This is a book I wish had existed when I was struggling with my own eating disorder. I would have shared it with all of my loved ones. Many thanks to Dr. Dana Harron for contributing such an important book to the eating disorder bookshelf. I am so excited about this new release that we are giving away two signed copies, thanks to Dr. Harron! She also shared an excerpt with us below.
For a chance to win a signed book, see information at the bottom of this post. Be sure to check out Dr. Dana Harron’s website to learn more.
Loving Someone with an Eating Disorder
Watching loved ones suffer, seemingly at their own hands, is one of the most painful experiences imaginable. All of the tenderness and joy of love get mixed together with rage, betrayal, and terror when an eating disorder enters the picture. It seems like you can’t have all of these different feelings at once, but the most painful part is that you do. It wouldn’t be so hurtful to watch your girlfriend silently leave the table to purge after a lunch date, or to watch your husband weigh himself obsessively, if you didn’t also truly care about them. It would be just fine to want to shake them until they come around—punish them for the hell they’ve visited upon both your lives or avoid looking at them or talking to them—if your heart didn’t also just break with love for them, if only once upon a time.
And there’s no escaping this issue. Food is perhaps the most central aspect of every couple’s daily life: we all need to eat. Additionally, food has social and emotional aspects that make it ever present in our culture. We eat to socialize, to celebrate, and to comfort. When old friends want to get together, they suggest lunch. When somebody has a birthday, we eat cake. Apology? Fruit basket. Anniversary? Dinner out. It’s no wonder that it’s hard for you to find your footing, for as soon as you recover from one difficult moment, the next is upon you.
The kicker is that nobody else really knows this about food. It is so much a part of everyday life that most people have the luxury of taking it completely for granted. The eating disorder (which I also refer to as ED) robs you, and your partner, of that luxury. You are now continually, painfully reminded of the role that food plays in your life every single day. Life seems so easy for everyone else who doesn’t have to deal with these issues, whereas for you and your partner, everything you try feels like running into a brick wall. You also can’t avoid bodies, images of bodies, ideas about how bodies should be, or messages about gluttony, discipline, and sloth.
If you live together, you have an additional minefield to navigate in terms of sharing a household. Grocery shopping, cooking, and eating together can take on a lot of emotional tension when an eating disorder is present. You may cook food that is never eaten or that is eaten so quickly that nothing is left for anyone else. You may be in charge of grocery shopping because of your partner’s food-related anxiety. Your partner may spend exorbitant amounts of money on food, clothes, or diet plans. Treatment for eating disorders may be a financial strain, and intimacy and parenting can be affected as well.
You might feel like you don’t even recognize your partner anymore. It may feel as though this is not the person you first met, or married, or had children with. An eating disorder can erode the capacity for joy, spontaneity, and emotional closeness. If you have known about your partner’s eating disorder for some time, you may have hoped it would go away on its own—maybe you told yourself that it really didn’t affect your relationship that much—but now the cumulative effect may have worn away at your intimacy, trust, and love. Perhaps you have suspicions but your partner denies there’s a problem, or maybe your partner has acknowledged an issue but you aren’t sure where to start looking for help. Or you may have only recently discovered your partner’s ED, and the revelation could leave you lost and confused. Whatever the exact circumstances of your situation, this book will help you navigate the very difficult issues an eating disorder brings up, and respond with skill and compassion toward both your partner and yourself.
Win a Signed Book! To enter to win a copy of Loving Someone with an Eating Disorder, please post a comment below, answering: What tip would you provide to a loved one about how to support someone with an eating disorder? (i.e., Listen and love. Believe.) Two winners will be randomly selected from all who comment.