My girlfriend visits your site constantly, so I figured this might be a way to reach out to her. We recently moved in together after dating for four years, and I soon noticed how out of whack her eating and exercising habits are. I never said anything before because I figured she had been this way behind closed doors for a while, and while I knew she was health conscious she's taken it to a whole other level. She is about 5'4" and weighs 106 lbs. She works out every single day for at least 60-70 minutes (mostly running on the treadmill or using the elliptical trainer; always lots of cardio), and she really limits what she eats. She eats the same foods all the time. Dry cereal, fruits/vegetables, salads, nuts, and occasionally a serving of rice or pasta. What's become most concerning is her recent obsession with the scale. She weighs herself religiously, at least four or five times a day, stressing and crying if she gains just two or three pounds of water weight. I worry that this will begin to affect her work life as well as her personal life since she rarely goes out with friends anymore. My real question is what should I do about this? Does she have an eating disorder? Should I confront her? I have tried to address this in the past, but she always gets defensive and storms out. I am not the only one who has noticed her recent weight loss, and I could really use some help in making my next move. I love her and I do not want to see her suffer, so any advice will be much appreciated.
— Concerned Conner
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Dear Concerned Conner,
Since I am not a doctor I don't want to diagnose your girlfriend but it's very clear she has some serious control issues about her weight. Eating disorders are very serious illnesses that need to be treated just like any other disease so I'm glad that she's no longer able to hide her unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, even though I'm sure it's very scary to see.
When your weight takes over your life, which in this case it clearly has, it's time to get help. Since she got defensive once before, you're going to have to proceed with caution. Talk to her in a safe environment and let her know how worried you are about her in a loving and supportive manner. Witnessing someone suffering from an eating disorder can make you have your own feelings of guilt, anxiety, and confusion, but know that no matter how hard you try, the decision to stop this behavior is ultimately up to her. Feel good about being there for her and doing everything you can to help. Thankfully there are great resources out there that offer you both support. Check out the National Eating Disorders Association, Something Fishy, or Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders's websites to ask questions and gain support.
Letting go of the control your girlfriend has established is going to be hard to do, but it is possible with a lot of hard work and a great support system. Talk to her friends and family, ask them to do their part in helping her and hopefully she'll want to change her ways. Be aware that she might be angry with you for trying to help her, but at the end of the day, she's very lucky to have such a loving and supportive person in her life. I wish her luck.