NEDA Week 2012: Sharing Your Story With a Partner (or Friend)
February 28, 2012

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First things first: so glad you liked the vanilla almond cookies!! A lot of you have asked me if you could substitute something for almond milk pulp (which, for the record, is what’s leftover from straining when you make almond milk at home). Regular almond flour mixed with almond milk is my best guess, so just play with proportions and see what works!

As many of you probably know, this is National Eating Disorder Awareness week. In spite of the fact that I extend constant awareness to those whose lives are touched by eating disorders, I try to be particularly aware of them (and everyone who has recovered) during these seven days. Historically, NEDA week is a time for heartfelt posts here at CR: in 2010, I wrote what may be my favorite post ever, “Embracing Our Appetites,” and last year, I wrote about rebuilding a sense of distinctiveness after an ED. The topic seemed to resonate with many of you.

In the last two weeks, I have by some strange coincidence gotten at least 5 emails from women who have recently decided to share their eating disorder stories with their romantic partners. Their emails got me thinking about how recovered/recovering people can communicate their experience, but it also got me thinking about EDs and intimacy in general. I’ve written very little about this, because I’m sure that the terrain is different from couple to couple, but I’m also so curious to hear from the CR community on this (admittedly giant) topic.

I’ve had relationships during, between, and after the periods of my life that I consider disordered. I was too young to be dating at all when I had my first bout of disordered eating, but I relapsed in college, while I was involved with someone. Not surprisingly, I was too deep in denial to even admit that I had a problem, let alone confide in him, but he was aware of the fact that I didn’t have a normal relationship with food. It wasn’t until my next, more serious relationship, which began when I was in a more stable place, that I became capable of talking about my history, though I still wasn’t capable of using the words “eating disorder.”

Some relationships trigger or enable EDs. Some help to heal them. And if they help to heal them, it can be for a variety of reasons. For me, the experience of romantic relationships after my recovery was helpful in many ways: it forced me to be more spontaneous, less married to my routines and schedule. It forced me to dine out more, which was still an enormous challenge for me at the time. It pulled me out of my tendency to isolate myself, and obsess over my body; it helped me to be less cerebral, and more sensual.

Most of all, relationships taught me to share my body with somebody else. My eating disorder made me tremendously possessive of my physical self. I wanted to sit around analyzing every rumble of indigestion; I wanted to take note of precisely how I felt after everything I ate, and I wanted to punish myself if I felt too full. I didn’t want to be touched; I didn’t want to be looked at. In many ways, I think that this possessiveness and desire to shut out physical intimacy was an extension of the “control” urge that so many women and men with EDs experience. My body was mine, all mine, and no one else was allowed to experience it with me.

Of course, physical intimacy blurs the distinction between your body and somebody else’s. And when I was ready to experience this—entrusting my body to another person—it helped me to get over a lot of the hyper-vigilance. This, more than anything else, stands out as the contribution that intimacy made to my recovery. I’m sure that other women have other experiences of intimacy as a healing force, and I’d love to hear about how and why certain relationships have helped them to move forward.

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If I were to offer some advice to women or men who wanted to open up to their partners about their EDs, it would be these five tips:

1) Share your story in your own words. Most people have plenty of preconceived notions of what eating disorders are and why they happen. They evoke a lot of fear in some people, and others are very dismissive of them. Your partner, no matter how empathetic, will surely have at least a few stereotypes about eating disorders lodged in his or her brain. So be sure to describe your experience in precise and personal language; if a part of your story defies the mainstream understanding of eating disorders, then go ahead and say something like “I know everyone thinks eating disorders happen for  ____________ reason, but in my case, I think the real cause was ____________.” This will help your partner to understand precisely what happened to you.

2) Share only as much as is comfortable. Given that ED histories tend to follow us around in life—if not in our behaviors, then at least in our bank of memories and life-shaping experiences—I think that it’s wise to share your story with a serious partner. That said, you can share according to your comfort level. Just because you’ve decided to say something, that doesn’t mean you have to say everything. You can make choices based upon your comfort level, and you can disclose more details over the course of time.

