Well hello there! It's definitely been a hot minute since my last blog. I apologize. The good news is that I have lots to blog about so I'm going to be jumping back in again! I needed this break from blogging. The last month has had a lot of ups and downs with my recovery and I needed to take a step back and re-assess my goals and what I was doing, and I can't wait to share about it! BUT first things first! A couple months ago I mentioned that my husband was willing to do a little Q and A about my eating disorder and recovery, so if you had any questions to send them on in! Well, you all did NOT disappoint! I received a little over 40 questions for him! WOW! Seems like you all REALLY want to know my hubs thoughts about my anorexia, recovery, weight gain and sex life. (eeeek!) Since there were so many questions we have decided to break them down into two parts. This way you don't get overwhelmed and so my husband can take his time answering all of them!
As you can imagine, being anorexic for seven years and obsessively working out, then going through recovery now for over three years has been a rollercoaster for us. It has pushed our relationship to it's limits, but also has allowed us to grow together and in faith. We are a MUCH stronger couple today then we were even a year ago. (I mean, if we weren't there wouldn't be a chance in he## I would have him answer these questions haha!
So, before I hand this blog off to my man, I'll take a second to introduce him! My husbands name is Wyatt, we have been married for ten and a half years, and although we have no kiddos, we do have a giant dog(ter), Millie! Wyatt has been a HUGE support for me in many ways during my recovery and I'll save my gushing and thanks to him for a follow up blog after all his questions have been answered!
So without further ado......Here's Wyatt!
Hello Inwardly Renewed readers! I must say that I’m a little nervous to be writing this week for Sara’s blog, but I really thought about your questions and hope that I can shed a little light on my experience and what it’s like to be married to someone going through the valleys and peaks of recovery. Anorexia is a thief that can steal precious life away from you or your loved ones. My hope would be that my perspective gives you more insight and confidence to seek help as soon as possible!
1.What is the hardest thing about watching your spouse go through recovery?
The hardest thing for me about the recovery is when I see Sara struggling with the weight gain from recovery and hating the way she looks right now. I do not see Sara the same way that Sara sees herself. To me, Sara is just as attractive as the day I met her, so it’s easy for me to dismiss how she feels because I don’t see her the way she describes herself. There have been a lot of tears over the years, and a lot of times I feel helpless, that would be the most difficult thing about recovery.
2. What is the hardest part about having a spouse with an eating disorder?
It would have to be the isolation. When I met Sara she enjoyed hanging out with people and experiencing new things. As I look back, the more her eating disorder crept in, the less we hung out with people and the harder it became to do things outside the home. I see this changing though within the last 6 months, she has a desire to feel connection with people and has been seeking out ways to make friends. I think this is a true sign that she is on the right path to recovery and there has been real growth in the process.
3. Does the weight gain in recovery bother you?
Honestly no, I love my wife and still get my hands swatted away when I try for the reach around. The weight gain has not made me less attracted to my wife, I still like to hold her hand or cuddle on the couch if she’ll let me. I know that our culture has made us all think that in order to be loved by your husband, wives have to stay in shape and make sure they look the same as when we met, but those are lies that our culture tells us. In truth, we all change as we get older, and I’m thankful that my wife isn’t comparing me to when we first met, because I was a lot stronger when I had time/desire to go to the gym for an hour a day.
4. Do you still find your spouse beautiful?
Yes, and I’m not just saying that because my wife will read this and “it’s what a husband is supposed to say.” Sara is a very beautiful woman and always has been. She knows how to make herself look good, and I’m still very much attracted to her. Her smile has always been able to light up a room!
5. Do you have any regrets?
My biggest regret is not seeing the eating disorder sooner and also not seeking help when we first started having problems. There were signs that I didn’t pay attention to, behaviors and issues that I didn’t categorize as an eating disorder. The eating disorder started in our first year of marriage, and I thought the behaviors were more about who Sara was as a person. She likes to run, she likes to take care of herself, and we were living outside of NYC and everyone is skinny, most of our friend’s wives looked no different to me. The difference was that what started off as “taking care of herself” spiraled into an eating disorder and an obsessive compulsion to work out. I can remember going for a run with Sara in DC about 5 or 6 years into our marriage, which we rarely did because I’m not a runner, and thinking that she should be able to run further than we did because of how much she ran. The reality was she never fed her body enough fuel to provide her the energy to properly run and build muscle. Then slowly start cutting out foods because they’re “bad” for you and next thing I know is Sara was only eating chicken salads. That was when I should have realized that there was a serious problem and needed to seek help.
