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Yeah…Immaeatthat

Jun 06

How Andrew helped me in eating disorder recovery.

Andrew and I both grew up like every American child does, instilled with a sense to conform to unrealistic body ideals.  For me that meant becoming smaller and for him that meant becoming more muscular.  As I was struggling with exercise type bulimia in college, Andrew was doing a gallon-of-milk-a-day challenge to gain muscle.  

Eating disorder behaviors are so normalized in our society that when we got married Andrew didn’t know how much my self worth, identity and feeling of safety in this world was dependent on me being thin and athletic. Here’s are 5 specific ways Andrew helped me heal my disordered eating and constant pursuit of thinness.

Listened to Food Psych podcasts with me.

On a 4 hour road trip Andrew stumbled upon Food Psych and we listened together. It gave me a chance to describe my eating disorder and disordered thought patterns to Andrew.  The podcast was nice because it kinda led the conversation between us and was a jumping off point in our conversations on how food and my body size impacted me.

Calling out EDBs.

Eating disorder behaviors (EDBs) are everywhere and it’s so nice to have someone who understands how comments about food restriction and weight loss affect you.  Anytime Andrew and I heard an EDB, whether it was someone giving themselves a food rule to follow or having a weight loss goal, we’d give each other a knowing nod and it was so comforting.  If you’re someone who’s self worth is/was highly influenced by your body size, calling out EDBs could be a helpful thing.  If you have/had an eating disorder, this world is hard to live in when someone’s new years resolution or slim-down-for-summer plan is something you use to harm yourself with in your eating disorder.

Was proud of me for going to non-bourgeois donut places.

Words of affirmation is my love language. I remember one morning in particular when I picked up donuts from a non-fancy donut place and when I got home with them Andrew asked where they were from.  I told him I went to this random donut place and he looked at me and said, “I’m proud of you for going there for donuts.”

It made me feel so understood.  In my eating disorder trendy donut shops were far easier to eat at than random strip center donut shops and he knew that.  I have a lot of other examples of Andrew validating how hard things I went/go through are…things that may seem like nothing to someone else because engaging in disordered eating is the norm and what we’re taught to do. Isn’t it messed up how not engaging in eating disorder behaviors is counter cultural?  

Another example of feeling safe and understood was when I stopped running and was letting my body find the size it was meant to be in that season of life. Andrew got how hard that was for me, likely from listening to the Food Psych Podcast and him listening to me explain things I was learning from Intuitive Eating and Body Respect (<–affiliate links.)

Really pressed that not every meal has to be a gourmet experience.

I already wrote a post on how sometimes meals are boring and not especially satisfying, but I wanted to point it out again.  I saw the below funny saying somewhere…

…and while I do agree that sometimes it’s good to remind yourself you don’t need to eat out because you have a fridge filled with food at home, I also know that if you’ve had an eating disorder (or long-term disordered eating) you’ve likely suffered a nutritional trauma from the physical and mental food restriction and you should eat according to your cravings as often as possible. So if you have the time to drive across town for a certain cookie…that can be part of your healing process from years of restriction and you should go for it! 

When you come from a place of long-term food restriction, I get how there is SO much pressure on every eating experience to be perfect.  Your disordered eating thoughts tell you to eat as little as possible and that this is your only chance to eat for the next x hours.  Having so much pressure placed on every meal to be perfect makes you feel out of control around food.

You want to eat according to your cravings as much as possible, but there are some times when it doesn’t make sense to go out to eat because you have a fridge filled with food or you don’t have time to pick up x food from x place.  

So when you are ready and feel you can tolerate the distress of not having the meal that perfectly meets your cravings but still has protein/carbs/fat, you can start challenging yourself to not have to eat a perfect meal at every meal.  Sometimes you eat a bland soup and saltine crackers and it’s not exciting, but it fills you up and is convenient.  Andrew was big on reminding me that sometimes food is boring and that may be hard for me because of past years of restriction…and it’s okay that it’s hard and it’s okay that I eat the bland food anyways.

Always has been judgemental of running.

This is just a funny one haha.  Andrew would always say, “why is moving your legs in this set range of motion the marker for optimal physical fitness?! There are more ways we can move.” I’ve talked extensively about me + running, but I’m not against running for everyone.  Some people find running a very joyful way to move their body.  And some of you are like me and have let running go (or know you need to) because running for you is all wrapped up in wanting to change your body size and felt rigid and forced, not joyful.

In what specific ways did someone help you in recovery? 

35 comments on “How Andrew helped me in eating disorder recovery.”

