National Eating Disorders Association

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Nothing I do helps, nothing is enough

I don't know what to do anymore. My long distance girlfriend (23) lives with her family, which includes a verbally abusive mother who especially focuses on weight. She makes disgusting comments on my girlfriend's weight and body daily and tries to control what she eats by either manipulating her or actually taking food from her plate, for example. A few days ago my girlfriend went to a restaurant (it was her idea, which makes me happy) and she said "This is the first time I had a real meal in a very long time, they won't let me eat much at home". She managed to eat everything and said she felt happy about it.

But all isn't good. Because most of the time, she believes her mom. She thinks she's right and that she needs to lose more weight despite almost being underweight now. She also stopped going to therapy. During the 6 weeks or so she was quarantined she actually had online therapy every week. But then she skipped one week's session and blamed it on stress. Then she skipped the next week too. And the next. And the next. Now she hasn't been in therapy for a month or so, but trust me, she needs it! She needs help! I've tried to ask her why she doesn't wanna go, but I don't get any real answers. Yesterday she said it's because she needs to save money so that she can visit me. I offered to pay for her flight ticket so that she could still go to therapy, but she said "no I don't wanna go, I wanna see you and weigh x kilograms".

This morning I told her that I had written anonymously to an "online help mental health" thing to get some advice and asked if she wanted to see what they replied. She became angry and asked what the hell I have done. She said she can't trust me and that she won't tell me anything anymore. That I'm using the things she tells me against her. That her mom is right and loves her.

I feel terrible. Nothing that I do works. Nothing! We've been together for almost 2 years, always long distance in other countries, and a few times I have felt hope that she was realizing what was going on and about to take action. Like, last month for example. She screamed when she saw new and old pictures of herself because she saw how much weight she had lost and it scared her. I know that there's a part of her that's also scared and wants to recover, but it's really hard when her mom is such a *********..... And unfortunately, she believes her mom most of the time. I don't know what to do anymore. No matter what I do, her mom's voice is always louder. She's even angry at me for trying to help but not angry at her mom for insulting her daily. I feel like I'm losing my girlfriend because of her mother. I don't know what to do.


I'm glad you took the time to write, as I know how worrisome this must be for you.

And yeah, we rarely gain points by badmouthing parents, but they are people like anyone else, and can sometimes bring their own issues to a situation in ways that just tangle matters up even more. So yes, I'm sorry that you seem to be up against that angle too.

It's hard to say about your GF, but that's often how it goes too. On the one hand they understand that they may be in trouble, while on the other hand, everything's "fine" and continuing weight loss seems the only thing that feels right on a gut level. It can present a real dilemma for the person, when they find themselves up against conflicting feelings like this. As she herself would probably admit.

Plus eating disorders don't like to be threatened. Therapy is dangerous that way, as well as you coming here to ask for advice. So there's that too, along with "My mom loves me" and "I don't want anyone to be overly concerned" (meaning you) and the whole thing really can add up to a big conflicting emotional mess.

One question you might ask her is what is it that she wants. People can give a lot of different answers to this, depending on how deep they want to go. "I just want to be thin." is probably what you'd hear first. But what does that mean on a deeper level ? "I just want to be perfect" is another answer. But it's the same thing - what would that mean to her emotionally, if somehow she was ? "I just want to be left alone" can be an answer too. But we are social animals at our core, so why would a person want that ?

Maybe these are things she was being asked in therapy, so they may be questions that she doesn't want to answer. But I suspect that she knows that they're important.

Plus there's the stress of feeling like she has to please everyone. You, her mom, the therapist, and probably most difficult of all, herself.

In any case, it sounds like it was a victory for her to go to the restaurant. It sounds like she felt that it was, and that's great. Food can be such an enemy sometimes, so the fact that it wasn't for once ( or at least not terribly so ) sounds like a plus.

As to what you can do, you might want to ask her how she feels you might help ? Sometimes we forget to ask that. It doesn't mean that you have to agree, if her suggestions don't sound particularly healthy to you, but it's probably not bad to ask, if only to let her know that you're on her side.

In any case, just some thoughts. If you want to let her see this, I'd be fine with that. I'm basically just some random person, but I've been on a lot of boards with people in her situation, so I'm definitely on her side too.