I think relationships are the most important thing in life. Your relationships with yourself, with your friends, with your family, with your significant other, all impact your life tremendously, probably more than any other factor. Relationships can obviously impact your happiness, but they can also impact your health. This has been the case for me, and I have found that it is so important to be aware of how your relationships are effecting your own wellbeing. This is true for anyone and everyone, but relationships are something to think about especially for someone recovering from an eating disorder or just trying to becoming healthier, mentally or physically (or both). For me, whom I had relationships with and how those people treated me played a BIG role in my own recovery and discovery from years of body hate and disordered eating. This is all very vague and it could go in a million directions, but I am going to talk in particular about romantic relationships.
Let me start off by saying I in no way, shape, or form think that you need to have a boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband, or other romantic interest to love yourself. Your self worth can’t be based on someone else’s love for you. You all know that I think this comes from within and you can NOT place your happiness in the hands of someone else. (Note: I started truly recovering from my eating disorder when I was completely single, so I fully believe what I just stated) But, it is impractical to deny that we as humans care what people think and we thrive when having connections with others. It’s natural and part of who we are as social beings. This doesn’t have to be with someone romantically, but romantic relationships are part of life and you will (probably) have them throughout your own life. In my experiences, my relationships (from now on I will just say relationships but I am referring to boyfriends, not friends or family) impacted my eating disorder recovery, body image, and overall health in negative and positive ways at different points in my life. I am so lucky to now be with someone who has helped me so much, and though I don’t think I “needed” Danny to fully recover and foster a healthy relationship with food and my body, our relationship sure has helped the process.
I once had a boyfriend who told me that he loved how skinny I was. He told me that one of his friends made a comment about him having an “anorexic girlfriend” and he said that he wouldn’t like me any bigger, so don’t take that comment in a negative way. At this time, I was very disordered and underweight. Though he didn’t exactly know I had a big problem since I had yet to admit it to anyone (or even myself), I look back and am baffled he didn’t realize it. He told me constantly that he loved how skinny I was and made comments about girls who weren’t skin and bones. At the time, this fed my disorder. I didn’t want to gain weight and not be attractive to my boyfriend. It’s hard to say that he enabled my disorder because maybe, just maybe, he thought that was naturally my body and he was in fact trying to make me feel confident in it and not worry that I was too skinny. He was a good guy in many ways, and I don’t think he would’ve ever tried to hurt me. But the fact that he made those types of comments about my weight AT ALL made me even more hyperaware of my body and pushed me to continue the self destruction to keep the body he desired. Ugh.
Fast forward to many years later, I am now with someone else who is completely different in almost every way, one of them being the way he makes me feel about myself and my body. Don’t get me wrong, I know he thinks I am beautiful and loves the way I look. He tells me this. But…it’s very different. Danny talks about who I am as a person, and he loves my body because it is part of me as a whole. He would never in a million years tell me that he wouldn’t think I was attractive if I gained weight…actually, it’s been quite the opposite as I have gained weight during our relationship and he has only encouraged it. This post was brought on because of a conversation we had recently when we were talking about how sad it is that so many women think they need to have a perfect body, whatever that means, to be found attractive by someone. Danny said, “Seriously though, no one notices if you weight 4 pounds less or if you fit in smaller jeans. Especially if you now are sitting in the corner afraid of eating a burger with your friends and not smiling or having fun. A model could walk in the room and have the picture perfect body but if she has no confidence or personality, then she isn’t even attractive. No one cares what you weigh and I wish all girls would believe that.”
Isn’t he a gem? Ha. But really, Danny has told me multiple times that he likes the way I look, and more importantly the way I act and feel, NOW compared to when we first started dating. I weigh more, but I also laugh more. I weigh more, but I also have more confidence. I weigh more, but I also am more spontaneous. You get the picture. NO ONE CARES WHAT YOU WEIGH. Except for some people do (ahem ex-boyfriend), and in that case, they don’t belong in your life. This is where you have to be aware of how your relationships are effecting you. I look back at a couple past relationships and see how much they haltered my recovery and my health in general. And then I look at my relationship today and I realize how much he has supported and encouraged it. Yes, I wanted to fully recover from every aspect of my eating disorder for myself and my own future. But it hasn’t hurt to also have my relationship with Danny and OUR future as another motivator. Even little comments Danny has made about things he notices me doing differently and how they have made our relationship stronger and our life together more fun have helped tremendously. His support in my journey has pushed me in this past year and half or so of mental recovery (as I have told you guys I was already physically healthy for a while before that) and I am beyond thankful for that. I have gotten myself here, but I have also had help, and that’s what we need as human beings. My relationship with Danny is also a huge motivator for me to continue to be my best healthiest self because I need to be in order to be a good girlfriend to him. Yes, I want to be healthy and happy for my own sake, but I also want to be someone who is fun to be around. Someone who likes to eat a good meal. Someone who is excited for adventures. Someone who will have wine and relax on vacation without worrying about calories.
I have become that person, with the help of an amazing relationship. I have helped myself, but he has helped me too, and I am fully okay with admitting this. Like I said, we are human beings and it’s okay to lean on people when we are not our strongest. I don’t need a man to complete me, but I want this particular one, one who stands by me and loves me for the reasons that matter. And I want to continue loving and taking care of myself fully so that I can in turn be his support system, like he has been for me.
This post was a little all over the place but basically I just wanted to reflect on the fact that relationships are very important for our health and happiness, but they can also hurt you. And this topic is so much more extensive than what I discussed in this post, but these are some experiences I have had and that I now realize have been huge in my recovery and in re-finding my confidence in myself and my body. Loving yourself has to come from within, but because we are people and we care about what others think to a certain extent, we need relationships with those who foster this self-love. I also want to give anyone who has lost it a little hope that there are good guys (or girls) out there. Don’t settle for anyone who makes you feel anything less than beautiful for the reasons that matter, not your jean size.
There are so many people out there that will lift you up and those are the ones worth investing your time in. Love yourself first, but also let others love you and cherish those who love you for who you are. <3
Tell me, how have your own relationships effected your recovery, your body image, or your health in general?