Can Love Save You From an Eating Disorder?

July 27, 2016 Z Zoccolante

The question, "Can love can save you from an eating disorder?" hits at the core of a deeper question. Anyone who loves someone with a behavioral or substance addiction will face wanting to leave the person, or wanting to take his or her love away because he or she has been hurt too many times. As the partner, you may wonder if your love and presence even matters. As the addict (the person with the eating disorder), another’s love may pour a sea of guilt into you, which can drive you back into reaching for your addiction. But love is a powerful force and we can use love for eating disorder recovery.

Hate Vs. Love: Eating Disorders Lead With Hate

Great leaders knew that love is an unstoppable force. If we look at Jesus or Gandhi, they preached a righteous kind of love, one that loves your enemies and prays for those who persecute you. Their legacies carry on in a powerful way with a message of compassion.

There’s another powerful force called hate, which most would argue is what Hitler ruled with. The difference is that, although Hitler had many people that did his bidding, he ruled by fear.

Although we may obey out of fear (like we do with our eating disorders), we are left empty. If we rule out of fear, we might get compliance but not high performance, not respect, and not love in return.

Did Love Save Me from My Eating Disorder?

In my eating disorder recovery, I gladly share that my husband’s love was the reason I recovered. He did a lot of things “wrong,” including saying a lot of things to trigger me, but he did the most important thing right. He loved me. He loved me when I didn’t love myself. He saw the light in me and he refused to sit idly by while I destroyed myself, and our marriage. He came to me, pleaded with me, shed tears of desperation. He didn’t know what to do half the time, but he desperately loved me (Family Members of the Eating Disordered Patient).

And here’s the thing: I loved him and I hated what I was doing to him. I felt immense shame and guilt. I hated myself because I knew I was better than this disorder, I just didn’t know how to stop. I didn’t know how to be the amazing person I truly was without the disorder (How Eating Disorders Impact on Relationships).

Yes, he is the reason I recovered. His love held me like an eye in the storm. He loved me until I could once again love myself.

What It Takes for Love to Save Someone from an Eating Disorder

I was talking with a friend about her love for her partner who has a disorder. “Why isn’t my love enough to make them want to stop?” she asked me.

I paused, reflecting back on my experience and then told her a few things:

  1. Even though we love you, our addiction is our number one love (until we get help and it’s not anymore).
  2. Because we love you so much, your love for us increases our guilt. You’d think that would make us want to get help, but, instead, we feel junk about ourselves and so we drown our shame by repeating our addiction.
  3. When my husband approached me (and I finally got help), I was at the point where I knew I had a serious problem and I couldn’t do it on my own. I wanted to be free, I just didn’t know how (and there was a huge part of me that didn’t believe it was possible).
  4. I was terrified of anyone knowing of my eating disorder because it was my terrible secret.
  5. I was angry with God for not curing me when I begged for magical healing.

The formula I realized I’d told her was that:

Yes, love can absolutely save you from an eating disorder/addiction, but a part of you must want to be saved.

Another’s love for us can propel us into eating disorder treatment, but as we walk the path of recovery it is our own self-love that will allow us to recover, flourish, and thrive. And, hopefully, those who loved us through it will get the joy of experiencing a life with us that is wonderful, full, and free.

APA Reference
Zoccolante, Z. (2016, July 27). Can Love Save You From an Eating Disorder?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Z Zoccolante

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