National Eating Disorders Association

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JG3n3
Looking for ways to best support my partner

Hello all,

My girlfriend and I have been dating for almost 4 years now and over the course of that time I have been aware of her eating disorder and her struggle to combat it. She has had therapy on and off over the course of these 4 years but right now she can't because her insurance doesn't cover it and we are both in a financial situation where we can't afford it out of pocket. To make matters worse, she is an actor and her body image issues are very much tied to her ideas of success in her field. She often says "I will never get the roles I want because I will never be as skinny as I once was". This has made her feelings of depression even worse and there are many days where it seems like it is difficult for her to even get out of bed. Last night she spent hours in bed looking at pictures of herself from the past and repeating how she used to look so skinny. Today she mentioned she had thought she wouldn't eat today. I am getting increasingly worried about her. I have tried to say the right thing in the past by saying I will support her in everything but I know I often say the wrong thing and as a result I only make it worse for her. I am just looking for some help in finding the right language and tactics to use with her and how to show her I support her without making her feelings of depression worse, which could lead to her sliding back into her eating disorder. Any and all help would be much appreciated.

marty2020
Hi JG3n3,

I’m sorry to hear that your partner is going through this; it must be hard on both of you right now. Watching someone you care for suffering can be devastating, and I’m glad you reached out to the forums for support. It sounds like you’re a really supportive, caring partner and reaching out like this shows that you’re willing to be an advocate for her when she needs it. Being in this situation can feel puzzling because, as you said, it’s hard to find the right thing to say at times. But, for someone handing body image issues and disordered eating, there often isn’t a “right thing” to say. Conversations about eating disorders can sometimes be difficult and scary to have with people you are close to. It might be beneficial to find some resources to help you navigate that discussion. The NEDA website has useful information that outlines how to talk to a loved one about eating concerns located at https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/learn/help/caregivers. Also, contacting the NEDA helpline can help find treatment/support options available to you; you can call 800-931-2237 or chat. Helpline phone hours are Monday-Thursday 11 am-9 pm ET, Friday 11 am-5 pm ET. Helpline chat hours are Monday- Thursday 9 am-9 pm ET, Friday 9 am-5 pm ET. I hope you and your partner can find all the support that you need. A strong support system is essential to recovery and it seems that your partner has a good foundation with you by her side; please take care.

Annet
Hi JG3n3,

It is great that you support your partner so much. Congratulations!
Talking to someone who has an ED is not an easy thing and less when her job is so much linked to her physical appeareance. However, maybe u can remind her that her job is "acting", not "modeling swim suits". An actor is judged by her/his performance at stage. In all movies, musicals, theater performances there are characters that come in all shapes and sizes. And also pretty famous actresses have not had the "perfect body" or have been "fitness models".

Help her trust on her ability to perform on stage. She is beautiful the way she is.
Being thin but unhealthy would not allow her to get the roles she wants, either. Nobody would want to hire an "emaciated" actor or someone who is fainting often at the stage...

Tell her she can get all the roles she wants by having a healthy life style. Extremes will not make her "happy" or will give her more jobs.

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