Why It's Important to Tell The Person You're Dating About Your Food Issues

Sharing even dark secrets with someone you love can be healing.

I got a great email from a HealthyGirl.org reader, Jen, last week that I just had to share. It’s an example of how opening up and being vulnerable—and telling someone close to you about your binge eating, can be helpful and healing rather than scary or embarrasssing.

Read on and then let us know: Have you told people you’ve dated about your issues with food? Was it a good and helpful experience? xo…Sunny

Says Jen:
I really want to share this story of how reaching out to others instead of being embarassed by binge eating can make a huge difference in the life of the person with the ED.

My boyfriend is well aware of my struggles with food. I see a counselor and really have all the tools I need to successfully feel my feelings instead of eating them. But sometimes I still want to turn to food. So often I’ll feel a binge coming on but won’t tell my live-in love. Sometimes I actually hope he’ll go out and have plans so that I can be alone with the food.

Last night I felt the urge to binge, which was surprising, because it’s been weeks since I’ve felt that way. My feelings of both dread and excitement were compounded when my boyfriend told me he was going over to a friend’s house. I don’t know what made me do it, but I told him what was going on with me. I told him I didn’t need him to stay, but I thought talking about things would help. It did, temporarily.

Just before he got ready to leave, he asked me if I was okay. Amazingly, I said, “I want to eat”. So many other times the binge monster has won and I would say, “I’m fine”, then hit the fridge the second he pulled out of the driveway. He was in the other room when I said this, and he didn’t come out for a while, I thought he was emailing or balancing his check book or something.

When he walked out of the office he was carrying pink Post-It Notes, which he stuck to the door frame leading into the kitchen. Back and forth he went from the office to the door frame, posting a total of 13 notes. He told me to read them all before I binged, and that if I binged it was okay.

Before I even read the notes I felt so much better. Binge eating is so embarassing to me, yet this man that I love loves me enough to take the time to try to help me. I can’t explain the shift in me, but somehow after seeing what he did for me, I had no desire to binge anymore.

After he left, I read the notes. Some said things like, “Why?” or “No!” and some said “Is it really worth it?” or “You’ll feel sick later” or “Is this really what you want?”

Instead of eating I watched TV, read, went online, did some leg strength training, and eventually had dessert, but I savored it, I didn’t slam it down my throat. Then I flossed and brushed my teeth and that was that.

This morning when I woke up I was so happy to feel hungry and empty and ready for a new day instead of bloated, gassy, and sick. I never want to tell anyone about my struggles, but people are more understanding than I would ever have imagined, and they can have such a huge impact on my life.

Tell someone you love if you have a problem!! You don’t have to fight it alone.

Thanks Jen. Now it’s your guys’ turn: Does the person you’re dating know about your past (or present) with food? Why have you—or haven’t you—told them?

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13 Responses to Why It's Important to Tell The Person You're Dating About Your Food Issues

  1. Deanna says:

    My husband and I dated for 2 years. During that time I got around to telling him about my food issues. One of the ways I coped with binging over the years was purging. He wasn’t critical of my issues, never called me chubby…basically was very good about the whole thing. However, when he asked me to marry him and I accepted he said that there was one thing that was very important: I had to promise to tell him whenever I threw up. He wanted to know what was going on with me and to be there if I needed help. I cannot tell you how many times over the years that has helped me. Sometimes it has helped me to not throw up at all and others it has let me know that I was still loved and cared about even when I had been “Bad” and didn’t particularly care about myself. Now that I am making progress in understanding the problem I have started telling him about binges, too, throwup or not. Being loved unconditionally is an amazing thing. But, perhaps the most powerful part is that it isn’t a SECRET anymore. It has lost that power over me. Yep, that might be the very best part. Don’t keep it a secret. Find someone you can trust and TELL THEM. (15 years, by the way–he’s a pretty good guy)

  2. o says:

    No..I’ve been dating a wonderful guy for half a year now, and while he knows i have issues with food, i just can’t bring myself to letting him know my darkest, dirtiest secret, that is my bulimia.

    It’s difficult not to spot i have issues, since i talk a lot about food and eating, and almost not a day goes by, when i act opposite to what i say. It’s like i sabotage myself on purpose – i’m lactose intolerant, so i decide so stay away from dairy products, and then all i crave is dairy. Or i say (and feel) i’m so full i can’t see another piece of food until tomorrow..And then stuff myself with random food an hour later.

    I also feel that if i told him, that would break him. And make me feel even worse, since he’d want me to get better quickly, and i don’t have enough money for seeing a specialist.

    • Deanna says:

      I know it is scary. I’ve been there. But, if you can’t tell him, he’s not the right guy. If you don’t tell him, you are not honest and not the right girl.

      If he has trouble understanding, have him start reading this website. It will help you both. Recovery is not fast. But it is possible.

      Have you told anyone? Don’t let the SECRET rule your life. Tell someone. Look, you just told us and it is OK. That is an important part of recovery right there.

