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You Asked: How Can I Help My Girlfriend?

Dear Sugar,

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

To see Dear Sugar's answer

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.

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shockinglyneon shockinglyneon 8 years
I think its great that you're taking a step to help her! Just because its on here doesnt matter, you are being directed to websites that can help the situation and possibly helping someone else in a similar situation. I really wish the best for you and your girlfriend!!!xsophiex: your answer is great! I have an ed but people wouldn't know it by looking at me. Theres so much more to eating disorders than just the not eating/purging, but most people seem to not understand that.
shockinglyneon shockinglyneon 8 years
I think its great that you're taking a step to help her! Just because its on here doesnt matter, you are being directed to websites that can help the situation and possibly helping someone else in a similar situation. I really wish the best for you and your girlfriend!!! xsophiex: your answer is great! I have an ed but people wouldn't know it by looking at me. Theres so much more to eating disorders than just the not eating/purging, but most people seem to not understand that.
Asia84 Asia84 8 years
you coming on here isn't going to help. i mean, there are a few on here who have gave great comments and have experience in this area. but you should be calling some body who has a pHD is this stuff, not a bunch of fashion-fanatics who like to talk about cheating boyfriends (no offense ladies, we're all fab and intelligent, but honestly, why are we on the Sugar site??)so, seek professional help. get an 800-number, whatever you have to do. your GF needs help possibly, so get it for her.
Asia84 Asia84 8 years
you coming on here isn't going to help. i mean, there are a few on here who have gave great comments and have experience in this area. but you should be calling some body who has a pHD is this stuff, not a bunch of fashion-fanatics who like to talk about cheating boyfriends (no offense ladies, we're all fab and intelligent, but honestly, why are we on the Sugar site??) so, seek professional help. get an 800-number, whatever you have to do. your GF needs help possibly, so get it for her.
Asia84 Asia84 8 years
4 years and you just now found this out???!?!?that's like saying, i never knew she was smoking crack until i found the pipe yesterday.there are signs, and you are JUST now noticing them?i think there is more to this story, like her being overly stressed about work, family, hell, maybe you and her moving in together.whatever is wrong with her, just know that you aren't gonna be the savior who swoops in, and she begins eatting cheeseburgers again.
Asia84 Asia84 8 years
4 years and you just now found this out???!?!? that's like saying, i never knew she was smoking crack until i found the pipe yesterday. there are signs, and you are JUST now noticing them? i think there is more to this story, like her being overly stressed about work, family, hell, maybe you and her moving in together. whatever is wrong with her, just know that you aren't gonna be the savior who swoops in, and she begins eatting cheeseburgers again.
mlen mlen 8 years
i agree with some people above- its not the weight, or even the weighing herself many times that is worrisome- its the reaction when she gains weight that is troubling. i mean lets face it- no girl likes to gain weight but overly stressing and crying over a few lbs is not healthy. eating healthy and exercising is great- as long as its not going to the extreme and consuming her. i read a really intersting article recently and i can't remember what magazine it was in, so if anyone else read it please let him know, but it was a husband's perspective on his wife's disorder. and he learned several things. one is you can't push someone to seek help- they need to acknowledge on their own they need it. you can be supportive and should be but pushing her will just push her away. two- it really is a mental disease. this husband decided to secretly try out what an eating disorder was like on his own. he ran an extra few miles every morning and really limited his caloric intake. he said the first few days he was starving but after that he started to see it as a conquest when he wouldn't give in to the hunger and such. it became a mental game and it finally made sense to him. and three- a lot of times it is the stress of other things and this is something under her control. weight is something we have a power over- which might be why her gaining a few lbs makes her so upset- cause she feels another thing under her control has slipped. honestly i don't have any experiences with eating disorders but what i can say from what i have read is you just have to be there for her. support her. talk to her about what else is going on in her life. but do keep an eye out. if she starts eating less and less or other signs, then you might have to step up and confront her about her health.and whether she really does have an eating disorder or not- props to you for being concerned about her well being and seeking advice.