3) Make sure your partner understands that it is not his or her job to “fix” what happened. In my experience, people often assume that, because eating disorders are so often aimed at weight loss, the best way to aid in someone else’s recovery is to offer that person a lot of positive feedback about his or her body. This is obviously very thoughtful and kind, but I think it can also become a little tiring (or even anxiety-laden) for the person giving the compliments! Try to explain to your partner that eating disorders aren’t just about aesthetics; oftentimes, they actually have little to do with wanting to be attractive. So, while admiring remarks can be very helpful, your partner shouldn’t be expected to take your entire physical self-esteem on his or her shoulders. Positive feedback is appreciated, but it should never be an obligation.

4) Tell your partner how he or she can help you stay accountable. No matter how long you’ve been recovered, there’s a good chance that certain kinds of thought patterns or habits slip into your life that are reminiscent of your ED. This is normal, and not shameful at all; the trick is simply to recognize and resist those tendencies. Your partner can help you. Tell him or her what kinds of things you find triggering, and how those triggers are likely to be expressed. Create an awareness about small things that he or she might do to help you stay confident and strong. For example, you might say something like this: “sometimes, restaurants or situations where I can’t control what I’m eating make me anxious. If you see me getting anxious, remind me that it’s just one meal, and one meal is not a big deal.” This kind of precision is really helpful, and your partner may actually feel honored and proud to be included in your continued health.

5) Assure your partner that you are determined to become or remain healthy. I think the worst fear of anyone who’s about to tell a partner that they’ve had an ED is the fear of judgment or panic. I hope I don’t have to tell you all that no devoted partner should either judge you or freak out simply because you share your history; if anything, the fact that you’re capable of talking about it probably means you’re committed to wellness. That said, it’s normal for a partner to feel some anxiety or discomfort. Try to assure him or her that you’re bringing the issue up specifically because you feel devoted to good health, and that you chose to share because you wanted him/her to understand where you come from. It’s as simple as that.

A lot of people have asked me if there are books I’d recommend sharing. To be honest, while there are a lot of books about EDs that I have found very personally helpful/significant—Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted, for example, or Aimee Liu’s Gaining—I’m not sure I’d want to share them with a partner. Those books are full of searing detail, and they might actually scare someone who has little or no experience with these issues. So I’m actually turning that question over to my readers: any book recommendations, folks?

Hope you all find these tips helpful. Of course they’re intended for romantic partnerships, but I think that they’re applicable to all kinds of relationships–family members, friends, and so on. And I hope we’ll all use this week as a chance to give special love and support to anyone we might know who struggles with food, in ways big or small. We don’t need NEDA week to be mindful of EDs, but it’s a nice reminder.

xo

Categories: Food and Healing

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    52 Comments
  1. When I talk to my partner about my ed she gets upset about how I hated myself and was inflicting violence on myself. She is distressed about how unhappy I was and the contrast between how she loves me (and my body) and how I didn’t love myself. I am usually very moved by this as it makes the violence/sadness part of it much more salient (whereas when I ruminate on my ed alone, I’m usually thinking about how disgusting I feel or felt, how much effort I put in, how hard it was to fight my body like that- rather than the real sadness and violence that it all bespeaks).

  2. This post comes at an interesting time for me in my recovery from disordered eating. While I have been in relationships in the past during my struggles with food and body image, I always managed to keep it a secret and even probably pushed a boyfriend or two away selfishly in the process. It wasn’t until I’d been with my current boyfriend for quite some time and had decided that recovery was a priority that I was brave enough to share my struggles with him. I thought it was glaringly obvious that I had a problem, but he hadn’t noticed. All my years of hiding had worked. Sharing was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders because it allows me to vocally address these issues to someone else without holding back, but it’s a but frustrating to discuss these things with my partner who has never experienced such thoughts or felt guilt about eating, nor felt such extreme emotion attached to body image. This is not to say that he isn’t supportive, he is and for that I am grateful. If anything, it’s an eye-opener to just how skewed my thoughts were in the throes of my disorder.