  3. Angie says:

    I have to say sharing my ED history with my boyfriend now spouse (when we first met I had been in recovery for a year – that was 19 years ago!) was very healing. He does not judge me or do anything other than support me. He wants me to be happy and encourages me to do things that support happiness. For example, for years I was afraid to exercise because I thought I would overdo it. He encouraged me to trust myself and that to be good to myself, I deserved to enjoy healthy exercise. It was never about weight, it was about health and being able to enjoy bike rides together or hiking / rock climbing. He also understands that when I’m at my worst (self critical, negative body image), that what I really need is a hug and to get out to talk to others. Isolation is a big deal when you have a history with ED. He definitely is able to remind me to use the tools of recovery in a non-pressure way. Thanks for letting me share – A

  4. *Andrea* says:

    great post! it’s easy to keep it a secret because then i can keep binging and hiding it. sharing with others i feel helps break the cycle and can be healing in itself. i wish i did this more :-/

  5. teresa says:

    This is an amazing post! I NEVER hear this being discussed and it’s so important. I was always so embarassed to have a problem with food. I never ever wanted to talk about it or for anyone to know. Even though it was obvious in my extra weight! When I finally started dating my (now husband), I was already 38 and I’d gotten much more used to being in my own skin. Still, I didn’t reveal the depth of my struggle for a while. I think I put off dating more earlier partly because of not acknowledging and owning who I was in the moment, and what my struggles were. I couldn’t see that my struggles were just a small part of the whole of me and that food issues didn’t define me.
    Even now, almost five years married, I find I’m still holding a bit back. Much less since I started blogging about it. It’s all part of my coming out and living in my body to change my body plan. And my husband could not be more proud of me.

  6. Kiersten says:

    My boyfriend and I have been together over 4 years. I told him about my eating disorder and food issues only a month or so after we got together. I was in the recovery phase at the time. I wanted to be honest with him. I was tired of hiding my secrets for so many years, which is why I wanted to get better in the first place. I was afraid of what his reaction might be, that he might not understand, but to my surprise he was completely supportive and understanding. Over the last few years he has seen me relapse and bounce back into recovery. He has seen my ups and my downs. And throughout all of it he has been my biggest supporter, always telling me how strong I am and pushing me to beat this once and for all. I don’t think I could have done all of this without him.

  7. […] that rousing discussion we had the other day about how important it can be to tell the person you’re dating about your food issues, I got to thinking. So many of the comments on that post were positive—it seems lots of readers […]

  8. Sophie says:

    What a great post! I am so proud of those of you who have opened up to your significant others about your food issues — it takes a lot of courage.

    I rarely (read:only once) open up to guys about my eating issues. I’m scared that it will make me seem “crazy.” this basically translates to a lot of other areas of my personality, though, so I usually just shut myself off entirely and spend Friday nights by myself watching reruns on VH1, reinforcing that sense of lonilness. So I basically binge instead of dating (further erecting walls between me and others, mentally and physically-with fat). Sorry for the pity party. I’ve tried seeing counselors and having my best friends dissect me but nothing seems to help…and right now this aorta feels good. Okay, signing off, sorry, haha!

    • Heather says:

      Hi Sophie,

      It sounds like you perhaps are not yet ready to enter recovery and are still thinking about it. I found that weighing up the pros and cons of either staying as I was, and moving forward without the eating issues, helped me clear it up a bit.

      It’s a lot of hard work and can be over a long time, so I think you’re still at an important stage of thinking about what you want to do, when and how.

      You should feel proud that you’re exploring your options; it takes a lot to get to that point and it’s important not to underestimate a single step!

  9. Kati says:

    I cried when I read this post. The end of my relationship with my off an on boyfriend of 3 years was on a down hill slope anyway, and the fact that I coped by bingeing made it so much worse. He knew there were problems and I had always been “a little weird about food” but it killed him when I isolated and shut down. Anytime I did talk to him about it he was as understanding as he knew how to be and was never judgemental. But I felt so broken and dysfunctional and disgusting that I couldn’t bring myself to share that with anyone, even though it would have brought us closer and helped me so much. I know now that when I find someone that is right for me, I will know so when I feel comfortable telling them the complete truth about my food issues. Its too big of a deal to keep a secret from someone you are supposed to be closest to.

  10. Sarah says:

    I cried when i read this post too. I have had a history of eating dissorders (anorexia and bulimia, and more recently BED for my entire life). I have only just started getting professional help, and have been eating normally for a month now. Which i never thought was possible. But what surprisingly has helped me the most was telling my boyfriend.
    I am an introvert and so painfully shy, that opening up is something that i find terrifying. But when i told my boyfriend i felt so much better.
    Now i have someone who i can talk to about it, call if i feel like turning back to old ways and someone who just knows. In a way i cant believe how he can still love me, but the feeling is amazing. For once my ED is not a secret.
    The other day me and my boyfriend had a silly fight in a shopping mall and i told him i had to go to the bathroom. When i came out he looked really concerned and asked if i had been sick.I was really confused why he would think that, but realised that he thought maybe the fight would have made me turn to my ED. I cant really explain it, but having someone understand and care is amazing.

  11. mel says:

    I read this story and am ultimately comforted by the reaction by the writer’s loved one. I had given up on the idea of telling my boyfriend about my eating issues. I have had issues with food all of my life and have ended up hospitalized for heart issues as a result of purging and been to residential treatment twice. I was terrible embarrassed by my ED but felt like I was lying every day I did not tell my new boyfriend the truth.
    And so, I told him. The thing is, I told him way to early in the relationship. We only went out for two months and he was completely weirded out by it. I can see now that it wasn’t completely my fault, his reaction could have been more understanding, but I do understand that the world doesn’t have to know about my ED. It is my story to share and is not some horrible black spot on my soul that I have to share like a criminal past.
    Thank you for your story, it gives me hope that someone out there might understand.
    Best wishes to you.

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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.