My Boyfriend Helps Me Eat, and Other Notes on My Body
After years of disordered eating, I’ve found a partner who nourishes me in more ways than one
“Want a bite?” my boyfriend asks, holding out his half-eaten sandwich.
“Sure,” I say, and he hands it to me.
I let my teeth sink into the warm puff of bread.
“You are my chicken,” he says, smiling and squeezing me.
This is a common exchange between us. Sometimes the subject changes — a piece of melty chocolate chip cookie or a spoonful of gooey mac and cheese might replace the sandwich — but my boyfriend always offers me a portion of what he’s eating. It’s one of the ways he shows me that what’s his is mine. A gesture of equality.
There was a time, however, where such exchanges with a partner could never have been possible for me, a time when I did not feel comfortable eating freely or plentifully in front of men. Or even, in front of myself.
My boyfriend helps me eat. Not literally. But he does help me feel less self-conscious about eating.
I’ve had a problematic relationship with food since high school, where my obsession with obtaining the perfect body took root, where the constant recording, restricting, and occasional purging of my food began as a result of a brief period of weight gain.
I remember the moment when, at 16, I looked at my naked body in the mirror and realized I was “overweight.” My old clothes weren’t fitting anymore, my flesh bulged over my low-rise jeans, and I had no choice but to wear leggings to school each day. I wasn’t running up and down the soccer field with the same ease and speed as I once did. I was eating — a lot. I was going through a depressive spell, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how we’re all going to die and there’s no point in trying, so I might as well eat an abundance of things that are delicious.