  1. This is the best! I’ve always wanted to be able to express how important it is to have my support person- my husband- because of all these little things that are the BIG things. you nailed it. Lucky lady.

  2. My husband has always been a grounding force when it comes to eating and body image. When we had just met I would frequently comment about being “fat” mainly due to my own insecurity and need for affirmation that my body was fine just as it is. The first time I said it in front of him he responded very sternly “don’t say that about yourself,” and I haven’t since!

    The week after my first daughter was born I remember looking in the mirror and commenting about how I was disgusted with how my stomach looked. Once again he affirmed that my body was fine just as it was and he wouldn’t expect it to look like I did before getting pregnant.

    Its great to have someone so accepting, definitely goes against the cultural ideas of how men view women’s bodies.

  3. After years of constantly being on a diet (and the binges that come with that), I unburdened myself to my then-boyfriend about having uncontrollable urges to binge. He looked at me like I was daft and said, “Honey, it’s easy to lose weight. Just eat less and exercise more!”, Guess who I didn’t marry? Many years later I opened up to my husband, who said he loved me no matter what and though he didn’t really understand it, he’d do whatever I needed him to do. I married the right guy.

  4. I love this! So much I could say that mirrors your experience. My husband played a huge role in helping me as well. Such a blessing.

  5. Husband’s are the best! You sound like a dream team. I definitely had some restrictive eating habits in the past while watching my twinkie earn her undergrad & grad degree in dietetics, but I wasn’t quite to the point of total deprivation since my sweet tooth exceeds my will power (which I am totally fine with). However, with that said, I did overthink meals & portions but when I started dating my now husband, I remember that fear just kind of went away. He ate to be full & to be satisfied, & I just adopted that mindset too without even really trying. It felt so freeing to eat what I was craving rather than what I thought I needed & now we enjoy meal planning (or cleaning out the fridge) together.

    • I want to apologize for my dietetics studies and habits rubbing off on you, Kase! I wish I could go back and prevent my younger self from traveling down the rabbit hole of orthorexia, fear, restriction. Sigh. My husband has really helped me in the same way (not named Andrew, though. lol) Matt eats, like Drew, to be full and satisfied. Getting back to being creative in the kitchen rather than restrictive has been incredibly freeing. As we’ve lived together, I’ve significantly relaxed and developed far more intuitive eating habits/skills, for which I am grateful. It helps to have someone model more normal eating rather than what society and our dietetics studies sometimes shove down our throats. I still have a ways to go but am chipping away at it all the time.

      • Kori, I read your blog and please accept my deepest concolences. Mason was a beautiful cat. I enjoyed reading about him and look at all the cute pics. He lived a life full of love and attention. I’m sure he’s watching over you and the rest of your family. 
        (And sorry to write this here, but I couldn’t leave a comment on your blog.) 

        • I really appreciate that so very much! He was our sweet baby boy, and we miss him terribly. But we feel so very fortunate to have him as our guardian angel!

        • Thank you so much! We truly feel so lucky to have been his mamas, & we so appreciate the love & kind words.

  6. Oh & my hubs name is Andrew too! But he goes by Drew, & I don’t think I’ve ever called him Andrew. lolz

  7. Obsessed with this. Thank you thank you thank you

  8. My husband keeps reminding me that his love is not associated with my size. I know I can gain and gain and gain and he would find me just as attractive, if not more :)

    When I was still struggling with the decision making – to have dessert or not – he would just order for me and at the beginning of recovery it took away some of my “guilt” for eating, lets say, cake. Now I eat more intuitively and choose wether or not I want dessert without him questioning it, but at the start it was SO helpful that he just took the wheel and expected me to finish the whole portion. It lowered my anxiety (I used to question every single bite, feeling shame or regret etc, but when everything was decided: eat the whole thing, I could relax and learned to enjoy it). Also, it exposed me to lots of delicious food I was still scared to try. Loved this post! 

  9. I relate SO much to the part about every meal now, while I’m finding recovery, has to be “perfect”.  I feel disappointed or like I’ve let myself down if the meal isn’t exactly what I’m craving! Learning to feel ok with that – and realize that the meal did its job (I’m no longer hungry!) is something I am still learning to sit with. And that it’s ok to have a snack that isn’t neatly defined 2 hours after a meal… constantly breaking boundaries!

  10. Loved this so much and I so relate to it. My husband was my #1 supporter. That pic of you 2 on the couch is amazing <3

  11. This is the sweetest. You’re so lucky to have such a wonderful support.

  12. One person who really supported me through recovery was my dad. My mom was more emotionally drained by my struggle and honestly just could not relate to the eating disorder that ruled my life. 

