I’m not one to make generalizations about any group of people, because of course there are men who are incredibly supportive of those struggling with eating disorders (as well as men struggling with eating disorders themselves). But from my own experience as well as hearing from others about how their dads / brothers / boyfriends etc handled the news of their eating disorders, I think there are more men who are trying to be supportive but don’t quite know how. This is everything I wish they knew.
What I Wish More Men Understood About Eating Disorders
It’s more than feeling fat once in awhile
Many of us who struggle with eating disorders also have difficulty with body image, but an eating disorder is so much more than a battle with my physical appearance. The reason it’s called a mental illness, is because the majority of the insecurity I’m dealing with isn’t even about the size of my jeans. It’s that I feel like I’m not enough no matter how thin I get.
My experience with diet culture and body expectations is entirely different than yours
I know many men feel like there’s an intense pressure on them to be stronger, more muscly, masculine, etc. and that is an issue of equal importance, but please realize that the expectations society has placed on me to be and look a certain way is so different. The way the media objectifies and sexualizes my body as a woman has a lot to do with my mental illness and the way I form relationships with men.
It’s not your job (nor do I want you) to fix me
I know as a man who loves me – my brother, my cousin, my boyfriend, my dad – it’s your gut instinct to try and help and to fix. Please understand that this is a change that must come from within. Making sure I eat enough, stay out of the bathroom, or reminding me I need to gain weight is not what I need from you. I need your support and your love because this responsibility is mine.
Non-physical compliments help more than you know
I love hearing the occasional “you look beautiful” on a special anniversary or night out, but for the most part I want you to keep your comments about my appearance to yourself – even when they’re complimentary! Part of my eating disorder is rooted in thinking my beauty, sex appeal, and size is what I have to offer, so you complimenting my looks only reinforces what I’m trying to move past. But when you compliment my brain? That essay I wrote? The way I care for my grandma? My sense of humor? It elevates my self worth by tons, and reminds me that I am more than this eating disorder.
I don’t expect you to understand everything
And I don’t want you to! I know that the only people who could ever really understand what I’m going through are eating disorder victims and survivors, and I would never wish that on you. Being in a relationship (whether it’s romantic, platonic, between family) with anyone who has an eating disorder is the opposite of easy. I’m moody and difficult and I know I don;t make a lot of sense to you at times, but I’m so grateful you’re around. Thank you for loving me, listening, comforting me, and cutting me slack when I need it.
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