mlen mlen 8 years
i agree with some people above- its not the weight, or even the weighing herself many times that is worrisome- its the reaction when she gains weight that is troubling. i mean lets face it- no girl likes to gain weight but overly stressing and crying over a few lbs is not healthy. eating healthy and exercising is great- as long as its not going to the extreme and consuming her. i read a really intersting article recently and i can't remember what magazine it was in, so if anyone else read it please let him know, but it was a husband's perspective on his wife's disorder. and he learned several things. one is you can't push someone to seek help- they need to acknowledge on their own they need it. you can be supportive and should be but pushing her will just push her away. two- it really is a mental disease. this husband decided to secretly try out what an eating disorder was like on his own. he ran an extra few miles every morning and really limited his caloric intake. he said the first few days he was starving but after that he started to see it as a conquest when he wouldn't give in to the hunger and such. it became a mental game and it finally made sense to him. and three- a lot of times it is the stress of other things and this is something under her control. weight is something we have a power over- which might be why her gaining a few lbs makes her so upset- cause she feels another thing under her control has slipped. honestly i don't have any experiences with eating disorders but what i can say from what i have read is you just have to be there for her. support her. talk to her about what else is going on in her life. but do keep an eye out. if she starts eating less and less or other signs, then you might have to step up and confront her about her health. and whether she really does have an eating disorder or not- props to you for being concerned about her well being and seeking advice.
BRANDYNICOLE730 BRANDYNICOLE730 8 years
I mean, come on, he's asking for help, so he obviously sees something wrong with the situation. Don't downplay his concern.
BRANDYNICOLE730 BRANDYNICOLE730 8 years
I find it sad that all these ladies are defending her actions as just health-conscious. Don't listen to them, you see how she's acting, you said yourself you've noticed her losing weight, those are red flags. Even just eating a vegan diet can be unhealthy if not done correctly, as far as taking supplements to make up for the lack of vitamins they aren't consuming. One of the first things you can do, and not freak her out, try to get her on a vitamin and mineral regimine. And, ladies don't excuse this damaging behavior as normal, EDs can kill. It is quite possible to health-freak yourself right into the hospital.
Sun_Sun Sun_Sun 8 years
i dont have much insight on eating disroders and how to deal with them. what i can say, however, is that u did a great thing bringing this situation up on dear sugar. not only do u get good advice but ur girlfriend might come to a realization when she sees this in print =) good job! and good luck!
lemassabielle lemassabielle 8 years
Everyone who is saying what she is doing is healthy is dead wrong. I helped at a camp for women with eating disorders once and this is screaming eating disorder to me. It is taking over her life and crossing the line of healthy into unhealthy. Working out is good 30 minutes of cardio is great, but she is going way overboard. The good sign is she is eating but most people with disorders will weight themselves obsessively throughout the day and cry if they even gain half a pound. It sounds like it's controlling her life and defensiveness is a sign that something is up. It almost always is...
cubadog cubadog 8 years
I never said I was a doctor. However, I do have a degree in Exercise Physiology.
nicachica nicachica 8 years
i hope that the girl this post is about recognizes herself and realizes that her boyfriend cares very much about her and that she starts to take a healthier approach to her lifestyle.
LikeThoseShoes LikeThoseShoes 8 years
meant to say most def. DONT have an eating disorder. she is probably just over reacting if she's never gained weight before
LikeThoseShoes LikeThoseShoes 8 years
I'm 5'5" and weigh 105 and most def. I wouldnt focus so much on her weight as aposed to her behavior about this. I will admit there are time that I get upset about gaining wait and its simply because I'm so used to being the size that I am and constantly being told by female family members that one day I'm gonna blow up. I think your GF may be getting scared of the thought of gaining weight but you should def. try and talk to her or even ask one of her good friends to speak to her... maybe even her parents... because this could quite possibly turn INTO an eating dissorder and then you'll really have a problem to deal with. The fact that she has stopped hanging out with friends and is checking her scale constantly makes me worry for her. for being as little as she is the last thing she should be worrying about is checking the scale 24/7
breye breye 8 years
Berlin, some of your suggestions and advise are great, but saying that that someone "should" be a certain weight is treading on thin ice. No two bodies are the same and determining such a small window of "appropriate" weight is an unfair determination of whether or not an individual is healthy.
