When Your Significant Other Has the Appetite of a Syphilitic Baby Bird

Sorry, this is not a post on recognizing the symptoms of avian syphilis, nor is it about the pros and cons of cross-species dating.

Instead, we will consider how the food habits of our loved ones can worm their way into our brains, causing angry, obsessive thoughts, and how to approach the age-old but perplexing proverb, “You Do You.”

Let me begin by saying that my boyfriend, Dan, is the light of my life & fire of my loins.[1] Without his unconditional support and encouragement, I may not have had the guts to get myself some help with this whole ED thing.

But Dan is also a thin person with a tiny appetite. For example: the other day, I complimented the look of his torso, astonished that he now seems to sport an 8-pack of abs. According to him, most of these “abs” are protruding ribs (…oops). He is not, however, sickly or undernourished. It’s just that his body has always been this way. Because his natural body weight is lower than mine, it makes sense that he should have less of an appetite.

That doesn’t stop it from infuriating me, though.

During treatment, there were times I hated him, appallingly and selfishly. When you start a recovery program, you don’t get the layperson’s luxury of “eating until full.” You eat until you finish your goddamn food. So I’d sit there at the dinner table, staring at the portion of stir fry still on his plate, and fume. “It’s not fair that you get to eat less!” I’d whine. “YOU HAVE TO EAT ALL OF YOUR FUCKING FOOD, TOO!” I’d bark between tearful mouthfuls. Have you ever wanted to see a full-grown woman regress into the temper tantrums of her diapered youth? Just head on over to your nearest ED treatment facility!


“I hate you and all things,” said Kat hangrily.

I felt terrible for the way I treated him, this man who cradled me and held my hand while I thought about choking him with his leftover spaghetti. But he understood, better than I did, that this cranky and belligerent Kat was just a phase of the process.

Now I am starting to separate the idea of how much Dan eats from the way his body looks. Despite what popular culture and even “science” wants us to believe, different people process food differently. Some people with bodies larger than mine don’t get as hungry as I do, and some tiny people have to shovel food in all day to keep up with their metabolisms.

Nature’s idiosyncrasies can drive you mad, if you let them. The only way to deal with these comparisons is to stop indulging in them, which is no easy feat. I believe that everyone in our culture struggles with assessing their bodies and eating habits in relation to those of others. For people in the throes of an eating disorder, comparisons are a full-time job.

So, in recovery, you have to keep your head down and repeat to yourself, “Oh yeah that’s right I’m doin’ me.”[2] And maybe try be nice to your significant other, even if he does eat like a syphilitic baby bird.


[1] I told him that this post is a flattering treatise on all of his laudable traits, from calm demeanor to sparse & graying chest hair. (It is not.)

[2] Drake voiceover and table dancing optional.


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