Trigger warning: This content contains discussion of an eating disorder and mental health.
When you live a life where every meal is turned into a maths equation of calories, few things are more harrowing than the first dinner date.
The euphoria, anxiety and self-doubt are more than a spoonful and before you know it, you find yourself poking around a £15 bowl of salad, too overwhelmed to even make conversation. Somewhere along the way you’ve forgotten your date’s name…
Dating is hard enough already. Especially so when you are in a committed relationship… with your eating disorder.
Francesca Baker, 36, spoke about the impact her struggles with disordered eating had on her love life.
“I first had a brief foray into over-exercising and undereating when I was 14, for a few months. I always believed I was fat and not good enough (I was a size 10). Then at university where everyone was rich, pretty and exercised lots I wanted to be like them as I hated myself.” said Francesca.
“I quickly lost a lot of weight, and was first diagnosed at 19. Since then I’ve been hospitalised for 15 months, nearly died multiple times, and been threatened with sectioning.”
It was Hilde Bruch, a prominent doctor, professor, and researcher in the late 1900s who first highlighted the role of control in the development and maintenance of eating disorders.
She concluded that initial feelings around the development of disordered eating can make people feel like they achieve “mastery” in one particular area of life in an otherwise chaotic existence.
However, as one goes further down the rabbit hole of control, it’s easy to aim for this control in other areas of your life – dating included.
“At first, I felt invincible,” said Francesca.
“My willpower! My flat stomach! But it quickly becomes a whirlpool of despair. Always cold, hungry and tired. I would be anxious about sex because of my body. I could never be in the moment.”
“I’ve been on dates that I got pretty drunk at because I refused to eat to soak it up! But actually only platonic Bumble BFF matches where I was told if I didn’t want to eat out they didn’t want to be my friend.”
Dating is vulnerable enough, throw in a social setting and you have a recipe for disaster. And while it can be hard to overcome the feeling of judgement over what you order, or how you are perceived, it’s important to share these concerns with your partner whenever possible.
“Do challenge yourself and see if you can try to eat out or in front of someone. Make a meal a home cooked fun experience. Let go and try to be in the moment. And communicate. My fiancé is so supportive and I think it’s because we talk about the challenges.” added Francesca.
Edited by Imogen Bowlt