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Trying to help my boyfriend. Unsure about what's wrong. Help?

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This topic contains 11 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  suzyt 4 years, 6 months ago.

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    This is my first post. I personally don’t have a food related disorder but I think my boyfriend does and if we don’t get help soon I’m worried it will be the end of our 5 year relationship.

    I’m not a doctor and don’t want to pin a diagnosis on him but he shows signs of what I think may be a food addiction or eating disorder. He’s 5″11 and is around 15 stone (210 pounds). I’m worried about him because his eating habits seem excessive, out of control and erratic.

    He has been overweight most of his life. His mum put him on diets at an early age and wasn’t around too much during his high school years, his dad had an affair and left the picture pretty early on. I don’t know if this has anything to do with it but I think it may have sparked the initial problem.

    His weight is currently increasing without signs of stopping or slowing down, he smokes and drinks regularly though not excessively and i’m worried about him. How can I help him?

    I have tried over the 5 years we have been together to talk to him about food and his eating habits but it has always ended in arguments with him becoming aggressive or dominating and insisting that he is in control and that I need to stop interfering. I have tried to encourage more exercise by offering to exercise together but he is sedentary. He has a desk job during the day and will spend his spare time on the sofa playing xbox.

    As far as eating is concerned, he does eat very large portions of food (often until he feels sick) and seems unable to not eat leftovers if they are hanging around in the kitchen, even for breakfast the next day (before having his usual breakfast). He eats a lot of bread and will eat a lot of food whilst in the process of cooking a meal but I worry that he may be eating alone or in secret. Surely he would not be 15-16 stone if he were only eating 3 large meals a day? I feel out of my depth here and want to help but he is so stubborn and says that there’s nothing he can do about it.

    As a result of his weight gain we no longer have sex since I am less attracted to him and the eating/weight issue is like an unspoken obstacle that neither of us know how to deal with. I know this will be affecting his confidence and feel bad about it but I really feel that we need to deal with this before we can get our relationship back to normal. He prefers to ignore things.

    Lately he has become stressed due to changes at work and last week became very angry and started destroying things in the house. We both seem to be alone in this together and it’s making us both very unhappy. Last night we stayed up late trying to talk things through but he just keeps saying there’s nothing he can do about it. We are trapped in a sexless relationship and I don’t understand what is happening.

    I feel useless and frustrated. Is there anything we can do or am I kidding myself? Please help!



    Hi Foxfacw.

    From what you’ve said in your post, your boyfriend is certainly caught in a self destructive pattern of behaviour here.

    You say that you’ve been together for 5 years, can I ask you when your boyfriend started doing what he’s doing? Is it fairly recent or has it been going on a while?



    Hi Stu1027,

    Thanks for replying so quickly.

    He’s been in this pattern since before he met me according to what he’s told me. I think it began getting out of control for him during high school when he was bullied for being overweight. He said he would then buy lots of food and eat in secret to make himself feel better.



    He’s 30 now by the way so I’m guessing it’s been at least 15 years or so.



    I replied so quickly because I recognise the person you’re describing in your post. That person was me up until a couple of years ago.

    You’re boyfriend is stuck in a very serious depression and, probably has been for most of his life. It’s an awful thing to have to go through-for both of you.

    Resisting all reasonable offers of help and support from you is a classic blocking tactic and you’re going to find it extremely difficult to break through that.

    The worst thing you can do is get caught in the pattern with him. It will weaken you and will also serve to justify you’re boyfriend’s view of his life. My advice to you would be to be supportive but not smothering. If he instigates a conversation, participate but allow him to talk and offer not much in the way of advice-just listen and ask him questions about what HE’S going to do with himself not what you’re going to do to help him.

    He needs to come to terms in his own mind that he has a problem and he’s not going to accept that he has from anyone but himself.