6. What is a piece of advice you would give to a husband of someone recovering from anorexia?
Find someone or a group to talk to about what’s going on and get support for yourself. It’s easy to keep this stuff to ourselves, go off to work and pretend like the home life is good when it most likely is not. I had a Men’s group in DC called NCS that was great for me to share some of the struggles I was having and have support and encouragement for myself.
7. What is the best thing about recovery?
I have seen Sara laugh more and have less breakdowns than when she was trying to control everything about her body. She also compares herself to others much less than she used to (a sign of the disorder). I see her more open with people than she used to be when she was anorexic, it’s like she’s getting her confidence back as a strong woman.
8. What was the worst thing about anorexia?
The worst thing about this is knowing how the anorexia has affected her body, brittle bones, stress on internal organs, time lost enjoying life, and how hard recovery has been for her would have to take the cake. Sara has spent a good portion of her last ten years struggling with this eating disorder, and that’s a long time. Anorexia is a sign that inside, life was spinning out of control for Sara. The one thing she “felt” like she had control of was how much she ate and how she could burn those calories off if she wanted to. The ironic part about anorexia is that it fools you into thinking out have control, but in reality, it has control of you. Like an alcoholic who needs that drink to function and doesn’t have the real control to not. I’ve never smoked, but I would also equate it to needing a cigarette as well. That’s how anorexia creeps in and takes over.
9. Did you know she was anorexic?
Regretfully no. I definitely thought there was an issue, but I wasn’t sure what was going on and I didn’t take the necessary steps in order to change it. I don’t think we really sought help until we saw a marriage counselor who identified the issue and started us on the path to seeking professional help. I think I remember learning about eating disorders in 11th grade health class, maybe we spent an hour on it but I doubtfully paid attention. I thought anorexia was something far off that only models struggled with, or if you looked like 70lbs. Little did I know that my wife was struggling with an eating disorder and I had no idea for years…
10. Did the eating disorder/recovery effect your sex life/intimacy?
Yes, the eating disorder definitely affected our intimacy. Other issues between us most likely added to the situation, but her lack of desire made it near impossible for us to come together as a married couple, another side effect of starving yourself. Even now, it’s a struggle because she’s very self-conscious of how she looks and feels. But then again, we’ve had other issues besides just an eating disorder in our marriage, maybe I’m using that as an easy scape goat to why itss not my fault. I will say that as we’ve gone through marriage therapy and Sara has been recovering, our intimacy has gotten a lot better, so there’s always hope if you’re willing to put in the work!
11. Do you like her body better thinner or now?
I truly just want her to like her body. I’m a pretty easy going guy, and for me there would be nothing better than to have Sara accept how she is now and for her to allow me to love her just the way she is. Our society puts way too much emphasis on thinness. But there are definite benefits to having a curvy body ;)
12. What is the hardest part about watching her go through this?
The breakdowns and tears for sure. When she’s frustrated about not having clothing, or not being able to do an exercise, feeling swollen. All I want to do is help her so she can go on and live a full life, not plagued by this disorder.
13. How did the eating disorder effect you?
I think there were several ways it affected me. Oddly enough, I was 25lbs lighter myself because of the lack of food that was in our house. I would eat breakfast and lunch usually out of the house because of the line of work that I do, but for dinner we ate together. Another reason I probably didn’t notice how Sara ate because we ate separately for most of our meals. Dinner together though meant no carbohydrates, nothing was even in the house. We ate a lot of chicken salads for dinner or steak, pork chops, salmon, always paired with vegetables, but never pasta and rarely rice, no pizza. I thought we were eating really “healthy”. Shows you how living with a disordered person can make you disordered as well. I think I became an enabler through my passiveness and wanting to make Sara happy. What Sara needed was a husband who was strong enough to say NO, we’re not going to continue to live this lifestyle.
14. What is one thing you wish she knew?
That there will be a day when she can look back and say she is healed from anorexia and all that hard work she put in to recovery was worth it. That as difficult as this past decade has been, she has help many people and changed lives through this difficult journey and that she is a stronger woman for it.
15. If you could go back in time, what would you have done differently?
Never started the South Beach diet a few months into our marriage, and gotten help when things started getting hard right away. Asked family to step in as well, because I just didn’t know what I was doing. It’s one of those things where you think to yourself, if I only knew then what I know now. I needed to be stronger with Sara, as in put my foot down and say enough is enough. She needed someone in her life who could tell her no, stop this, you need help. I was too complacent and buried my head in the sand.
