Eating disorders are rampant in a society that tells women we’re never good enough. Not only did my disorder almost kill me but it sucked the joy right out of my romantic relationships. Anyone who dated me could be sure they’d get to know my eating disorder quite well. Thankfully, I’m in recovery and have been doing much better — but that certainly wasn’t the case for a very long time.
I was constantly obsessing about my body.
Body dysmorphia plagued my every move. I saw myself as far larger than I ever was and all I could focus on were the parts of my body I perceived to be flawed. If a partner ever wanted to go to the beach with me, the whole trip was an ordeal. The same went for clothes shopping, getting dressed up to go out, and even sitting at home. My thoughts constantly raced, wishing that I looked like the models I saw scattered over my Seventeen magazines.
I felt undeserving of love.
Not only was I constantly worrying about how fat I was, I also equated fat to being unlovable. I thought for too many years that if the more fat cells I had, the less I deserved to be loved. This resulted in choosing toxic partners and people who weren’t a match for me. I settled for less because I didn’t believe I deserved more.
I disassociated during sex.
Disassociating during sex is a scary and heartbreaking side effect of both eating disorders as well as being a trauma survivor. Rather than being present with whoever I was with, I hated myself so much and felt so unsafe in my own body that I would disappear. I’d think of anything but what was happening and I seldom felt like a participant. Glennon Doyle Melton puts it well in her memoir, Love Warrior: “ Sex isn’t something I have really. It just happens to my body while I’m up here, waiting for it to be over.” This was a terribly sad way to live and it meant that I never experienced true intimacy.
My eating disorder came first.
I have a distinct memory 10 years ago of being at an amusement park on a beautiful sunny day with my partner and his family. I had eaten chicken fingers for lunch and it ruined the rest of my day. Despite the fact that I love rollercoasters, I had no interest in going on any of the rides. All I could think about was how I could throw up my lunch without my boyfriend knowing. Me going to the bathroom started a fight and left my partner worried. I didn’t care, though, because my eating disorder came before anything.
Sometimes I body shamed my partners.
In the height of my orthorexia, where I exercised off every calorie that I consumed, I was very judgmental of my partner. He was comfortable in his body and with what he ate. He was okay with having a soft roll around his stomach, but since I hated myself so deeply, I would call him fat and tell him to stop eating so much. It was awful.
I had weird rules about who I could and couldn’t date.
In high school, I did Mixed Martial Arts and trained with mostly men. When one cute guy expressed interest in me, I thought that there was no way he could be telling the truth. I held a belief that athletes would never be interested in me because I was fat. It didn’t matter that he and I were doing the same workouts, I had a totally twisted sense of self. I still believe this weird rule sometimes, unfortunately, even deep into my recovery. But, logically I know that not everyone sees me the way I see myself and everyone has different preferences.
I thought there was only one standard of beauty that everyone had.
Even years into my recovery, having put on weight (for the better) and changing my beliefs, I still thought that everyone had the same beauty ideal. I thought that there was one standard of beauty and it’s a skinny white girl with big boobs and a nice butt. I’ve learned, though, after much resistance, that there are as many preferences and standards as there are people. Despite what we’re told in the media, humans in real life love people of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
I hated being bought chocolates for anniversaries or holidays.
This is a seemingly small problem compared to the others, but it actually negatively impacted my relationships in a huge way. I thought that chocolate was the enemy and I definitely didn’t want large servings of it laying around. I did love chocolate, though, and sometimes ate it in front of partners, so when they would buy me a lovely package of it for an anniversary, they’d be shocked when I’d throw it in the trash or cry. Thank God I’ve made friends with chocolate now — my reaction is totally different when it’s given to me!
I required constant validation and even that wasn’t enough.
My partners could never tell me enough times that I was beautiful or that they loved me. When they said it to me, it sounded like a low hum. Their words could never penetrate the thick self-loathing my eating disorder had cloaked me in. Still, I would push them to remind me of their feelings every day and then I’d get pissed and make-up stories about how they were lying. This lead to all sorts of problems like cheating to try to have someone else make me feel okay.
My eating disorder robbed me of my peace of mind.
If this all sounds exhausting, it’s because it was. I burnt up so much energy maintaining my eating disorder and all of the self-hate it brought. I was never happy in a relationship or alone because I was always trying to morph myself into someone who was finally good enough. After a decade of recovery, I’m much happier and filled with more self-love, but there are still days when that voice sneaks into my mind telling me that I’m not enough. I don’t think it’ll ever quite go away, I’ve just learned to turn the volume down.
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