    As far as the food thing goes, if you do the cooking, really investigate good, healthy wholesome food. Make sure that that is what you buy when you do your shopping. Don’t buy tons of treats/sweets/sugary fizzy drinks/cakes etc etc. Make sure that the cupboards are not stuffed full of that kind of stuff. If he wants that make sure he has to physically go and get it for himself. If you need a treat (we all do!!) have them out of the house (at work, family & friends etc etc ) and don’t let him know that that is what you do.

    For yourself, hopefully this hasn’t happened, don’t let yourself go. Wear nice clothes and pay attention to your appearance. Be light and breezy and happy around your boyfriend. When you need to vent, and you will, confide in a close friend or go to your most trusted family member and vent at them. That’s what they are there for.

    Hopefully, a combination of these things will help your boyfriend to see that he has a problem and needs to do something about it. I hope that’s what happens. But foxface, you need to be clear with yourself. Decide what it is that YOU want and make the next few months about trying to get there. But be honest with yourself-there is only ever going to be so much you can do. The most difficult thing about this awful awful disease is that it’s only really the person suffering from it that can help themselves.

    I wish you luck and, if you need to talk I’m always here.




    Hey there..I agree with what Stu said…he is caught in the bingeing cycle, probably along with a depression..and while its great that you want to help him, there is nothing really you can do besides be supportive until he really wants to change. It has to come from him. So I guess you need to ask yourself whether you can let it go and let him come to you for help if he wants it, or if its something that you can’t live with in a partner. Unfortunately its a very sneaky eating disorder so if he feels like you are policing his eating, it’ll almost be thrilling for him to try to sneak food behind your back. Best role for you to play is just as a support if he wants to talk about it…but the more pressure you put on him to stop and lose weight, the harder it’ll be for him to get to that place where he wants to. The more pressure I felt from my ex to stop over eating, the more it made me want to over eat behind his back almost to spite him (as bad as that sounds) Anyways very sweet of you to want to help him out! He is a lucky guy! ~Lauren



    Thanks both of you. What you have said has really helped me to get clarity on what’s happening. I recognise a lot of the behaviour you talk about, he’s even admitted that he will eat to spite me if I try to interfere.

    Yesterday we talked and I let him know that I will be there if he needs me but that it’s up to him if he decides to tackle it or not. I did ask him to give me a bit of space though since sometimes I find it very frustrating, especially when I’m under so much pressure to fulfil the sexual side of our relationship. It can seem like he’s being very selfish but I know this is simply because he hasn’t got control over the disorder.

    I think he will benefit from the space too and maybe it’ll allow him to focus on himself more.

    This may seem like a daft question but is there a general recovery process? Could he be like this forever or will it just take time? I just don’t know how long I can keep fighting this thing but I don’t want to give up either!



    Sorry to post again – I was thinking about counselling as an option. He doesn’t open up easily and even less easily about this topic but could counselling be helpful or would it just make him feel controlled? I don’t want to push him into anything i’m just wondering what his options are.



    Hi Foxface.

    Glad you’re in a slightly more positive frame of mind today.

    Personally speaking, I can tell you that this illness has been with me for a very very long time. As long as I can remember in fact.

    As a child, I was always on the big side and that caused it’s problems-you know what kids can be like. I was bullied because I was fat and that went on for a good few years, right into secondary school in fact. When I left school and went to work, my self esteem issues were compounded by how I saw myself in the world and how I felt as a person. The only time I felt truly at peace was when I was alone, in my bedroom, eating. Of course, doing that for as long as I did, the weight piled on and by the time I was 18, I was pushing 19 stone.

    And so the pattern began. Put on weight, diet and feel better. Put on weight again, diet and feel better. I spent the best part of the next 12 years yo-yoing up and down, trying to keep a smile on my face for the outside world but, on the inside desperately unhappy.

    I had girlfriends but successfully sabotaged every single relationship through a marriage of my eating disorder and classic passive-aggressive pattern behaviour until eventually, I got to two and a bit years ago, pushing 23 stone and vowing to do something about it this one last time.

