For the last couple of weeks I have been in Mexico doing workshops. One of the workshops that I presented was on Eating Disorders. During this workshop, a woman (Mercedes*) from the audience came to be and said that she would like to present her family to the workshop participants. I tried to dissuade her for confidentiality concerns, but she persisted saying that she felt it would be helpful for herself and to the other members of her family.
Mercedes was 31 years old and has suffered from various eating disorders since adolescence. She was anorexic as a young person and now she suffers from compulsive overeating. While she is able to contain her weight, it is a daily struggle for her.
She told me, “I see this as a problem stemming from my father. He is completely focused on my weight and talks to be about it all the time. While he does not appear to have weight struggles himself, he is still concerned about it, and relates frequently that he married my mother because he knew that she would not gain weight”.
We later discussed these issues and she disclosed how she has had difficulties in her intimate relationships. She is currently in her third marriage and says that the only time when she is able to control her eating is when she is not married. She said that when she is not married she does not have to be a “domestic slave”.
For our work on this website, there are two issues that I believe are very important for sufferers of eating disorders.
The first is the intrusiveness of Mercedes’ father. Even now, as a grown woman and far along in her career, she still has not created boundaries with her father and made it clear to him that while she loves him very much, her weight is her own issue and is not his concern.
The second issue is Mercedes’ relationships. In intimate relationships, she still does not assert her power as a woman. She does not feel able to tell her various spouses that she is not their slave, and that they must meet her half way with the household chores. It is very telling that the only time that she is in control of her eating is when she is living alone.
Again, I see this as lessons to everyone suffering with eating disorders. Conflict avoidance is a crucial issue, and Mercedes must address this if she wants to get over her eating disturbances. To give her strength and support, Mercedes found what we call a “text buddy”, someone to support her as she addresses these conflicts.
* Not her real name