    My dad is a veterinarian so he has a very medically-trained mind. He was able to constantly encourage me and provide truth to me in ways that I look back at now and find so valuable. 

    One conversation I remember specifically was a phone conversation that we had after seeing my dietitian. I told my dad that my mind could not cope with what she was telling me in terms of nutrients for my body. He then responded that one day I will look back and not be able to understand why my mind couldn’t cope with the information she provided at that time. 

    It helped me to see an end to my pain. Yet, also it set free to walk through the darkness to order to get to the light. 

  13. I don’t have a spouse or boyfriend yet, but I love to hear about the ways Andrew has been supportive of you! I think for me, it truly has been best to recover being single because I have learned so much about myself but there are surely times where I wish I had a boyfriend.
    I would be really interested in seeing a post like this but how your parents have helped you! I have an interesting support system from my parents, but I know deep down they are trying their best with what they can do at this moment and I am grateful they are here for me.

  14. Love reading this! It makes me appreciate my hubby all over again for all the ways he’s helped me. He’s similar on the running thing lol. It’s just so cool how God put us (and y’all!) together knowing our husbands would help us in these ways :)

  15. My fiancé has also been a huge support. When we met and started dating I was still in a pretty bad place, and his love and support gave me the courage to commit more and more to recovery. He has also be come an anti-diet-culture expert now and sometimes we’ll be watching TV and some dumb diet commercial comes on and he will get SERIOUSLY offended by how disordered and dangerous these beliefs are. Glad Andrew has been such a help ❤️

  16. That must be my ideal boyfriend/husband type! Always listening and understanding and supprting…

  17. Wow, i love this!  Your relationship with your husband is so beautiful and inspiring!  I pray that I’ll find someone one day who supports and encourages me like that :) thank you for sharing! 

  18. Yay Andrew! I think having a strong support system is so important. I wish I could get my hubby to listen to “my” podcasts!

  19. Fantastic post. Even though my ex boyfriend never gave me much positive recognition or affirmation for anything, my time with him definitely progresses my healing. He ate when he was hungry, and he never thought twice about choosing exactly what his body was craving. One day he brought up the fact that he wasn’t muscular and promised to myself and himself that he would start lifting weights- I was horrified and told him that I preferred his body exactly how it was. Seeing myself be so appreciative of a body that didn’t match the media’s male “ideal” helped me to realise that maybe other humans can easily feel the same about me.

  20. I love Andrew’s perspective on this: “why is moving your legs in this set range of motion the marker for optimal physical fitness?! There are more ways we can move.” It made me laugh, and is a REALLY good reminder when I my brain starts sliding back into (arbitrary and pointless) exercise rules

    I love that Andrew has been so supportive. I have the opposite situation, my boyfriend has a VERY disordered mindset about food and exercise. As I move further in to IE, I can see more clearly how his attitude toward food and exercise is completely bent to the diet industry (but targeted toward men, like having “muscle” and “bulky arms” and “6-pack” abs, and how any meal other than a huge portion of chicken (or other lean protein) and vegetables is “bad”). I try to expose him to IE principles but I don’t think he’s ready to internalize them. The good thing is that (1) his behaviors aren’t triggering (because they were so different than mine) and (2) I’m ready to support whenever he is ready to embrace IE.

  21. I love how Andrew supported you throughout the recovery process! Our loved ones are such a vital part of entering (and staying in) recovery. I entered inpatient treatment for my eating disorder at sixteen-years-old. I will never forget how angry my parents were. I now know that a lot of that anger stemmed from them not understanding. They were terrified and worried and they did not understand how I could keep starving myself. Once I entered outpatient treatment, they had a much better understanding of the mental aspect of eating disorders. I am grateful every day for their support and encouragement. <3

  22. This is so sweet, and it gave me advice on how to support a friend I have who is dealing with her ED :)
    My husband was also really good at positive affirmations when I ate what I wanted. I remember once telling him how I had ice-cream after pizza for dinner and was really surprised with myself and he just said ‘good, I really like how you just eat now.’ He often said little comments like that when I would eat dessert or order coffee with full-fat milk and it helped a lot. I also remember chatting to him about societies expectations for me to be thin because it was what people would find attractive and he said ‘you know what’s not attractive, someone that complains about how they look or talks about food and exercise all the time.’ That really stuck with me and forced me to ask the question you have posed on the blog – is this ED the most interesting thing about me?
    Yay for supportive husbands!