    I guess that’s the point your boyfriend has to get to but, as I said before, he has to get there by himself. He has to admit to himself that he has a problem and want to do something about it. I’m not sure he’s there yet. It’s certainly very commendable that you want to support him and help him through this terrible affliction but you have to understand before you fully commit to it that it will not be an overnight fix. It could take years and, it will not only fundamentally affect your boyfriend but you also. In short, it will get worse before it gets better.

    From my point of view, I think it’s actually a blessing that I never managed to hold onto a relationship. It’s bad enough being afflicted this way let alone dragging somebody else down with me but, that has led for a lonely life which by supreme irony, contributes to the problem.

    All I’m really trying to say here is, life is all about the decisions you make. Your boyfriend has a long hard road ahead of him and, you have the choice to take it with him or to not. Whichever decision you take has it’s consequences and both decisions will change you. You have to have your eyes open to that. What you must not do is focus on a happy ending because that is completely out of your control. You must understand that.

    I’m sure your boyfriend doesn’t want to hurt you but the sad fact is, he will and he won’t even know he’s doing it for the most part. As much as he needs support so do you and you will get that here if you want it. Be true to yourself, accept the consequences of that and you will move on. Your life is not set even though it might feel that it is at the moment. Focus on today instead of tomorrow and you won’t go far wrong. For the times that you do, that’s what we’re here for.

    Here’s to a good day.



    Hey…well I think its a good idea that you asked for some space because right now he is caught in a self-destructive cycle and if its dragging you down, there is not reason to be a part of it. I think its hard to say how long recovery takes…because its different for everyone. I struggled for 4 years with it but it easily could have continued for my lifetime if I hadn’t been REALLY trying to recovery during that whole time. Some people get grips on it sooner than others, but again, its all up to self-motivation and determination to over come it. Sure therapy definitely helps get to the origin of where the bingeing comes from and to work through the emotions he is trying to numb with eating…but again, until he’s ready to put in the work, it probably won’t lead to recovery.



    Hello, I’m new here, and this is the post that made me register.

    I have almost the same problem with my boyfriend.

    He very reluctantly admitted to having a binge eating disorder and he told me that this has been going on for the past 6-7 years. So far I am the only one who knows about it, and he made me promise not to say anything to friends and family and I don’t want to break his trust.

    He’s 23 now, not obese but has put on weight considerably for the last 3-4 months.

    He’s very good at dieting, partly because he doesn’t have good eating habits, never eats healthy or at regular intervals. He eats maybe once a day (binge periods excluded) and eats a lot then.

    The weight is not a problem because having known him for a long time, I know he’ll shed it in less than a month if he wants to.

    I just want to help him get through the disorder, because I worry about what this is doing to his self-esteem and personality.

    He is a really good guy, I know he’ll listen to everything I say and I know he wants to get over the disorder.

    I just don’t know what to do EXACTLY to help him.

    I am already getting him to eat healthier foods like oatmeal and told him not to eat out. I’m a good cook, so I will prepare whatever he wants to eat at home so at least it’ll be healthier and I can control the portions somewhat.

    I wanted to know what you guys did exactly to get through the disorder. Please don’t tell me to go to a doctor, I know he will never agree to that.




    Hiya safioux. Firstly just wanted to say welcome and how awesome it is that you are here on your boyfriend’s behalf, he is lucky to have you. I guess you just need to be there to support & listen – it’s quite an internal thing and just being there when he needs/wants to talk about it can really help. Often we feel there is no-one to talk to, so it’s great that he has you. It’s also brilliant that you cook for him, but I would guard against telling him not to eat out: we often have a lot of rules about food that actually we need to break, so giving him another rule to adhere to may not be the best thing. When you say he eats only once a day, do you know why? And that he is good at dieting.. is he always on a diet? Maybe he just gets too hungry! Or perhaps there are other underlying reasons, like some emotions that he is trying to deal with or cover up by eating. Have you spoken to him about why he does it?

    Of course he would be so welcome here to come and talk to people just like him who know exactly what he is going through. It certainly helped me to talk to others who had been through the same thing as me. Try not to pressure him too much, but know that both of you have our support xx

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