16. Has recovery been a financial burden? Does it stress you out?
Yes and yes. You would think that for as much as we pay for health insurance there would be some coverage right? The doctors who specialize in this type of care, at least the ones we used in DC, did not take insurance. For the first year, I think Sara saw a dietician twice a week and a therapist twice a week, and it adds up quick. She was able to taper off the second year, but it’s a fine line of wanting your wife to get the help she needs and also trying to manage the health care costs without going into debt. I work for a company that provides a very nice bonus at the end of the year and we had a couple of those saved up that covered these costs, but it was still hard when we initially had plans for those savings. In the end, I can’t put a price tag on the importance of Sara recovering from this very deadly disorder, and I’m thankful that she was able to get the help she did before it was too late.
17. Was there anything about her eating disorder that surprised you?
-Some of the signs are surprising, at least to me. Sugar is something that anorexics crave and is a sign of an eating disorder. Sara liked hard candy, and like an idiot I would bring her home nerds and gobstoppers all the time. Since recovery, she rarely eats the sugar candies anymore. Another thing that is probably more apparent to the female population is the loss of her cycle. The stress on her body from the eating disorder eliminated her period. I thought it had to do with birth control, she would talk about it every once and a while, but I never really asked what was going on. I chalked that up to a conversation that husbands and wives don’t have to have with each other, but as I’m a little older and wiser now, it’s something that I wish I would have understood and been open to talk about. (Sara here! Just wanted to touch on the whole anorexics crave sugar thing. It's true! I craved sugar because I needed energy and was starving.. This wreaked havoc on my body, internal organs, teeth, hormones and metabolism. In the next month I'm going to go into more detail about exactly how this hurt my body, and what happened in recovery because of this.)
18. Has her recovery changed your perspective on dieting/exercise/body image?
Yes! Now when I hear a woman talking about a diet or someone who is obsessed with working out I have a different outlook. I try to warn husbands who may have wives who are dieting and share the signs of potential eating disorders with them. I also inform people of the multi-billion dollar diet industry and the fads that show up every year. Having a balanced life is important, and eating disorders are all but balanced, that sneak in and take over if you’re not careful. It’s really interesting to hear from Sara how often women talk about dieting and exercising. I told Sara the other day that I RARLEY hear men talk about what diet they’re on or make suggestions on which diet to try, the latest “Whole 30” or “Keto” diet, but she tells me all the time about how many women talk about it all the time.
19. Is it hard to go out to eat with her?
It’s hard to get her to go out to eat, but once we get out now it’s not really an issue. When she was anorexic, we’d have to check out the menu before going to the restaurant to make sure there was something Sara wanted to eat. Then there was the whole process of getting ready to go out that was really a challenge. Back then the eating disorder made her obsessed with how she looked, and if things weren’t just right, we’d self-implode and not go out at all. That has been a big change with her recovery, it’s still a struggle from time to time, but she has grown a lot and is able to go out and enjoy herself now. Reading a menu in the past was very stressful for her, she needed to know the calories. Now, she looks at the menu and says, that sounds really good. It’s been a huge growth through recovery. Now if we could just get restaurants to remove calories, things would be great!
20. How has this all affected you?
I’d say one of the biggest affects to both our lives has been the fact that we don’t have children and probably will not have kids ourselves. It’s been extremely hard for Sara and I know it hurts her deeply. We’ve started talking about adopting, and look forward to still having a family. We’re in this together, I know I have contributed to where we are at today and have to take responsibility for my inability to lead our family early on in our relationship. I believe God still has an amazing plan for us and we’ll have a family someday.
21. Did you ever want to divorce her because of her eating disorder?
I can’t say that divorce never crossed my mind, but I don’t think I would have attributed it to her eating disorder at the time. Now I can say the mood swings and side effects of starving yourself are byproducts of the eating disorder and a lot of those issues have subsided through recovery. I made a vow, for better or for worse, and I’m committed to my wife no matter what. I’m probably just as lucky that my wife didn’t divorce me at some point for the stupid things I’ve done!
22. Would you be ok with it if her body never returned to her pre-eating disorder weight?
-Yes, I would. I just pray that she can learn to accept herself and love herself, that’s what is most important to me. I know Sara would love to lose the weight that she’s gained from recovery, but it’s really not necessary from my point of view.
23. What has helped you the most to get through it all?
My ability to lean on God when things were really bad. Having a faith in Christ reminds me that I have a higher purpose and that he will walk with me through difficult seasons. On top of that, having Christian men in my life has been a blessing when times have been really challenging. Guys who have encouraged me to love my wife in new ways and have continued to challenge me to be a better husband.
That's all the questions for this week! Next week I will post part TWO of this Q&A. In part two Wyatt will be answering questions like, could you see her getting thinner and thinner when she was anorexic? Were you afraid of her dying? Do you know what caused her eating disorder, and if I have a family member I think is anorexic what do you think I should do?! If you still have questions or have a follow up question feel free to send it to us and we'll make sure to answer!
Thank you Wyatt for being so brave and honest!
Sara & Wyatt