It’s my eating disorder, OK?

I beat my eating disorder but my husband’s nagging is putting my recovery at risk.

He sounds like a backseat driver, says our elder. Maybe you could help him find somewhere else to direct his energy?

Dear EWC

I have had an eating disorder (anorexia/bulimia) since about age 12; it started because I was a competitive athlete and model well into adulthood. I have been diagnosed, have been hospitalized for it, have gone through therapy, and I believe, have a pretty good understanding of my disease, which of course, never goes away, but like alcoholism can only be treated into remission. My weight has been as low as 83 lbs and as high as 185 (I’m 5’2”). I have been married 12 years to a disabled veteran whom I do love, and believe does love me… at least he says so.

He is, however, totally obsessed with my weight and is like a dripping faucet frequently monitoring my intake, listening to the kitchen for sounds that I may be in there eating something. If he listens in to my conversation and mishears, thinking I said the word ‘banana’ (when I didn’t) he gives me a lecture on how fattening bananas are. I am currently 147 lbs and medically I just saw my doctor to check if I’m OK. Generally, I’m on a high protein keto type diet and have a reasonable goal of a healthy weight, which my doctor approves. Being a former dancer and athlete, I have a helpful sensible exercise program that I really enjoy.

I have explained over and over to my beloved husband that even if he means well, he could throw me out of recovery into a full blown anorexia episode, which would be terrible. He does not believe in such things. I am wanting to go to counseling, but he is reluctant. Bless you, and thank you ever so much.

PJH replies

I’m glad you’ve written to the EWC for an elder’s perspective on your problem, and I hope I have a useful message, although I doubt one letter from me is going to make a big difference, no matter how appropriate and insightful I am. I understand your dilemma. I know how issues around disordered eating take up immense amounts of processing power, how fragile your emotional balance may be with regard to food, and how disturbing unwelcome attention is.
And I know, too, how contagious your insecurities are. I’m willing to bet your husband is even more nervous about your eating than you are. You’ve gained a measure of control that lets you make judgments and adjustments that meet your needs, but he knows your eating is beyond his control though he dearly wishes it wasn’t, and that he could help you. I’m drawn to the analogy of a back-seat driver, fearful the car is heading for an accident, keeps pressing his feet on the floor and yelling instructions to the ever more harried person trying to keep the vehicle on the straight and narrow!

Indeed, I suspect he’s more afraid of you getting fat than you are, and the only things he can think of to do are talk, cajole, lecture, and express his opinions in a variety of annoying behaviors. You have my sympathy, and he does, too — he’s letting his concerns undermine his own wellbeing as well as threatening yours.

While I know nothing about your situation other than the words in your letter, I get the impression your husband could use more things to capture his interest and his energy. Can you help him with that, I wonder. And can you assure him no matter how well or poorly you manage your appetite, the chances are you’ll live as long as he will, and the less he focuses on your eating the more love you’ll shower upon him.

If you agree, perhaps you could start by having him read this response.

Letter #: 455650
Category: Marriage

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