National Eating Disorders Association

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Girfriend reads ED-blogs

I wrote on this forum back in because I felt so angry, scared and desperate about my (long distance) girlfriend's eating disorder. I noticed her condition was getting worse and felt like there was nothing I could do. I also wrote a post about how she's stuck in a household where her mom constantly calls her fat, calls her body disgusting and sometimes monitors her food intake, and thereby making her eating disorder worse. She's 22 but can't move out yet because
1. She can't afford it
2. She's not mentally stable enough (she has said this by herself, that she doesn't feel comfortable living alone yet since she can't promise herself to manage actually eating, not throwing up, not attempting suicide etc).

Most of the time she knows that she recognizes that she's sick and goes to therapy every second week or so (that's what she can afford right now, I think). She was offered in-patient stays twice this summer and said yes both times, but then she thanked no in the last minute. Things were and are pretty bad, and she even faints regularly and becomes dizzy even if she has eaten. So her body is obviously affected although she's not underweight.

Now I'm back on this forum because things have gotten even worse, and I believe one of the reasons is the fact that she frequently reads blogs that promote eating disorders and its behaviors, give the readers dangerous advice on how to lose weight etc.

About 80% of the time that she mentions that she thinks she's fat, has to lose weight, doesn't wanna eat, denies her eating disorder etc, she refers to "the blogs". "People on the blog said I'm fat and have to lose weight","I'm just taking care of myself, the blog says so" and so on and so on... She listens to the blogs as if they were her God or something, and it almost seems like they're brainwashing her. I know she has uploaded photos to these blogs to hear if people thought she was fat.

I've tried to make her stop reading them, I've tried to explain carefully why the blogs are harmful. But she won't stop reading them.

Isn't there anything I can do? More than just being a listener and trying to be supportive? Her mind is getting sicker and her body weaker, I'm so desperate. Am I just supposed to let this happen?

On the forums.

Hey there.

Yes, eating disorders can be pretty bad, As you said, parents in their ignorance and desperation really can make things worse. Don't get me going on that, but unfortunately it often is the case.

Although I don't have EDs myself, along with posting here, I've spent years working on the sorts of forums your GF is talking about. Don't ask me how I get away with it, but somehow I do. Right now there's three or four big freestanding websites that are on the web, and then ( as I understand ) a bunch of smaller ones that are on those various social media sites like Reddit or Instagram. While the really big one I'm on definitely has people on it who are still totally going for it, some of that's balanced out by members with more experience who are a bit more level-headed. The general vibe is that EDs are toxic things that can ruin people's lives, and people need to look out for their health when things start to get bad, and that all in all, people should get therapy and that recovery is a good thing.

But I guess some of the smaller forums are a lot more hard-core, and that may be where your GF is hanging out. Because if people are telling her she's fat, and that needs to lose weight…that sort of negative "advice" probably wouldn't be tolerated on the larger forums. Even if people those forums are still trying to lose weight themselves.

You are right though, while such sites aren't always terrible, and give people a place where they know that other people really do understand what they are going through, they can also make it seem like all that sort of stuff is normal. Which it is in one sense, in that when people have EDs, the people who have them really do share a lot of the exact same thoughts and feelings. So a big part of the appeal is that she doesn't feel so alone with her thoughts when she's on the blogs. But as far as being normal from a mental health standpoint…those thoughts are not healthy or beneficial to people at all.

"Isn't there anything I can do? More than just being a listener and trying to be supportive?"

Yeah, I know how you feel. We really do want to "do" something. But I've come to understand that listening and being supportive…that pretty much is the main thing that's legitimately open to us, and where our most practically effective role is. But one also needs to consider what counts as support I think. As you may be seeing, people with EDs can begin to withdraw from the world, so we can help combat that by making sure we get them out, and help them stay engaged in the normal world. Any sort of fun activities you can think of, see if the two of you can get out and do them.

Also as you know, she's going to be worried about her weight and appearance, but you really want to avoid getting baited into making statements about any of that. Because she may try and drag you into making judgment statements about her appearance. Or you may be tempted to do that yourself. Be aware, and try not to go there, OK ?

Another thing to keep in mind is that all these weight concerns, for the most pert they have to do with the "good enough" thing. "I'm fat" really means I don't believe that I'm good enough as a person. So keep that in mind too - a lot of things you'll hear her say is really code-talk for deeper worries or emotional insecurities she's battling. Once you understand that, it can help you craft the sorts of supportive statements that you make. It can take some practice to craft statements where the other person believes that you really do get where they are coning from emotionally, but see what you can do.

Like one of the old ED sayings is "It's not about food". Because it really can be about a whole lot of other things than that.

You mentioned that she was kind of going down hill in her thinking, and becoming more weak in her body. Don't be so sure that she's not aware of that. Depending on what emotional stage she is in her ED, people can have more insight into their situation than you might think. What I mean is, she probably understands what's happening to her. People with EDs can come to believe that this sort of deterioration is only what they deserve. So keep the "deservedness" or "worthiness" theme in mind too. People can get to the point where they begin to believe they don't deserve help, or are unworthy of care, or a good life. Do what you can to help her combat those feelings.

In any case, I could go on, but hopefully the above gives you some things to think about, and that you'll keep writing.

Bob J.

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