National Eating Disorders Association

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husband has bulimia

My husband has been struggling with bulimia for about three years. I had been suspecting he had a eating disorder and approached him few times. He always denied it, always had some kind of excuse. Finally last year I came across his medical records and confronted him again. He was very angry and upset that I "discovered" the truth but agreed to be honest from now on and work with me. Unfortunately, he has not been honest. He's been telling me it's all over, he no longer makes himself throw up.. but I know for fact that he still does. Maybe not as much as he used to but I am certain that we still have this problem. I have no idea if I should be trying to talk to him about this as he denies it every single time. It has also led to many heated arguments and after each one I felt even more broken down. I really want to help him get better. It is also affecting me emotionally.
Should I wait till he is ready to talk? I have read that people can be bulimic for many many years.. I certainly don't want that for him but I am afraid that my further attempts will make the situation even worse.

Hi runner85!

I'm so sorry to hear about your husband and your struggles! It is incredibly difficult to admit that one has an ED - many people are ashamed or scared, and won't even be honest with those closest to them. The Parent Toolkit (not just for parents!) has some great resources that discuss how to best approach a loved one about an eating disorder. You can find it here:

Additionally, you could try to urge your husband to call the NEDA Helpline at 1-800-931-2237, 9-9 EST M-Th and 9-5 EST F. The Helpline can help him locate resources in your area and is entirely confidential. Its a great opportunity to just talk to someone about what you're going through.

Keep us updated!
- ashleyk

Thank you! The Parent Toolkit

Thank you! The Parent Toolkit indeed has some good resources.

My husband recently started "living healthier" - he's been exercising and taking nutritional supplements. I have noticed that he throws up some meals that I previously would have not even considered overeating. Is purging without overeating typical for bulimia too?

Purging and "Health".

Dear Runner,

It's not unusual for people with EDs to find themselves turning to "health". Not to belittle their efforts, but exercise and "eating healthy" can often be another disguise for loosing weight. Even if that's not really their mindful intention to begin with.

Plus "being healthy" contains the theme of control as well. Which is often what EDs are about to begin with. The feeling of being in control.

The idea that he's purging even these more healthy meals, may be a sign that purging is still more important than the healthy choices he's made. But still part of the control thing you know ?

"Safety" is another big theme in EDs, and while it seems like he's honestly trying to stay more safe with his new habits, for people with EDs, it can take a whole lot before eating begins to feel safe. In fact, if being healthy means being safe…maybe you can see where food might fit into that equation ? Keeping food in = Not safe.

Even with all this, it does kind of sound like he's making an honest effort to change things, and there's good in that I think.

And when it comes to EDs and their accompanying behaviors, it's not something you really can expect a person to change over night. Even when they honestly want to. It can be a real struggle to get back on track, particularly when those old control and safety themes are at work.

Hi runner85!

I'm glad to hear that you found the Parent Toolkit helpful! Although I am not a health professional, I agree with BobJ48 - many people with ED try to be healthy, but usually these attempts are not with the intention of being healthy, but rather to maintain a low weight. Perhaps your husband is taking a small step towards being better, but its hard for him to stop purging. Its a habit that is incredibly hard to break.

I also wanted to provide you with some facts from the NEDA site:
This page discusses BN in males, and you might find it helpful with understanding the disorder more!

Good luck with everything!

Dear BobJ48 and ashleyk,

Dear BobJ48 and ashleyk,

Thank you for your comments and encouragement!

It was my initial concern too that his healthier lifestyle is just another disguise of his ED..I am hoping tough that it also his honest attempt to break his habits.. I just really wish that he opened up and be honest about it! I had an opportunity to talk to him about this again and he denied again. There is so much going on in our lives right now and that sadly doesn't help:(