed on the forums. The NEDA Helpline may be able to help out with finding a professional to guide you with helping your husband. The Helpline can be reached at 800.931.2237 M-TH 9-9 EST and F 9-5 EST. We hope it can be of help to you!

" Is he being healthy and I don't see it? "

Hey Liz,

Sorry that your post sat here for a while, but I hope you check in at some point and see this.

And yes, the whole "being healthy" thing can often be a mask for obsessive behaviors. It's insidious too, because like the sort of self-discipline that anorexics express, it can be a thing that gets socially praised and that normal people often envy. So yes, how could there possibly be anything wrong with fitness and being healthy ? Or for that matter weight loss too.

The answer of course revolves around the obsessive part. Folks with classic sorts of eating dissorders will often speak about this. How their every waking moment is consumed with thoughts of food or exercise or numbers. Frequently it's their inability to clear their heads of these thoughts , and the growing rigidity of their actions, that is the thing that finally leads them to thinking about recovery.

So that's one test I think. If you husband could spend a week or so without exercising, and eating the sorts of food that most normal people eat, without finding himself consumed with anxiety. Most people would be able to be flexible about that, and might make jokes about it in some form or another.

But for people who have obsessive issues, it's deadly a serious matter instead.

Plus, if it's a thing that's impacting your family and your relationship, how can that not be called a problem ? So that's a legitimate concern as well.

In any case, I think talking with a therapist might be good for both you and your daughter. I know, I know : No one wants to make things seem more serious than they are, but there are things here that are worth sorting out I think, and getting some perspective from a counsellor can often be a good way to help with that.

In any case, sending good wishes your way. Matters like this can often seem kind of opaque, but you are not being silly by being concerned.