krys786 krys786 8 years
I agree with Dear's advice. Your girlfriend is very fortunate to have such a supportive man. It's amazingly sweet that you came on this site to seek advice on this. Good luck with everything.
halfbakedjake halfbakedjake 8 years
THANK you XSofieX, I feel the exact same way. people, are you not getting how freakishly abnormal it is to weigh yourself 5 or 6 times a day and CRY over water weight? also, if this was a case of a girl eating a normal-to-large amount of food, but then throwing up, would you say its not an ED cuz at least she's eating? there's a hell of a lot more to ED than "not eating". This poor girl's psychological make up can not be in good shape if she beats herself up so much over a couple pounds of water weight. That is not healthy behaviour.
halfbakedjake halfbakedjake 8 years
THANK you XSofieX, I feel the exact same way. people, are you not getting how freakishly abnormal it is to weigh yourself 5 or 6 times a day and CRY over water weight? also, if this was a case of a girl eating a normal-to-large amount of food, but then throwing up, would you say its not an ED cuz at least she's eating? there's a hell of a lot more to ED than "not eating". This poor girl's psychological make up can not be in good shape if she beats herself up so much over a couple pounds of water weight. That is not healthy behaviour.
Berlin Berlin 8 years
I am a personal trainer, so I'll give my advice from that angle. As for the girl/doctor that said her ideal should be up to 150 lbs? That's ridiculous and just feeding into people's stigma with being too thin and saying that plump is just as desirable. Fact of the matter is, at that weight she should be between 105-116 depending on her body fat % and more importantly muscle concentration. If she is doing cardio then she is just burning through all the food that she does eat, stretching out the muscles and making them long and lean...HOWEVER she is also going into damage mode b/c she won't be building muscle and will in the end start causing muscle atrophy to wear the constant cardio will start eating the muscle if the food stays limited. She definitely needs to try and change the mix...get her to do 4-5 days of HEAVY strength training, 1 day of cardio, and 1-2 days off. Plus she needs to be getting protein in her diet, and lots of it like fish and chicken!It really helps if you talk to her about what she wants to look like...get a very specific goal in both of your heads about what is the ideal that she is trying to achieve, otherwise this rocky road of cardio with limited foods and scale reading will turn into a mess and she won't even know where she's going, other than "scale goes up, that means bad." In that mindset, it's very simple, just like "water good, fire bad" it goes along with the same reasoning. If you don't have a goal, then you can't talk about it and can't ever have a drive to get to where you want to be. Her issues with the scale and crying are issues that need to be addressed, but not by you (I'm also a studying psychologist, so I'm very aware of how handling these issues can be). It will cause her to be on the defensive and alone with the problems. ** Here's the biggest thing!! You want to help her? YOU cannot...persay. This (truly) is what you need to do in my opinion...be there for her, be her support, her rock. She'll appreciate it and will trust in you and come to you when in need. As for her problems with weight and exercise...get her a personal trainer!! One that is good, and concentrates on nutrition, goals, and muscle building (do research online, don't just go up to your local gym...they are just cracks looking to make money and don't really know what they are doing). Then it is a person that knows what they are talking about, they can help her regain control and structure, put her on the right foods and they won't let her slip. But it's a third party that can handle it far better than someone that's so intimately involved. It can be on the pricier side, but (from experience) it's the only way to crack that routine that severe exercisers/extreme healthy eaters are in, and put them on the right track...b/c in her mind, right now she just feels lost. Good luck and feel free to send a message if you have any other questions about this!!