  3. Thanks for this. Shared with my husband, along with your distinctiveness post. I so very much appreciate your thoughtful words.

  4. An interesting post, with so many issues to respond to. First, I agree, I’d never have my husband read “Wasted”. Though I’ve shared some of my struggle with him, and though her methods were not my own, I do feel that would be too graphic and shocking. On the other hand, interestingly, I used that book to scare myself out of my eating disorder at a key moment. Mind you, I’m still “disordered” I suppose. I treat myself mostly very well, but still struggle to feel ok with how I look. It’s ridiculous, and way too old a story. But it is always with me, and maybe it always will be.

    Sharing my struggles with my husband definitely helped him help me. I only really spoke about the issue openly in the past few years (we’ve been together 19!), but I think it’s helped him support me more, and see the issues for what they are, rather than just as irritating idiosyncrasies that take up his time with me. He also helped me recover, at one point, without knowing it. When I started dating him I was in such a bad place, and just my infatuation with him, the joy of our time together, the fun of going out to restaurants and experiencing a completely new way of eating helped me let go of some very damaging behavior. But unfortunately, some years later I was still stuck as just me. I loved him, but he suddenly wasn’t “everything” and then I had to go through the whole process again, seemingly, to find a more profound healing that was all about me. In short, partnership is great, but no one can do it for you.

    There are parts of my struggle I may never share with anyone but a therapist. But sometimes opening up can lead to new levels of understanding, like in this forum for instance. Nice job.

  5. Wonderful post–I love the combination of self-revelation and sound, sage advice.

    I love “Gaining” better than “Wasted:” the latter is wonderfully written, but I found it incredibly triggering.

    A book recommendation: my therapist recommended my husband read “Biting the Hand that Starves You,” by Richard Maisel, MD.
    love
    Ela

  6. I am in the throes of a cycle of negative behaviors that characterize the disorders we discuss here. I am also in a relationship that has yet to define itself in large part because I refuse to let it be defined because of being uncomfortable with the intimate. It’s my first delve into an intimate relationship and it’s a half-hearted, controlled and cynical attempt from my end. I’ve been using my struggle with “depression” (really: depression because I struggle with eating) as an acceptable admission because being “down” is way more manageable than you know, this stuff.

    I spent many years making sure I had enough “alone time” so that I could maintain control. Many chances at intimacy were passed up in favor of the safety of alone time. Now, years from that portion of my journey, the alone time is what scares me. It’s where control is lost and crisis looms. So I find sick and silent refuge (but to the betterment of my relationships- and me) in spending more time with other people. Because I’m less likely to binge (purge).

    My suitor is very into complimenting me on my appearance and it really bothered me at first. It’s like when you feel shitty about your body so you don’t take a shower/bath/swim because you don’t want to be naked/declothed and reminded of yourself. It was obnoxious for someone else to be accepting when I’m not.

    Thanks for the post, Gena. I’m just adding to the conversation I suppose.

  7. I like to consider my disordered eating behavior a fairly tamed beast these days. Imagine my surprise when my partner went off roaming the west coast for 2 months and my ED beast began to roam my psyche. I knew my partner had a very positive influence in my life in many ways, healthy eating habits being amongst those. Yet, I had no idea how quickly I would succumb to disordered eating without his healthy presence around to counteract or “normalize” my disordered impulses. The worst part was how much I was enjoying my newfound “freedom.” Without him around to keep me accountable, I could go ahead and make myself a bowl of steamed broccoli with just a tiny sprinkle little nooch for dinner as punishment for an earlier snack. When I have these tendencies now (and I do still), they might last right up until he walks in the door and starts pulling all kinds of nourishing, colorful veggies out of the fridge for dinner- at which point I forget all about my nutrient-lacking, punishment bowl and dig in to deliciousness. My point, although cheesy, is that it is very important to choose an intimate partner who nourishes, rather than starves, your spirit, mind and body. You will be influenced by the thoughts, healthy and unhealthy, of those you surround yourself with. So choose to surround yourself with roommates, friends and lovers who nourish you.

