Dating - one of the most terrifying things to do when you have an eating disorder. Let me break it down for you. Dates involve food. Dates involve going out to eat at restaurants where you don't have 100% control over food. And eating disorders don't like that.
Here's the thought process:
Okay, if I go, I'll order water and a salad with no dressing. That's "safe". Maybe the restaurant has a nutritional guide I can look at. But what if he judges me for "just" getting the salad? What if he asks to split dessert? OMG I can't. Cancel the date immediately.
Relief. I can stay at home in my "safe" place with my "safe" foods and it'll be okay.
I can honestly say that I have ruined what could have been great relationships because of my eating disorder. It's scary being asked to go somewhere in the spur of the moment. To go get drinks, or enjoy a late dinner. Sorry, but my eating disorder doesn't like that. My eating disorder likes being comfortable.
People with eating disorders are obsessed with routine. Routinely eating the same things at the same time. They don't eat normally. They overthink food. They overthink what that one "bad" meal will do. It's fucking scary as hell. So the easiest way out is to just ... not. It's much easier to say no and cancel on dates than it is to face fears and be uncomfortable.
Another thing, HOW THE HELL DO YOU TELL SOMEONE YOU'RE DATING THAT YOU HAVE AN EATING DISORDER?
Like, "hey I'm a really great person, I'm funny, cool to be around, but I also have an eating disorder so that kind of sucks."
It's not even the fear of being judged, it's the fear of being misunderstood.
Most guys probably don't even understand what an eating disorder is. Their response will probably be "You're thin you don't have to worry about your weight", or "I don't get it, why don't you like food?"
Side note: if you have a boyfriend or are dating someone and you want them to know what it's like to have an ED, refer them to THIS BLOG POST.
It gets even better (worse). Let's talk about sex.
People with eating disorders struggle with intimacy for 2 main reasons:
1. Body image issues
2. They literally have no sex drive
The first one is pretty obvious. People with eating disorders have some kind of underlying self-consciousness about themselves and their body. Becoming vulnerable and letting someone be intimate with you is not exactly the first thing you want to do.
If you think there's something wrong with you because you literally have no sex drive - you're right. There is something wrong. Your eating disorder is fucking with your hormones. If your body is struggling to look after itself because it doesn't have enough fat to support another human, you lose your period (amenorrhea). The hormones that your body needs to support menstruation, particularly estrogen, fall short - and so does your sex drive.
"Sexual satisfaction studies have shown that sexual satisfaction is inversely related to calorie restriction and that the greater the weight loss, the greater the loss of sexual pleasure. The good news is that increases in sexual drive accompany weight restoration" HEY GREAT REASON TO RECOVER!
(Read study HERE)
So what do you do?
I'm mean, I'm not exactly the first person you should come to for relationship advice. But looking back, here are the things I wish I did in the past, and the things I'm currently working on.
Be open, be vulnerable, and get uncomfortable.
During your self-discovery, say "yes" to dates (even if you don't like him lol our secret). Get out there. Go eat at a restaurant. Get uncomfortable. Dating is a great time to explore new foods, practice mindful eating, and to just TRY. Do it without looking at the nutritional info, do it without overthinking. Just do it. Be in the moment. Explore your relationship with food (and maybe him haha).
Do this because you will wake-up the next day and realize it's not so bad. No, you didn't gain 20lbs. No you didn't fail. You lived. You will realize that food will not change your body that drastically. If you eat mindfully, you will eat until your full, and eat the food you want.
Doing this will will not only help recover your relationship with food, but it will also help you form relationships with others and help you get the intimacy that you need.
And you know what, if you really like the guy, then you need to tell him about your ED. Whether it's something you're still going through, or if it's now part of your past, it's still part of who you are. And if you want to truly love someone, and for someone to truly love you, then they need to know every single part of you.
I still live with the effects of ED every single day. The thoughts are still there and it absolutely disrupts many of my relationships. But, I've made a promise to myself to be open and vulnerable about it for now on. You cannot sacrifice opening yourself up to love because you want to feel safe in your eating disorder.