Berlin Berlin 8 years
I am a personal trainer, so I'll give my advice from that angle. As for the girl/doctor that said her ideal should be up to 150 lbs? That's ridiculous and just feeding into people's stigma with being too thin and saying that plump is just as desirable. Fact of the matter is, at that weight she should be between 105-116 depending on her body fat % and more importantly muscle concentration. If she is doing cardio then she is just burning through all the food that she does eat, stretching out the muscles and making them long and lean...HOWEVER she is also going into damage mode b/c she won't be building muscle and will in the end start causing muscle atrophy to wear the constant cardio will start eating the muscle if the food stays limited. She definitely needs to try and change the mix...get her to do 4-5 days of HEAVY strength training, 1 day of cardio, and 1-2 days off. Plus she needs to be getting protein in her diet, and lots of it like fish and chicken! It really helps if you talk to her about what she wants to look like...get a very specific goal in both of your heads about what is the ideal that she is trying to achieve, otherwise this rocky road of cardio with limited foods and scale reading will turn into a mess and she won't even know where she's going, other than "scale goes up, that means bad." In that mindset, it's very simple, just like "water good, fire bad" it goes along with the same reasoning. If you don't have a goal, then you can't talk about it and can't ever have a drive to get to where you want to be. Her issues with the scale and crying are issues that need to be addressed, but not by you (I'm also a studying psychologist, so I'm very aware of how handling these issues can be). It will cause her to be on the defensive and alone with the problems. ** Here's the biggest thing!! You want to help her? YOU cannot...persay. This (truly) is what you need to do in my opinion...be there for her, be her support, her rock. She'll appreciate it and will trust in you and come to you when in need. As for her problems with weight and exercise...get her a personal trainer!! One that is good, and concentrates on nutrition, goals, and muscle building (do research online, don't just go up to your local gym...they are just cracks looking to make money and don't really know what they are doing). Then it is a person that knows what they are talking about, they can help her regain control and structure, put her on the right foods and they won't let her slip. But it's a third party that can handle it far better than someone that's so intimately involved. It can be on the pricier side, but (from experience) it's the only way to crack that routine that severe exercisers/extreme healthy eaters are in, and put them on the right track...b/c in her mind, right now she just feels lost. Good luck and feel free to send a message if you have any other questions about this!!
cubadog cubadog 8 years
Thank you XSofieX. Someone that has been there commenting on it. You all should have watched Intervention last night the poor girl ate nothing but vegetables and took in only 800 calories a day.
XSofieX XSofieX 8 years
OMG I'm SO tired of people saying "well she must not have an ED since she eats", are you kidding me??! If she didn't eat she would be dead within weeks, my guess is that she eat under a 1000 cals a day which is a starvation diet but also quite a lot of food for the untrained eye. I've had an ED and trust me, the stereotypical image of a skeletal girl who never eats is so not the reality - yes most girls with EDs are skinny but an ED is about everything BUT food, you have no idea what a hell it is to go through this and I applaud her boyfriend for trying to help her. Even if someone consider her lifestyle healthy her behaviour certainly isn't and remember that an ED is mental - those mental destructive thoughts are what needs to be adressed not the fact that she eats healthy or works out a bit too much!
XSofieX XSofieX 8 years
OMG I'm SO tired of people saying "well she must not have an ED since she eats", are you kidding me??! If she didn't eat she would be dead within weeks, my guess is that she eat under a 1000 cals a day which is a starvation diet but also quite a lot of food for the untrained eye. I've had an ED and trust me, the stereotypical image of a skeletal girl who never eats is so not the reality - yes most girls with EDs are skinny but an ED is about everything BUT food, you have no idea what a hell it is to go through this and I applaud her boyfriend for trying to help her. Even if someone consider her lifestyle healthy her behaviour certainly isn't and remember that an ED is mental - those mental destructive thoughts are what needs to be adressed not the fact that she eats healthy or works out a bit too much!
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