Since I can remember I have always been worried about what other people would think about how much I ate or what I ate, especially men. I always had to look around at other people to mimic what they were eating so that they could not judge the contents on my own plate. I wouldn’t dare go in for seconds unless someone else did it before me. I am not quite sure where this fear came from, maybe from my mom always critiquing what she was eating and that made me think that everyone critiqued food and judged you based on what was going in your mouth.
I am mostly terrified though of eating in front of guys, specifically the ones I am dating. As I reflect and have been through multiple relationships I have come to the clear conclusion that I have dated quite a few assholes, who have said numerous things to me that should never be said to a woman regarding food. I was dating someone in college and he took me out to a pizza place. Pizza was on the “bad” list already so I immediately was anxious to eat pizza by itself let alone in front of him. I sat there and had one slice. I wanted two or three but I did not want him to think I was a big fatty so I slowly cut and ate my slice of pizza one bite at a time then put my hands under my thighs so I would not go for another. In almost all my relationships in the beginning I rarely eat which is probably why they have said comments later on into the relationship because they don’t remember me ever eating too much. This specific guy ended up saying to me once “well for as much as you work out, you sure don’t look like you do.” I had to ask him to repeat himself because I could not believe that just came out of his mouth. What is even worse is he said this to me at McDonalds, which I despise but he begged me to go because he had awful eating habits himself and loved him some fast food. It took everything in me to get myself into the fast food chain and as I am trying to eat the disgusting burger in front of me he had the audacity to then comment on my fitness. Needless to say I was extremely mad at him, did not talk to him the whole ride home and it took quite some time for me to put that behind us to continue our relationship, which ended a few months later.
The next guy I dated was someone I really cared about and was a great guy. He only had positive things to say about my body and was the only guy I have ever felt entirely comfortable with in all shapes and sizes.When we first started dating though I fell into my old behaviors and wouldn’t eat at first. I remember going 24 hours without having a single thing because I was too scared to eat in front of him. He asked me many of times if I was hungry but I just said no and shook it off. I dropped multiple pounds and my clothes became loose quickly. I only ate in front of him if we were around other people and they were eating as well; it helped me to feel like the spotlight wasn’t on me and he wouldn’t be critiquing anything I was having. Eventually as the relationship continued I began to eat normally and we started to cook and enjoy food together. I gained back some weight which was needed and he never said anything. I was exercising during this time but not excessively. I feel like I had a pretty good balance at this time in my life as I reflect back but I also think I did because he loved me and my body, not because I did.
And then came the asshole of all assholes into my life, where my ED behaviors got so bad that I became extremely unhealthy. I almost don’t know where to start with this one because there were so many negative things going on in this relationship I don’t know what to begin with. I’ll start with saying he was much older than I was and I found him extremely charming and very attractive. I couldn’t believe someone as good looking as himself was talking to me. I remember the first time I saw him like it was yesterday. I was out at a bar, dancing and having a good time when he walked by and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Tall, handsome and tattoos which I love (I can’t help myself). We didn’t speak that night because I was way to terrified to go up to him and I don’t even think he saw me. Fast forward and I was at the gym one day and saw him working out-fate!! We actually started talking on Facebook; I found him on there through a mutual gym friend and worked up the courage to message him. We went out and I was hoping this was the ever lasting love I was looking for (I am a hopeless romantic, another thing I can’t help). I didn’t realize how unhealthy our relationship was until I was out of it. I think now that he has many insecurities about himself and body image that unfortunately were cast upon me during our relationship. Since we were both active gym goers we started working out together everyday but working out starting to turn into over-exercising. Any moment we had free we were doing something active whether it was hitting the gym for the second time that day, riding bikes around town, walking, running, lifting, you name an activity and I am sure we did it. We rarely ever sat still and if we did you could tell we both felt guilty about it. Due to the over-exercising I lost track about how to sustain my weight and nourish my body with all of this extra activity. He and I cooked together every night and it was always extremely healthy meals. I always ate whatever he wanted to cook because I thought since he was older then he definitely knew more about nutrition than I did. I used to ask his advice on what I should be eating and doing to get more fit. I asked him how many calories I should eat each day and he told me a number I will not share because I do not want to trigger any ED thoughts for anyone reading this, but it was something that was definitely not sustainable to be healthy. This is when I started to count and track my calories. I measured everything out so I did not have more than the serving size and lived my life off numbers and calculations. When we cooked there was always just the perfect amount for two people but if there happened to be extras, I was too scared to get them in front of him. I remember trying to once and he told me I didn’t need it so I never attempted that again. We packed our lunches together so I knew he knew exactly what I was eating every day and that made it hard to sneak something else in. I was so blinded by how we were thriving off of each other and creating such unhealthy habits. My weight began to drop more and more. My clothing was too big which he told me “was a good thing and that I shouldn’t be complaining about it.”As I stepped on the scale everyday at the gym I saw the number continue to go down and down and down. After I lost weight he started to comment on how “big” I was before and that the portions I was eating when we first met were way to large. This continued throughout our entire relationship which was over 6 months long. We broke up over reasons other than food and exercise but those things should have been the reasons I left a long time before I did. I ended up running into him months later at a coffee shop in town and he commented on how small I had gotten and I of course took it as a compliment and said thank you. Another time I ran into him at a restaurant with my mom and he sat a few seats down from us. I spotted him but tried not to make eye contact because I didn’t want him to see me eating. He ended up spotting me and coming over to say hi. One my way out I stopped at his seat to say goodbye and he said, “well I could tell you enjoyed your dinner, I saw you chowing down over there.” Not the thing to say to a girl with a full blown eating disorder and who was only eating because she was trying to still persuade her mother she ate but really had not eaten all day maybe for even multiple days so she could eat out. Fortunately I have not seen him since and I hope I never do again.
While in my heavy days of restricting, but still in denial, I talked to a really sweet guy who I met online. As we dated I was continuing to drop weight and he took note quickly. He said things to me multiple times and told me I didn’t need to lose anymore and if anything I needed to gain weight. I took it as a compliment and reassured him nothing was wrong. One night over dinner he expressed his concern again and I got very upset and couldn’t finish my meal. I ended up crying the whole way home and felt like a complete mess. Shortly after that we ended things because I felt we should have been further in our relationship than where we were. We stopped talking and lost touch. Months later after I agreed to receive treatment for ED I texted him and thanked him for recognizing something I couldn’t see myself back then and I told him I was going to get help for my eating disorder. He answered right away and was so happy to hear that and asked to get together and catch up. We met one afternoon and caught up, he asked about ED and I tried to explain it the best I could but he had a hard time understanding my thoughts which is understandable. Though meeting him that day was healing for me because he expressed that he was guarded when we dated because he knew I was struggling but he didn’t know how to help me or what to do. It was nice to get closure on our relationship even though it made me sad that ED had once again ruined something for me.
To this day I still get nervous eating in front of guys I am dating or in front of others I am not comfortable with. I usually avoid it until I can’t anymore. It’s something I work on a lot in therapy, trying to learn how to speak up for my needs. If I am hungry I need to nourish my body and feed it and not allow a fear of what someone might think or say hold me back from doing that. From the experiences I have had from dating, they are all lessons learned and I pray I will never allow myself to be subjected to someone who allows me or partakes in behaviors with me that are unhealthy.
You’re worth as a person is not measured by the food you eat or the number on the scale or the size of your pants. Whoever you choose to be with you will love you for your heart, morals and values. And as always, remember to be kind to yourself!