  8. This was amazing, Gena. Though I’ve made leaps and bounds, I’ve struggled with disordered eating for a long time and was petrified to talk to anyone about it. Last year, though, I told my serious boyfriend about it, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. He’s helped me SO much and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.

    I just recently started to blog and want to talk about my ED, but writing down too many details has proven difficult so far. I hope to move past this, though, so that I can help others with their struggles.

  9. Gena, I don’t have anything meaningful to share but I want to thank you for your honesty and openness in this post. I appreciate your commitment not only to physical health and healthy foods, but also to mental health and healthy attitudes.

  10. What the…I just finally told my boyfriend on Monday night…that’s really eerie. And it was because he’s been commenting about my eating. I really thank you for this freakishly timely post…

    • Can my name be removed from the above post?? Or it just be deleted? That was an accident >.< Really sorry to bother…..

      • Gena- it was nice of you to remove this commenter’s name like she asked, but I’m afraid you overlooked removing the hyperlink still attached to the initial.

  11. This is a topic I’ve given some thought to as well. I am one of those people who gave up sexual activity along with food, and so, for most of my eating disorder, from age 19 or so, until I was almost 27, I was not sexually active. I was already “open”, to both recovery and to intimacy, when I met someone special, and I’m lucky that the relationship was a healing one, on many levels. I didn’t quite recover, but it did set me on the right path. And I think it became more and more difficult after that relationship ended (tragically – my fiancé died shortly after my 28th birthday) to deny myself sensual pleasure.

    I will say (I don’t know if this is related to my ed history or not) that I have a very hard time being in a relationship with men who are too “into” my thinness (I’m absolutely recovered, but still very thin). It annoys me to no end. I remember once ordering a stack of blueberry pancakes (an odd choice for me, yeah, but I’m always about indulging my cravings, and the guy I was with visibly panicking that I was going to get fat. Made me want to order seconds!). Anyway, I much prefer to be in relationships with people who are always trying to get me to gain a few pounds. I don’t quite know why that is. Maybe I just want the freedom, one day, to go and gain 20 pounds.

    • I absolutely agree with your last paragraph. I would feel really insecure with somebody willing me to be thin while it is about being healthy.
      I’m sorry for your loss. You’re brave, take care.

      • This is such an amazing, powerful, insightful and beautiful post (I couldn’t settle on just one word for it)! I wanted to respond to the comment about men perpetuating thin-ness that was made above. This is such a destructive and negative force that I had never encountered until recently, in fact I did not think it really existed or was possible for a man to be so blatantly judgemental and superficial. In high school I had a mild and undiagnosed form of an eating disorder, that I eventually reconciled with myself and was able to reach a place of acceptance and happiness with my body. However, I started dating this guy that would always tell me i looked really good on a certain day because i looked ‘skinnier’ than usual, or he would casually mention that if we ever got married he didnt want me to get pregnant because i would ‘lose my skinny body’. Although very subtle in their delivery, these comments slowly broke down that core of acceptance and appreciation that I had created for myself and I began to relapse into former habits. I am no longer with him thankfully, but to this day I occasionally will hear his voice or feel the effects of his praise of my skinny-ness. I so wish that another’s opinion had not had such an influential effect over my self-image, looking back I see how ridiculous it was that I even tried to make him happy by conforming to his desires in this way. But, hindsight is 20-20 no? I just hope that anyone that is in this same sort of relationship with someone right now is able to have the power to see that, your body is you own, and no one should have the right to tell you how it should be or how it looks best because if it is a healthy body, it is all that it needs to be!

