The Mighty Logo

When Your Eating Disorder Mirrors an Abusive Relationship

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

For a good chunk of my sophomore year of high school, I had a truly phenomenal therapist. She was knowledgeable and passionate about her line of work, empathetic and, above all, she had a natural gift for driving a point home. One day, we came to the topic of eating disorders. At that point in time, mine was slowly snaking back into the picture, not quite full-blown yet. She used an analogy I will never forget: an eating disorder is, ultimately, an abusive relationship.

In this analogy, the disease goes by the name of Ed, who can be male or female (because I am a heterosexual woman, I’ll refer to Ed as a man in this post). Ed is controlling, berating and relentless. He is unkind, and prone to put his lover down. But he is also highly attractive — magnetic, even — promising the moon, the stars and an unattainable level of beauty and success, if you only follow his guidance without question. Ed promises he will never leave you, but he also drills into your mind that no one else will love you like he does; perhaps he’s right, but not in the way you would initially think.

Ed dictates what you eat and how much. You start to scoop out some Rocky Road, and he glares — you put it back. You pile on your aunt’s cheddar garlic mashed potatoes, and he scrapes three quarters of it into the trash, hissing you’ll need to run at least three miles on the treadmill later to make up for it. This is not a caring relationship; he is not supporting you — he’s slowly killing you.

I am here to tell you that you deserve more than Ed. You deserve a loving relationship with your mind and your body; a compassionate spirit towards yourself. You deserve to be told you are beautiful every single day, and believe it. You deserve more than Ed. It’s time to realize that. It’s time to kick him to the curb.

It’s not going to be easy, but sometimes the hardest things in life are the most worthwhile. Challenge him, push him away, pack up his stuff and banish him from your mind and your life. Go to therapy, see a dietitian, open up to friends or family — just tell someone. There are no more ultimatums here, no second chances or “let’s still be friends.” Ed needs to go. Now.

Originally published: July 18, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home