Dating with an Eating Disorder

a tray is laid with chocolates, sugar roses and hot chocolate

I don’t even know what this blog is anymore; part eating disorder confessional, part dating disaster diatribe. Then, recently, whilst catching up on all my blogging favs, I came across Vix’s post about the complexities of dating with a mental illness, and I realised, my eating disorder and my dating life are intrinsically linked. I can think of multiple times when one has effected the other and led me to laying on my bedroom floor in my pants surrounded by doughnuts and Wotsits.

When I first became single at the age of 26, after 9 years in what can only be called a ‘pretty shitty’ relationship, I was fully committed to my Binge Eating Disorder. My life revolved around bingeing and prepping for binges, and there was little time else to invest in dating, love and other stuff.  I was sad, swollen and bloated and my self esteem and was in the dirt. In truth, during my first 2 years of singledom, I didn’t dare go on a date. I remember reading an article once that said men’s worst fear on a first date is that the woman is fat. There are multiple, bullshit videos on the Internet which confirmed to me at that time, that if I went dating, I would always be a disappointment. I went online, I talked to people, but I never made it on a date. Each missed date, each deleted number only confirmed to me that fat girls can’t fall in love.

Then one day, after two long years in the dating desert, several lectures by all my married friends and a genuine fear I may never talk to another man again, I begun talking to a guy and I liked him. He made me laugh, he was generally hilarious and a complete DILF. I braved it, downed 2 glasses of wine and met him. It was one of the best first dates I have ever had. After 3 hours of genuine fun, he kissed me and we dated for two months. Sure it didn’t work out, he was still in love with his wife, but I’d bloody been on a date, and he hadn’t vomited in his mouth when he saw me. It made me wonder, maybe men aren’t as one-dimensional as the media would insinuate?

So I dated, this year in particular, I have dated a fair amount. I have met a myriad of men, and not one has jumped out of a toilet window because I am fat. Yet my eating disorder still impacts on my dating life, and occasionally, my dating life impacts on my eating disorder.

When you have a mental illness that thrives on your low self worth and poor body image, being ghosted, zombied or pied on a regular basis can’t help but provide a nurturing breeding ground for ill thoughts. My logical mind can make sense of it, “he’s not ready”, “You don’t have much in common”, “He’s married (!)” but my eating disorder brain will always bring it back to being one thing…”it’s because you’re fat.”

At times, I have sabotaged dates because my ill brain is certain they are too good looking for me, they won’t fancy me, they deserve better. I have cancelled dates, deleted dating apps and given up on trying altogether. There have been countless wasted opportunities just to have some fun because my eating disorder likes to ruin things.

If I suck it up and go on a date, the prep beforehand becomes quite ridiculous. At one point I was getting a spray tan every week, because apparently a spray tan hides the fact you’re fat (?). Before I begun therapy, almost every event in my life followed a pattern, plan for an event, restrict my food intake and panic I am too fat to go, restrict more, binge, restrict, binge, event arrives, I would cancel the event. It was a never-ending cycle that I replicated for many years and it affected my friendships, let alone my dating experiences.

And then there’s the dates themselves. Ever tried going on a dinner date with an eating disorder? Oh it’s such fun. I particularly like barely being able to hear my date speak because the menu and my mind are screaming at the top of their voices about my choices around food. Whether or not I should eat the salad or the ribs or just order a glass of water and be done with it. And there’s this current fitspo world we are living in where everyone loves a chat about diets. Recently, I went for drinks with a guy and two gins in, things were going well, until half way through the date he begun talking about food and diet. He talked me through what he eats on a regular day and the training he does. I sat there and nodded and gritted my teeth as he rapidly triggered every eating disorder thought in my brain. I was convinced he was trying to let me down gently and offer support for decreasing my bulging belly. And apparently it’s not good form to scream “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” in anyone’s face, although on this occasion I could probably have allowed it.

If I get through the first date, or perhaps even the second, then comes the moment I have to decide whether to tell them. To trust them with this thing that I am holding. I want to explain it, for it to make sense. I want them to know why sometimes I can’t get out of bed, or that I’m secretive, or moody or aloof. I want them to understand why I might not want to go out for dinner, or get dressed or be kind. I want to explain why sometimes I need to be alone, to think, to have quiet, to be me. On occasions, they have found this blog and I haven’t had the chance to explain myself, to make it make sense. And that’s hard. I am not ashamed of my eating disorder, if anything I am proud of where I have been, but I want to get the chance to explain it, not to have it explained for me.

As I take steps to improve my mental health, and my eating disorder brain gets quieter, I know that dating is getting easier. I’m finding I am more relaxed about taking chances, quicker to bounce back from rejections and more keen to ‘give it a go’. I spend less time trying to make myself perfect for dates, and more time assuring myself that I can offer more than a pretty face or a good body to somebody. I am also learning that everyone has their thing, their hang up, their baggage. No one comes to the table completely scar free, and those scars are as interesting and beautiful as perfection. Sure there are days when it is harder, when I might cancel, rearrange or feel those pangs of self doubt. But I know what it is, and in this circumstance it’s completely appropriate to tell that voice to “SHUT UP!”

Are you dating with an eating disorder? Come find me on my socials and lets chat.