  12. This really chimes with the theme of UK EDA Week (which was last week and coincided with London Fashion Week but that’s quite another issue) Anyway, b-eat’s theme was “breaking the silence” as so many of those who have/had eating disorders never talk about them, whether that be because they don’t think they will be believed because it wasn’t serious “enough” or because they themselves are in denial. I think that sharing individual stories is so important and I like how you said this can apply to friends and family too.
    In terms of intimacy, my contribution would be that I got ill just after I reached puberty and regressed my body and therefore my biological impulses and hormones. At a low weight I was always angry at any boy who approached me for finding my unhealthy body attractive – part of my motivation to gain weight is to be more attractive and look less like a pre-teen and I can’t understand how anyone could be attracted to me like this. I guess what I want to say is that biological consequences limit the capacity for intimacy for those with specifically low body weight anorexia on top of the issues around control and possessiveness you highlight.
    Thanks for another year, another great post
    hannah

    • Hannah,

      I can relate. I hope this post helps spark the urge to break down some of those boundaries between you and others, and to banish your ED as you do so.

      xo

  13. Love this post. My Love has been so helpful for me getting over my ED. His love and support have made me feel valued, the way he loves me reminds me to love and cherish myself. It also helps me to get out of my head and focus on the needs of someone else, which I feel is so important when getting over an ED

    • Oh so true. Self-centeredness is such a giant hallmark of the ED mindset, and being more focused on a partner or friend can be hugely healing.

  14. I, too, rarely comment but something really resonated with me in your post. I am beginning to realize that I may have…well I do have, disordered eating patterns. This is only coming to light because of some serious medical repercussions I am experiencing due to my disordered eating. I don’t even know where to start as far as finding clarity, support and help though it seems I’ve found some of that here 🙂
    Thank you Gena for your post and to each of you who have replied. I feel a lot less alone 🙂

  15. I think these tips are useful to anyone who is feeling disconnected from or betrayed by his/her body. Though I do not have personal experience with disordered eating, I can relate to feeling disconnected from and betrayed by one’s body and how hard that is to express to the one you love (never mind explain in a way they can understand since they view you as beautiful). The vulnerability that comes from these feelings of betrayal and disconnect run so deep that they can easily affect every part of our relationships. I know they did mine…

    Thank you for continuing to write thought-provoking and compassionate posts.

  16. I actually liked Brave Girl Eating. I thought it would be really triggering for me (and I’m easily triggered), but I think that because it is written from the perspective of the mother who has a daughter suffering from anorexia it gives a very different perspective and allowed me to understand what my family was thinking/feeling about watching me suffer. I had my parents read it and I think it helped them.

  17. Hi Gena,
    I am a devoted vegan/healthy living food blog reader, but I have never once commented on a post on any of the blogs I read. (I always say I’ll do it later, and then never get around to it.) This post, however, was absolutely screaming at me to reply: it hit home in so many ways for me, as someone recovering from an ED and simultaneously entering into her first fairly intimate relationship. Your words and advice are extremely comforting and spoke directly to my heart. It’s so critical to remember that while close relationships may sometimes help trigger an ED relapse, they also possess the remarkable ability to heal, if only we can open ourselves up to them. (A scary, but necessary, thing for those of us who cling so tightly to control!) Thanks for this insightful reminder, and keep up the great work!

    By the way, I LOVE your blog: your recipes are delicious and have inspired me to delve more deeply into raw eating and to approach foods in new and creative ways. I just made a double batch of your delicious orange-miso dressing for my salad for dinner (topped with homemade grain burgers inspired by your recipe), and savored every bite! Thanks! 🙂

    • I feel honored to be your first comment! What a compliment.

