National Eating Disorders Association

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Odysseus10919
Anorexia

Hi everyone, my girlfriend has an eating disorder and I just want to help her in the best way that I can, she has suffered from bulimia in the past and right now she is suffering from anorexia and I am really worried she is going to go back to making herself throw up. She is eating only when I am around and I just want her to love herself and not feel bad about eating. I blame myself for it. After every time she eats weather its with me or not she feels guilty and tells me that it is physically hard for her to eat food and that she thinks that her body just cannot handle food anymore. I feel like everything I do doesn't help. I want to do the best that I can to help her through this. I'm scared that if this goes on for too long that there will be some of the lasting effects of it. *heart disease, osteoporosis, etc.* She doesn't think that treatment would work even though I think it will. I don't want to be in control and force her to eat but I really do not know what to do. please help

BobJ48
Hey Odysseus.

It's just us chickens here, answering posts, and not the NEDA folks, so if it takes a while to get a response, that's why. So I hope you won't be disappointed if this reply is a little late.

And yeah, things with EDs can be difficult. And since it's so hard to "say the right things" it's easy for us to feel that we're somehow to blame. So I hope you can trust me when I say that…it's not you, and nothing that you are or are not saying that's causing her to behave as she does. If somehow you were a big abusive jerk, it might be different. But instead you're the sort of partner who'd come to a site like this to look for help. Which already puts you ahead of a lot of fellows.

To be honest, I'm seeing some positive things in your note. It's not uncommon for people with EDs to not want to talk to their boyfriends about their EDs. Often they'll actually hide it. So the fact that she's talking to you counts as progress, and a positive thing, even if she's still in the grips of her ED.

"I just want her to love herself…"

No kidding, that's a big part of all this. People with EDs can have a really hard time with self-hate, and feeling like they are worthy of having a good life. They can also feel like they are just a burden on everyone. It's tempting to take the approach of telling them how wonderful you think that they are, but it's going to be hard for them to believe it. In my experience it's better to say things like "It must be difficult to always feel so poorly about yourself." That may seem like a negative thing to say, but you might be surprised at how much better she feels, knowing that someone else understands what she's going through. My sense has always been that people want to be known…and feel understood. So keep that in mind when you are figuring out what to say to her.

"I don't want to be in control and force her to eat."

Yep, that's definitely not an approach that's going to work, so your instincts are right about that.

"She doesn't think that treatment would work…"

Yes, a lot of people with EDs feel that same way. And to be frank, for a lot of people it doesn't. But why it does or does not work has a lot to do with the attitude that the person has. Like if they think it's possible for them to get better, they have a much better chance at a good outcome than if they don't think they will. So it often comes down to people being willing to take a risk with treatment. It might not help, that but then again it could. Is the person willing to take the risk that things might not work out ? So the "being willing to take a risk" is a theme you might go with, when the subject of treatment comes up.

So maybe as you are figuring out, it's unlikely that you are going to fix things for her. But at the same time, being an understanding and supporting person doesn't count as nothing either.

Anyhow, it's getting late here, and I know there's a lot of stuff I didn't cover. But hopefully some of this helped, and that you'll keep writing if any of it seemed to.

BobJ