Why You Should Let Go of a Toxic Friendship with Food


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Ever have that friend who can’t stand for you to do well at something? Whenever you’re around them you don’t feel like you’re good enough, smart enough or pretty enough. You feel like you need to drive yourself into the ground to please them and at the end of the day you’re left asking yourself “Wait. Why am I friends with this person?

That is how life was with me and “Ed”. Though she (or even he) has many names-Ana, Lia…in the end, it’s still the same toxic relationship. Ed and I became “friends” at a time in my life that was fraught with frustration, turmoil and uncertainty. She befriended me-like that girl who sits next to you when you’re alone at the lunch table and says “We should hang out sometime. You shouldn’t eat that-you really don’t need it.” From there, slowly Ed dominated my friendships and relationships. She was a demanding friend. I had to spend the majority of my day worrying about making her happy. About whether or not she would like what I was doing. And I had to run everything past her before I made any plans-especially when it came to what and when I ate.

One day I realized just what this friendship had done to my life. She wasn’t going to stop, so I needed to say “Enough is enough.” I sought inpatient treatment and with the help of specialists, doctors and fellow patients, I began to see Ed for what she was. She was mean. She was a mean-spirited witch of a friend who didn’t care what happened to me as long as she was happy.

A turning point in my recovery came when I read the book Life Without ED” by Jenni Schaefer. This book seemed to make all kinds of sense to me when it came to seeing my eating disorder as this separate entity from myself. I was not ED-she was a friend that had been hanging around for years and I never thought to question why she was still in my life.

Does this sound at all familiar to you?

Maybe her name is not ED, but that relationship that seems to tear you down more than it builds you up is still there. An eating disorder is a coping mechanism-almost like a friend that you call when things get tough, you need comfort or you feel out of control. The problem is that until we begin to build healthier relationships-relationships with ourselves, with food, with life in general-this toxic “friendship” will continue to dominate our lives and isolate us from those that care and can give us the help and support that we really need.

When we realize that this relationship, that Ed, Ana, Lia-whatever you want to call this “frenemy”, we can begin the painstaking process of cutting them out of our lives-hopefully for good. I started by confronting her ongoing negative talk in my head. Each time she started to talk about my body, my weight, what I was eating or how I ought to feel, I wrote it down in a two person conversation between Ed and myself. Pretty soon I began to realize that Ed was nothing without me. If we continue to refuse to answer the friend when our eating disorder calls, to not return texts, emails and attempts to “hang out”, after a while, the distance will begin to destroy the friendship. When we stop hanging out with this friend of ours by acting on our eating disorder, we begin to free up time to do other things, like hang out with friends and be social, to walk our dog, to sit and read a book or go to a movie-suddenly our lives become truly ours again.

If we continue to refuse to answer the friend when our eating disorder calls, to not return texts, emails and attempts to “hang out”, after a while, the distance will begin to destroy the friendship.

Like many friendships, it may not be easy to begin to cut this “person” out of your life, but once you do, you realize that your days can be so full of spontaneity and joy and fun. I don’t have to talk to Ed first before I decide to have brunch with my husband or drinks with friends. I don’t have to drop everything and go running when it’s a day I need to sleep in. Beginning this process of “breaking up” with your eating disorder can start whenever you are ready. Once you realize there’s really no place for this “friendship” in your life anymore.

What about Ed, you might ask? She still tries to reach out to me from time to time-annoying messages about how I need her in my life and I’m worthless without her. But, fortunately, I have begun to screen her calls.

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