  23. Awh, Andrew is the best! You’re very lucky to have him.
    I totally get the thing about getting donuts from a not-special place…I still kinda feel that if I’m going to “treat myself” it has to be super special and pretty, and I know that’s ED BS. And the not-perfect meal thing. It’s cool he understands all that; most people I know just don’t get it.

  24. Your discussion here brought back a memory I had about a specific experience involving glamorizing food. I can definitely remember having that feeling that when I was going to eat a certain food item, wanting it to be absolutely PERFECT. I can remember my husband (then boyfriend) and I sitting down at McDonalds for breakfast. I had ordered a breakfast sandwich. At that time, I would only allow myself to have a breakfast sandwich once a month. I remember we were sharing our meal and he reached over to tear a bite off my sandwich and eat it himself. I remember I went into panic mode! I flipped out and got really upset with him. I remember him being totally confused and looked at me like he didn’t understand what he had done wrong. I think, looking back, it’s a perfect example of what you have discussed here with how someone can help you realize how disordered your thoughts are around food. This is a great post!

  25. Great post! I think it’s really important when you’re struggling to surround yourself with supportive people, it can make all the difference.  I would be super interested to hear Andrew’s perspective on this too!

  26. A bit of a different comment here…

    What if you feel like, no matter how hard you’ve tried, or how many times you’ve been open and talked to your partner about your ED history and your continual journey toward a healthy body, they still don’t seem to understand? What if they still talk about going on a diet around you?…or never question your going to the gym?… or, even when they should be very aware of your history of an eating disorder, they still don’t get that diet talk could be harmful to you, or that you need to eat more and gain weight to be in a healthier body? I know you don’t have the answers to this. I’m just wondering if you would have any suggestions for how to deal with a relationship, or partner, that doesn’t seem to be able to get on the same page as you and what you need to do for your recovery to normal eating and a healthy body weight again. I really struggle because I feel like a real fraud around my partner. I’ve had “all the talks” with him, but to me, it feels like he thinks I’m 100% recovered. Which makes it harder to keep going back and saying, “hey… I’m still working on this stuff and even if you see me eating what you think is “normally,” I still need to be eating more.” Sorry for the novel. This is a wonderful post and Andrew is AMAZING. 

    • Hi Cora. I think it’s important to remember that recovery is not linear. It is not fraudulent to be one place in recovery one day and another the next day. Recovery doesn’t mean life will never be without struggle related to food, body image or exercise but that you have better tools for observing, coping with and moving on from those thoughts relatively quickly and without true relapse. I would be very honest with your partner about this. Love to you!

  27. I love this post and I love how supportive and helpful Andrew has been for you. When you’re recovering from an ED, there are so many people out there who just don’t get what it’s like and don’t get how fully we want to break away from diet culture because they, too, are steeped in diet culture. My boyfriend’s definitely been that person for me. He’s always reminding me that I don’t have to exercise every day or even every week, that I can go back for seconds if I’m still hungry, that I’ll live if I don’t have any kind of fruit or veggie with a meal sometimes, and of course, that he loves and supports me now and he’d love and support me still if my body changes. I know there are a lot of people in relationships that don’t have that kind of trust and support when it comes to food and body, and I feel really, really fortunate that I do.

    • Thanks for sharing, Joyce. I think if you can find one person (therapist/spouse/friend/someone on IG) to encourage and support you along that’s a pretty powerful thing :)

  28. My boyfriend (also Andrew) has been a really
    Supportive , kind, compassionate rock for me to lean on. When I first met him the shame that comes along with the ED kept
    Me from really trusting him or believing I
    Could truly be loved by him- or anyone. The walls the ED built around my heart to “protect” me and convinced me I was safer. As we began to get closer with time Insaw these walls start to crumble and I no longer think the ED is keeping me rather it has kept me hostage. A prisoner prodded to achieve unrealistic and unhealthy goals. It is so so incredible to see myself
    Through his eyes. His words of encouragement are always gentle and easy to receive. I cannot imagine myself continuing in my recovery without him. I know one day I will look back fully recovered and always remember his contributions, his belief in finding myself and my happiness.  My Andrew is More than I could have ever desired, wished,  and dreamed for. Knowing I am accepted by him gives me the courage to state proudly “I AM ENOUGH!” We are all enough. You my dear reader are enough! I truly wish for anyone  who is or has suffered from any form of an ED that they can say this to themselves every single day and etch this message into the deepest chambers of their beautiful soul. “I  Am ENOUGH JUST AS I AM!” I genuinely hope for all of you to have such a loving companion like I have found in him.  

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