      Good luck sharing, Caitlyn. In some ways, I think part of what makes it scary is that you’re asking somebody to participate in your recovery, and thus make you accountable. But if you’re thinking about all this, well then, you’re ready 🙂

  18. I remember feeling a breakthrough when I shared my story with 5 classes at my high school when I did a project on body image and the media. It was so hard – I cried in front of one of them and it was hard to calm down. But, I’m stronger because of it. It’s not easy, and sometimes you have to take small steps along the way, but it’s worth it.

  19. I don’t usually post, but just wanted to say how much I loved this post. You are a beautiful writer, and so honest; qualities quite rare in the blog world. Have you thought about writing a book? Thanks for this post.

  20. Wonderful post, and such important info, too. For me, my now-husband, then-boyfriend helped me, supported me, held my hand every step of the way whilst recovering from my ED. We started dating just after I reached my lowest weight. I don’t remember when I first openly shared my struggles with him, but his love never faltered, even through all the tantrums I threw when I didn’t want to eat, didn’t want to gain weight, etc. With his help, I returned to a healthy weight–sometimes, I wonder if I’d still be where I was had he not entered my life. I am truly blessed. <3

  21. “it helped me to be less cerebral, and more sensual.” I definitely struggle with this. I still tend to build up walls between my brain and body and sometimes I have a hard time letting go. I’ve been married for almost four years, but it’s still hard for me to let go enough to get physical. I’m not sure why it’s so scary for me, but thanks for calling my attention to it. Maybe that’s something I’ll consciously work on for a while.

  22. My experiences with restrictive eating (as you can see, I am still uncomfortable with the term ‘eating disorder’) occurred after a relationship, and I have not been involved with anyone since physically recovering. For me, the absence of a partner has been detrimental to my recovery and in some ways perpetuates my disordered thinking. The fact that no one reaffirms my recovery with some of the sentiments you mentioned-positive feedback, making sure I remain accountable-makes me feel very alone indeed. As a result, I am constantly victim to self-depricative thoughts. I ask myself why no one is interested, why every other girl at my university seems to be involved with someone, why I feel so isolated.

    The worst part is that I consider myself a feminist. So much of my daily living is devoted to combating patriarchal institutions and their dictates. Yet part of me-the part that is so gripped by a history of self-hate-simply wants acknowledgment from the opposite sex. It really is a destructive cycle, and I am constantly at odds with myself.

    Thank you for your well-written piece. I very much look up to your perspective, amiability, and knowledge.

    • Molly,

      Your struggles here are not at odds with your feminist principles. One can be a strong feminist, and yet feel buttressed by positive feedback and verbal appreciation. It may not be in keeping with our highest intellectual ideals, but it’s natural, and what matters is that you recognize the need to find a sense of self and a sense of pride that is unattached to outside approbation. Don’t pile guilt onto guilt, if you know what I mean 🙂

      G

  23. Very interesting post! I am thinking a lot about how two women with ED histories (or two men, or a man and a woman, or genderqueer pairs for that matter!) may bring up different issues. Something that comes to mind is that triggers may be different for each person in the couple; for instance, something like going out to eat may be more significant for one partner, while visiting family could be for another, and how negotiating these things in some ways might be like any kind of addiction management. Thank you for bringing this up!

  24. Great great advice Gena. I think it’s important to choose a tolerant and loving partner, especially for those with an ED background.

  25. one book that was at least extremely powerful for me was “Going Hungry,” an anthology of various writers’ experiences with eating disorders. Having read several of the writers’ works without knowing that they had struggled with anorexia made me see them in an entirely different light, and even inspired me to start writing my own memoir.
    Eating disorders are evil, monstrous forces. I wouldn’t wish one on anyone. I only wish that NEDA week had resonated with me before I was diagnosed with one…

  26. Absolutely love this post, Gena. I can totally relate to this. When I was in toxic relationships, my ED worsened. Now that I am with Matty, he has truly opened up my eyes and helped me to love my body. He doesn’t look at my body as an object of affection or a means of being accepted – he looks at my body as a vessel – an extension of myself. I’m not sure if that makes sense?

