Relationships and Disordered Eating
Rebecca Cooper - 7/11/2007
I have learned many things about myself that I did not know when I had an eating disorder. One is that food was my best friend, my primary relationship. I "went" to food like some people would go to a trusted friend or confidant.
When Food is the Primary Relationship
Relationships take time and energy to develop, but so does disordered eating. I spent so much time around the thoughts of what or what not to eat, eating, and then hiding what I had done, that I didn't have the time necessary to create healthy, authentic relationships. I was uncomfortable being around other people because I felt inadequate and ashamed of my eating disorder. I was afraid that they would find out about my secret and confirm that I was a bad person. It felt safer and more comfortable to be at home alone with my eating disorder than trying to fit in socially. Using food in this manner prevented me from building social skills.
It was also impossible for me to be honest, which is important in relationships, because I had to hide what I was doing -exercising to extreme, spending huge amounts of time, energy and money on bingeing and purging, disappearing after meals, etc. Although communication is part of any social interaction, when I was in the depths of my eating disorder, I had nothing to talk about. Was I going to say that I ate a quart of ice cream by myself last night? The disorder took the place of hobbies, interests, and other activities that most people find interesting.
So, although food seemed like my "best" friend, the shame of it robbed me of any other relationship. It even prevented me from knowing and being the real me. Eventually, it became necessary to give up the eating disorder in order to find out who I was. It became more important for me to experience love than to hold onto the eating disorder.
Replacing Food with Friends
One important part of recovery, then, is being able to speak the truth, instead of hiding behind food. Learning skills such as negotiation, humor, anger management, compromise, and cooperation is essential to that process. If you have used an eating disorder as means of communication, developing these skills will take courage and practice.
Also, in order to have an authentic, healthy relationship with another person, you must be willing to get to know yourself and then be vulnerable enough to share that self, faults and all. Pretending to be someone other than who ...