I recently saw the awful article “5 Reasons To Date A Girl With An Eating Disorder” linked through Facebook and today I saw the awesome article “5 Real Reasons to Date Someone Who has Struggled with an Eating Disorder“. In honor of today being Ben and my two year anniversary, I will comment on my personal experience with the points presented in the two articles.
First, the awful one:
1. Her obsession with her body will improve her overall looks. Many, many people have told me that I look better now that I am in recovery than what I looked like while I was stuck in my ED. Bony bodies are not that sexy, but my bigger boobs and curvier hips and butt finally have a nice, womanly shape. (The thought of that would have made my eating disorder cringe, but I have received more compliments and positive feedback at my recovered weight.) Ben more frequently complimented my looks as I started gaining weight than he did when I was at my thinnest. On top of that, my face has finally transformed from ghost white to a glowing, colorful complexion.
2. She costs less money. The author is right about this one, in the short term. In recovery, my food bills have been significantly higher than when I was stuck in my eating disorder. However, the cost of treatment or early fatality (if the person with an eating disorder does not receive help) is much higher than the initial savings on food costs.
3. She is fragile and vulnerable. Yes, I was fragile and vulnerable in my eating disorder, but I was unwilling to admit it. My self-esteem was artificially inflated when I was in the throes of my eating disorder because I felt that I had control over my body, and I thought I was invincible. If anything, I was more of a heart breaker in my eating disorder because I was less capable of forming meaningful relationships.
4. Probably has money of her own. I do have money of my own, and restricting food definitely helped me save money. This is not universally the case though; there were plenty of girls in treatment whose financial woes made them dependent on their parents for health care decisions. Also, I have known quite a few adults with eating disorders who have had to file bankruptcy.
5. She’s better in bed. I’m not sure how much I want to comment on this one, except to say that a girl who is more emotionally present can offer more satisfying, meaningful physical intimacy than someone who is an empty shell in her eating disorder. In recovery, physical intimacy is much more satisfying and enjoyable for me than it was in my disorder and I’m pretty sure that has improved the closeness in my relationship.
Now, the awesome one:
1. They’re just like you. I am a person too. I have hopes, dreams, goals, interests, and needs just like anyone else. I have family and friends. I love and I laugh, cry and get scared. I love that the author includes this point. Even in treatment, the therapists sometimes displayed an “us” v. “them” mentality in which the patients were treated as alien. Our food behaviors may be strange, but everyone has quirks. We have our flaws, like any other person, and we may numb out our feelings, but we have emotions too.
2. They’re brave. Unbelievably brave and they can teach you things you never thought possible. Admitting to an eating disorder and seeking help is not easy. I continue to work everyday on trying to be a better person, from activities as “simple” as eating my lunch by a certain time even when I am not hungry or as “complicated” as learning to love and accept myself. Everyone has problems, but I am willing to admit my weaknesses and strive to become a stronger person.
3. She likes to cook (and so do I). This one is not as applicable to me. I don’t take the time to cook that often because of my busy school and dance schedule, but I have been learning to eat mindfully and I appreciate the extra energy that I get from eating more balanced meals. I am also very appreciative when I enjoy a meal.
4. I’ve learned that the media and reality are very different things. There is no single perfect body type and being thin does not guarantee happiness the way that it is portrayed in the media. I am happier now than I ever was when I was much thinner. My values have changed, and I am enjoying life so much better now that I have worked on my inner beauty, which is rarely portrayed in the media.
5. It doesn’t define her. When I first started telling people that I have struggled with an eating disorder, I was concerned that they would then only see me as the (former) anorexic. The part about my eating disorder that has defined me is my willingness to seek help and continue working on myself. My friends and family have been inspired by my strength to work through my eating disorder more than they have been caught up in my struggles with the disorder.
I am thankful for people like Ben who date people with eating disorders. My life is so much better with him in it, and he constantly tells me that I make his life better too. I hope that the silver lining from the thoughtlessness presented in the “awful article” is that people will have increased awareness of what it really means to have an eating disorder.