    When we are alone, Matty will often look at me and say, “You are so beautiful.” The thing that strikes me is he says this not looking at my thighs or my stomach but into my eyes. He sees into my heart through my eyes – and that is a nice reminder of why leaving ED behind will always be the best decision.

  27. Gena,

    This post hits incredibly close to home. I have debated whether to tell my boyfriend of 1.5 years of my decade-long battle with bulimia since we started getting serious.Thank you for giving me a great starting place in our conversation.

    Have been an avid read of yours for quite some time, and while I adore all your recipes, it’s posts like this that truly resonate.

    xo

  28. Great post, Gena, and great tips. Eating in the Light of the Moon is probably my favorite book on ED’s.

    • Marlena, thank you so much for suggesting this book. I ordered a copy as soon as I saw your comment and I’ve been just loving it. I feel like I’m breathing deeper as I read it. And thank you Gena for creating this space for us to support each other.
      Love,
      Kerry

  29. Gena,

    Thank you for sharing this post. I think that the topics you bring up are groundbreaking and I can not wait to see where you go with it.

  30. I feel the need to be brutally honest and cautionary about this: I found Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted to be an unintentional ED training manual. If I had been deeply ensconced in my ED at the time that I read it, it would have given me an overwhelming amount of destructive behaviors and ideas. Maybe it would be relevant to a family member/partner of a person engaged in disordered eating to read to understand ED better, but I could not in good conscience recommend it to a person struggling with disordered eating. Those are my 2 cents! Thank you for continuing to write compassionate posts on this subject; you’re giving voice to a lot of people and giving those same people a sense of feeling understood.

    • I absolutely understand that sentiment, and indeed, don’t recommend the book to anyone with a disorder. But I think some of the toughness helped me post-recovery, and helped me to be honest with myself about how destructive I’d been to myself.

      Thanks for such a kind comment.

  31. I forgot to add, that as for recommendations for reading, I think you are entirely correct to say that most moving, powerful works (Wasted etc) are far too dramatic, shocking and downright frightening. More clinical reading, medical articles or resources online, might be best since the personal aspects of the illness can then be provide by you — making them entirely individualized — when you speak with your partner, rather than have him or her infer your personal experience from memoir.

  32. A powerful sentiment: “My body was mine, all mine, and no one else was allowed to experience it with me.”

    Another way of framing this would be: “… and no one else was allowed to experience it *even* me”.

    I feel as though eating disorders can, in some cases, involve a numbing, dissociated feeling from one’s body. This denial or erasure of one’s physical sensuality is simply another means of control. The quantifiable minutiae of calorie counting and so forth (which I engaged in) can almost be a means to stay somewhat connected to one’s body, albeit very indirectly.

    Wonderful post, Gena.

    • AMEN! I, too, have been in relationships during/between struggles with ED. My most recent relationship coincided with a relapse, and lots of anxiety. The guilt I felt during intimate times with my partner was overwhelming; how dare I let this person care for me and enjoy me when I can’t do those very things for myself? How could I be sensual with him when in the midst of sensuality I was simply disgusted with myself? While relationships generally provide positive feedback and inspiration for me, intimacy with another can underscore my lack of personal intimacy and self-love. I loved this post; it is a wonderful reminder of how an ED is just PART of your history…a romantic partner commits to a WHOLE person, not just the nice traits. Trust and care in a relationship mean that any “ugly” or “dark” parts that you choose to disclose will be embraced and appreciated as just that: parts of your whole. Thank you for the wise words, Gena. And thanks to CR readers for contributing such warm remarks!

  33. Wonderful post, Gena, thanks! Great advice for relationships. I agree that we should be comfortable sharing our pasts with significant others comfortably. It took me a couple of years to really open up to my husband about my past, before we were married. And the early, “new” days of our relationship really helped me to realize how much an ED interfered with dates and intamicy.