VULNERABLE ALERT!! Just so we are clear before you go any further, this post is a bit different, but I feel like it has value to it.
Today I want to be really frank about something I feel impacts dating A LOT. A very long while ago I had just gotten back from spending time on a date and walked past the vanity. As I looked at myself in the mirror, the first thought that came was: “I am really glad I am at my thinnest right now, while I am dating him.”
Wait. What did I just say?! “I am glad I am at my thinnest right now, while I am dating ______.” I was grateful that I was so thin because I then wasn’t any heavier than the guy I had just spent time with. And I am at about the lowest end of the weight spectrum for my height!
I want to be real about body weight and eating.
I was talking with a coworker the other day, and she made the comment that body shaming is not just about an excess, or the fact that we have weight. For her, she felt body shame because of a lack of weight! I am sure there are women who wouldn’t believe that could be possible. But body shame is simply looking down on ANY body. Whether we are smaller than we think we should be, or rounder, or flatter, or wider, or taller, or anything-with-an-“er.” But why do we do it?
This is where it gets even more personal, and if you would care to hear my own experiences with this, I would love for you to join me for a few moments. However, if you want to skip to a few of my tips and tricks to try and combat this or help someone you love, head to the bottom of the post, and leave your own ideas in the comments! We can all use some great insights!
But here’s a bit of my deal. I have anxiety about lots of things in life, and when I am anxious, the ability to feel hungry is one of the first things to go. I can go a whole day eating only a cheese stick and a cliff bar. THAT IS REALLY HORRIBLE FOR MY PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH. Thankfully I have picked up on it, and schedule meals or do whatever I have to do to make sure I have fuel to live my life. For me, because I have accidentally had days like that, I know that my body cannot go below a set weight, nor have I tried to get it below that weight! But even then, I do not look in the mirror and go, “wow! I look great!” Which if I am going with the world’s paradigm that thin is beautiful, on a literal level, I should be “beautiful.”
I want to highlight the fact that I believe men participate in as much personal body shaming as women, but for this post, I want to highlight things that men can do to HELP women avoid or curb not eating enough and some of that body shame. Before I jump into that, I have to tell you what I learned this last year. Like I said before when I am under a lot of stress, and for me, relationships can be incredibly stressful, I never feel hungry. I remember to eat because I get a headache or feel sick and realize I haven’t eaten. On the flip side–and when I realized this, it blew my mind!!–when I feel safe, and confident in my relationship, and the relationship is healthy. I AM STARVING almost CONSTANTLY! My body can actually feel and is being honest about how much food I should be eating. I am so convinced our physical and mental health directly affect the health of our relationships and vice-versa. So, I don’t have all the answers, and we’re all on this journey of loving and caring for ourselves and others, I hope this is a kick start for anyone finding themselves, or their best love, having a hard time with eating enough.
Things to look for, and pay attention to:
- Does she always turn down food?
- Does she ever pick the restaurant? You never know if she really doesn’t like the food to begin with. (here’s a secret: if she says she doesn’t care. Pick three that you would love, tell her that you would love any of them, and have her pick from those.)
- Does she eat more/ act more comfortable when you make dinner at home vs. when you go out to eat? Or the other way around?
- Is she eating enough for her lifestyle? Does she hit the gym really hard, but not eat much?
- Has her weight fluctuated to where she doesn’t look or seem like herself? (A man who stops and says, “Hey, how are you, really?” Is the man who is wanting to build a castle of a relationship and not a condo. )
- Does she seem overscheduled? Does she just skip meals? ( she might just feel too busy to eat)
- How is your relationship as a whole?
- Does she talk about her weight/size/shape a lot?
(Important note: A woman’s eating disorder is not yours to fix, but you can be a HUGE support to her in her journey. Please do not take it on as your own burden, but be her rock, and support. )
Ways to bring up the topic: (These are openers, and you two take it from there.)
- DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT FOCUS ON WEIGHT!!!!!
- “I noticed when we were with friends tonight, you didn’t feel like eating anything. How are you feeling tonight?”
