Alongside the millions of women in the U.S. with eating disorders stand millions of boyfriends, fiancés, and husbands desperate to help, but unsure where to start. For the last two years, I've been one of these men. My fiancée Kelsey has anorexia, and as I prepare to marry her this fall, it's become clear how much her condition has taught me about what men can do—and the many things they'll try to but can't—for the women they love.
Eating disorders disproportionately affect women, so many men may find themselves in my position, but my experience and lessons learned may also apply to women dating men with eating disorders.
Kelsey and I had a beautiful relationship and had talked about marriage before her doctor diagnosed her with anorexia nervosa, or AN, a couple years after we began dating. I loved her, and I was determined to see her through it. I believed that as a potential husband it was my duty to find a solution and bring Kelsey back to normal. I thought I could be her hero. Like many men who would do anything to see the woman they love happy and healthy again, I found it wasn't so simple.
Eating disorders aren't about beauty.
When someone has an eating disorder, it's easy for us, especially as men, to assume she thinks she's not attractive, and that's the root of the problem. Our instinct tells us to respond with affirmations and compliments, to let her know her face, her body is beautiful. Yet, when I tried to tell Kelsey how pretty she was, my words seemed to bounce off of her. "I wasn't doubting that you found me attractive," she later told me. "But the smallest I could possibly be was the most beautiful I could possibly ...1
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