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Bulimia Recovery and Dating: How/Why to Open Up to a New Partner About Your Bulimia

bulimia recovery

- A Guest Post by Our lovely Bulimia Recovery Mentor Clara Toronto

It can be totally nerve-racking to tell a potential partner about your body image issues and bulimia. I’ve been there - it was scary and pretty awkward. If you’ve been there too - you’ll understand! For those of you haven’t gotten to that point yet, you know the anxiety you feel when you even think about it...

It is not easy but it will help create a solid foundation to your relationship and build your confidence!

In this article I will share two real live scenarios from my dating life during my bulimia recovery. One that went really bad and one that went really well.

eating disorders in children
Me, happy with my current partner who knows about my past experiences with bulimia


Scenario #1: The conversation that didn’t go so well and why...

I remember the first boyfriend I talked to about bulimia… We started dating about 3 or 4 months into my recovery after I had found a therapist. I felt that he deserved to know the extent of the emotional roller-coaster that I was. I wanted to give him a heads up so he wouldn’t do or say anything that could throw me in reverse.

The talk went a little like this…. (We’ll call him boy just in case he ever reads this!)

Me: Boy, I would like to tell you something about me because it’s important that you know this.
Boy: Okay….
Me: I developed Bulimia a while back. I am going to therapy and working on recovering from it but... I just wanted you to know.
Boy: Okay…. So, you’re like, okay now?
Me: Yes?

And that was that! Every now and then he would ask me how I was doing with my “condition” and I would say “fine”.

He always did and said things with good intentions… I think he honestly meant well, but the things he would say didn’t actually help. Sometimes when we were on the couch watching movies he would squeeze my sides and say “I love how squishy you are!” or he would say “you don’t even look like you have an eating disorder…” and other unhelpful things like that.

Then the day came that I realized he didn’t have a clue what Bulimia was and he did something particularly painful...

It was around Christmas and we had gone for a run. When we got back he made some eggs and basically guilted me into eating them, even though I tried expressing to him that I wasn’t hungry. It made me mad and I slipped up pretty hard after that. I broke up with him about 2 days later!!!

What could I have done differently?

  1. When I had the talk with boy I should’ve informed him more about what bulimia was (turns out a lot of people don’t know what it is). I could’ve read an article with him or explained it other than assuming he would know. If you click here, you'll find an article to read with someone you're breaking the news to - it will help them understand bulimia.
  2. Another helpful hint along the same lines as the last… Join the Bulimia Recovery Program (BRP) that Shaye has developed and read the guide provided. Once you have that resource/support from the BRP site ask your significant other to read the recovery guide as well. Women in the program have expressed this to be extremely helpful for both them and their partners.
  3. Let him know where I was in my Bulimia Recovery so he knew what to expect. That way, he would have been more aware of my needs. Maybe he would have understood my structured eating plan, or my need for self kindness and help with re-wiring new habits of normal eating. He would have known that guilting me to eat was not helpful!

Scenario #2: The conversation that went well and why...  

The conversation with another potential partner went something like this...

Me: Boy, I would like to tell you something about me because it’s important that you know this.
Boy: Okay….
Me: (shares brief summary of bulimia story and recovery) So anyways, I have gone to therapy and have been pretty good with it since. I still struggle sometimes but ya. I just wanted you to know that I struggled with it.
Boy: Thank you so much for sharing that with me Clara. I hope I can help you if you ever are feeling the temptation. But can I ask… Is bulimia the one where you throw up or don’t eat ever?
Me: (gives an explanation of the forms Bulimia can take and the difference between that and anorexia).
Boy: Wow. Okay. You are beautiful the way you are and I want you to be healthy.
Me: Awe… thank you so much for listening and understanding.

You see the difference between the two conversations? This conversation went a lot better. Reasons being, I was more confident in my bulimia recovery and knew how to discuss it with an outsider. I shared with him, in more detail, my story and my recovery, as well as how it still affected me at the time. He responded in a way that grew my confidence in him and in his ability to give me the support I needed. He also asked for clarification (turns out a lot of people don’t know the difference between anorexia and bulimia and get them mixed up), which gave me the opportunity to clarify what it was and the form I struggled with.

What went right when I talked to him about bulimia

1. We sat down and I shared with him my story and recovery. In that part I shared what I thought brought it on, my personal anxieties that prolonged it, and my triggers.
2. I shared with him where I was in my recovery and that I still struggled with the urge and the body image issues.
3. I was able to explain the difference between the two conditions and what I dealt with personally.

Talking about bulimia is not always easy!

Especially when the other person doesn’t respond how we want or need them to. Make sure that when you share your personal Bulimia Recovery story with someone that you are ready for whatever the outcome may be. Beautiful Girl... you are strong and sharing your bulimia story will help you build on your strength. If someone is unable to accept that, remember, it is not your fault. You did your part. I experienced some negative responses and some positive responses, all the while remembering that this was my bulimia recovery journey… Not theirs.

Precious girl, above all - continue with your journey of self love and kindness... if you do this, recovery from bulimia is yours!

“It is amazing what we can do when we love ourselves.”
Shaye, creator of the Bulimia Recovery Program

Mine and Shaye’s Challenge to You

Sharing your bulimia story only gives you more power over it. It gives you the ability to take control of your bulimia and really start to fight back.

In an article Shaye wrote many years ago, she challenged you to write your story and share it with someone you trust. I would like to extend the same challenge to you. Click here to read her story of opening up - and at the bottom of the page, letters shared by other women in recovery.


Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community

The Bulimia Recovery Program