- “I love eating out( or eating in), but do you feel more comfortable eating out or making dinner at home?”
- “I know you’re training for _______________, have you thought about setting up a meal plan to help you reach your goal?”
- “I know you’ve been super busy with _____________. What do you usually do for lunch and dinner?”
- (This is getting really personal, but feel it out, and you can ask the hard questions if you really love them, and are sincere.) “Growing up, did you ever have a hard time eating? Would you tell me if it became hard again?”
- And if it is a real thing for her: “Will you tell me when it’s hard? What could I do to make it easier?”
Ways to Help if she struggles with eating or an eating disorder:
- “I am meal planning for the week, do you want to do it together? “( Date night idea)
- If she gets sick, tell her you’d love to bring dinner over for the next two days, or however long you feel would be helpful. If she already struggles with eating, she probably won’t feel like making food while she is sick, and it would help her recover more quickly and mean a lot that it’s from you.
- If you’re road-tripping pack healthy snacks for the two of you, that are easy to grab and easy on your stomach.
- If you’re home, grab a glass of water for each of you, or tell her the glass on the counter is hers. Even if she doesn’t touch it, it’s at least there, and she’s more likely to get it.
- Give sincere compliments that have nothing to do with a set weight. Eyes, smile, laugh, kindness, enthusiasm, etc. Also, give sincere compliments about her looks, but keep them real, and keep them honest. For the most part, keep them off the weight. Weights are for the gym. “You look beautiful this morning,” or “I love it when you wear your hair down.” Will never ever be cheesy if you sincerely mean it. And for most women—most people!–real compliments mean a lot!
- If you’re doing something active, throw a few granola bars, apples, trail mix, or maybe even PB & J’s, etc. in the car, and make sure she knows that is for the two of you to share. If she isn’t eating enough, she’ll get low on energy really fast, and won’t enjoy the time.
- Make a meal one of the things you two can count on. Maybe you make dinner on her busiest night of the week so she doesn’t have to, or you make breakfast together on Sunday mornings. Some of my favorite memories/evenings were bringing up dinner to share with a boyfriend between his meetings every Tuesday night. Just make an extra effort to make meals a social thing, and an enjoyable thing.
Helps for those trying to make sure they eat:
- Have an SOS dinner stash. Mine includes a few cans of soups, things to make burritos, and other quick things I don’t have to think about. I might make a full list for a future post.
- Make a breakfast routine. Pick 5 things, or even 3 things and rotate them, or make variations so it doesn’t get monotonous, but you also don’t have to put too much thought into it.
- PUT IT IN YOUR PLANNER! Being a full-time student, working part-time, and running my own business, there are times I get “too busy” to eat. That is no bueno. Put it on the plans!
- Try to pinpoint what is triggering not wanting to eat. Is it stress? Is it body image? Is there pressure coming from somewhere? Where is it coming from, etc.?
- Tell who your dating, what exactly is hard for you. This is not a first-date conversation, but find a safe space and share it with the person you are seriously dating.
- Reach out, and decide you want to change your life, by letting someone help. There are professionals who have real answers. (this whole post is simply my thoughts, and not by any stretch the right or only or perfect way. )
Full disclosure, my closest friends are the ones that ask me if I have eaten dinner already. We all need friends, and we all need to be in tune with our own needs and struggles, and can do a lot to help our best loves. We can’t “fix it” for someone else, but we can definitely help.
Lots of love,
UPDATE: I have been so beyond blessed to meet one of the most incredible men to walk the earth, and even more blessed to call him my boyfriend, best friend, favorite dance partner, and my right-hand man. Even though I have always loved the idea of food, the time we have spent making dinners together, grocery shopping, and making a menu has been one of the greatest testaments to me of how couples and families are the divine design. We are created to love and be loved, even though we might not always experience it all. Teams are good, and most things become far lighter burdens when they are talked about and shared. Food may seem like such a simple thing, but I have found that any aspect we make healthier in our lives will help strengthen our relationships and give us more capacity to love those around us more deeply. Don’t be afraid to talk about the hard stuff. It might be hard, but you will be grateful you did. – Tayler