Have You Ever Dated a Binge-Eating Enabler? I Kinda Married One Once

Living with a "binge buddy" ain't so great for recovery.

After 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 have had great success and helpful, healthy experiences with their loved ones.

My husband, John, knows all about my bingeing history and is a source of quiet, stable, and healthy support. But there was a time when I didn’t have that in my life. In fact, when I was 20 years old and still in college, I was with someone who actually encouraged my binge eating.

I was still in college, and he was several (as in 13) years older than I was. We dated only briefly before getting married—I know, I know, what was I thinking?!—and that first year of marriage, I put on a whopping 50 pounds. As I grew bigger, he seemed to feel happier. Less worried about me spending time on campus. Less jealous of guy friends or time I spent away from home. I think my size made him feel more secure.

In fact, he became a bit of a “binge buddy.” On Sunday nights he would go pick up smorgasbords worth of fish-and-chips or Mexican food, and we’d spread it all out on the living room floor and eat. It took a major toll on my body. I remember the look on my mom’s face when she saw me after us not visiting for a few months. We were at a pool party, and I was in a one-piece bathing suit, with bright purple stretch marks snaking their way down the front of both of my hips and thighs. She was shocked at the sight and pulled me aside to ask me what was wrong—if I was OK.

I didn’t know what to tell her. I thought I was happy; but I was totally clouded by food and in denial about what was happening in my life and that relationship.

Eventually, I began to tune in more closely to what was going on with me on the inside, and started going to counseling. The bingeing didn’t stop, but it did slow a bit, and as I began to let go of some weight, he got more insecure. I slowly realized that relationship was not right for me and left two years after the wedding. I don’t regret a day of it—that experience is part of what has made me who I am today, and I learned some super important lessons about myself and recovery. Still, it was a sad time of life, and looking back makes me (briefly) melancholy.

Have you ever been in a relationship that was unhealthy for your recovery? A binge-eating enabler or someone who made you feel badly about yourself and your body? Get it off your chest, ladies—and then revel in the fact that you’re no longer in that situation. It feels good! xo…Sunny

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6 Responses to Have You Ever Dated a Binge-Eating Enabler? I Kinda Married One Once

  1. AMW says:

    Sunny, I just wanted to say thank you for being so open and honest here on Healthy Girl.
    Each one of your posts have touched me in some way. Living with an eating disorder can be a VERY lonely place, and coming here to Healthy Girl reinfoces the fact that I am not the only one with these issues. I know that you help so many people every day. Have a great day :)

    • stacy says:

      i, too, want to thank you for your honesty and willingness to share your experiences with us, sunny. the chance to get a glimpse into someone else’s struggles makes my own feel less overwhelming. there are certainly power in numbers on this blog – and i appreciate every bit of strength that i’m able to pull from it. thanks!!

  2. Angie says:

    Hi – Before I got serious with the guy who turned out to be my husband, I dated a guy who knew of my ED behaviors, but instead of being supportive, undermined my self confidence and body image. I don’t know why, but I went back to him after several breakups. I finally realized that I had crazy ED-related thoughts when I was with him and I just couldn’t take it any more. It was very hard as I felt like I had to really be strong. Maybe it was a good thing. It was one of those times, early in recovery, where I did something to say ‘YES’ to recovery and ‘NO’ to the ED. I’m so glad things happened the way they did, but it was an incredibly difficult time. A

  3. Heather says:

    When I developed anorexia, my boyfriend at that point was competitive and fully supported my weight loss. In the depths of it, I was able to see that my reasons for being with him (loneliness) weren’t enough to stick with him, and partly, I wanted to be alone with my anorexia. I guess it had become my friend (a bad one) and I didn’t need one in human flesh.

    I stayed single for much of the worst of the anorexia and binge eating, until about 2 years ago when I met my current boyfriend. I’m lots better than I ever was, though I still struggle with food and compulsive overeating (bingeing happens a lot less).

    My current boyfriend knows this and is supportive of my trying to recover. For the most part, he is an amazing help. He cooks with me, is gentle and patient when I have panics and expresses how proud he is of me for tackling these things head-on. Sometimes, he is less helpful. He is attracted to images of slim women and this can make me feel a little less than perfect.

    He will joke that if I were the size of a house, he wouldn’t fancy me. I know these are the sort of off the cuff comments lots of people make, but sometimes I think he forgets how hurtful they are to someone who is constantly looking for ‘evidence’ of being unattractive and unloveable.

    The responsibility for my feelings, however, lies with me. It is my reaction to things which I need to learn to change. However it is also part of him learning about me and learning to express things a little more carefully, so it’s him learning to communicate with someone who has issues with food and her body, too. It’s a lot of learning, trial and error, give or take.

    But what makes me sure that I am in a good relationship for me is how great I feel about me 90% of the time I’m with him; how much he loves me and tells me so, and that I’m beautiful, and just the common sense stuff he says to me.

    I had a wobbly on Sunday – an hour-long cry-fest about how awful I would feel next to a slim girl. He told me that he loves me. He chose me because I’m me, and that he loves me for me. He said that he understands on some level how I feel about my body, because he can feel like that too sometimes and he isn’t feeling in his best shape. He said it’s fine, because we can work on being more healthy together and we’ve no rush. We love each other as we are, and really, that’s all that matters.

    I have a good guy. He’s human, fallable and mine. Just like I am to him; ED and all! :-)

  4. Mindy says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Heather….I hope that someday you’ll see how beautiful you really are. :)

    I believe that in a sense, my husband is a binge-eating enabler.

    He is 13 years older than me and I’m still in college. Sounds a bit like Sunny’s situation, doesn’t it?

    Anyway, I’ve put on a lot of weight since being married. I’ve battled with depression for years but I never had a problem with my weight until now. I’m 5’1″ and I weigh 160 lbs.

    My husband has his own issues with food. He is also a bit insecure. When we were dating, he believed that I was constantly flirting with other men…this was not true. The first time he accused me of that, I was shocked and hurt.

    He accused me of staring at other guys and acting inappropriately. I love my husband, but sometimes I feel that he wants to control me. I believe it all comes down to his failed relationships in the past. His ex-girlfriend, whom he was briefly engaged to, cheated on him. So he doesn’t really trust most women.

    I was very slim and fit when we met. Now that I’m somewhat overweight, he doesn’t seem to have as many insecurities about other men looking at me. They still look at me, fat or not.

    Sometimes we will eat healthy food, but most of the time I find myself eating a lot of unhealthy stuff with him.

    I believe that enablers are not consciously trying to hurt us, but they do contribute to the problem. My husband tells me that I’m beautiful and sexy…but he seems to prefer me at a bigger size because I attracted more attention when I was thin.

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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.