What can you do to care for your partner who is in recovery? How is your ED like a toxic partner? How can you break up with your ED to create fulfilling relationships with people? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about dating and creating relationships with someone with an eating disorder with Ciandra Birnbaum.


Ciandra is a full time social media manager by day, and eating disorder recovery advocate/coach by night. She is passionate about eating disorder recovery, having recovered from an eating disorder anorexia which took over 10 years of her life. Ciandra has a long background in marketing and social media, and is passionate about the pros and cons of this space. She has built her ED recovery Instagram to help others and she really loves seeing the community blossom. Visit Ciandra's website and connect on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube.


  • How ED can impact relationships
  • You have to break up with your ED
  • How to help your partner if they have an ED

How ED can impact relationships

Eating disorders are complex and can impact a person in many ways. In relationships, ED can be difficult to navigate because relationships require intimacy, honesty, and accountability. It can be difficult to offer those to a partner when you are still in the process of recovery and learning how to give those things first to yourself. Some ways in which ED can impact relationships include:
  • Emotional health
When you are depending on an eating disorder, obviously we go to the restrictive type whereby you’re not getting enough nutrition to be able to regulate your emotions, [so] you’re low, you’re depressed. (Ciandra Birnbaum)
  • Your biology and your sex drive
  • Mental confusion which translates to general uncertainty about the relationship
When you’re looking at binge, purge, [and] bulimia, a lot of it comes down to secrecy, and therefore secrecy within a relationship can affect one’s mental well-being and emotional health because there’s a feeling of guilt [and] lying. (Ciandra Birnbaum)
  • Regulated behavior because your emotional health and behavior go hand in hand, so if one is off then the other can also suffer

You have to break up with your ED

Breaking up with ED, you know … you’re kind of cheating on the person that you’re seeing you know? Because it’s like you’re already in a relationship with this horrible eating disorder. (Ciandra Birnbaum)
Breaking up with your eating disorder is one of the biggest and most important steps in creating a fulfilling and open relationship with someone. Eating disorders prefer shame, secrecy, and isolation, and if you want to change that then you have to break up with it, like a toxic ex!
You can’t have a deep, connected relationship until you fully love yourself … yes you can have relationships but they might be very surface level, they might be abusive, [and] you might be throwing yourself [into that] fire because of the way you feel [in your ED]. (Ciandra Birnbaum)
The secrecy of the eating disorder is what needs to be broken because that secrecy can undermine a great relationship, or only attract superficial ones.

How to help your partner if they have an ED

1 – Get help for yourself because it can be emotionally draining 2 – Use positive language with your partner 3 – Learn about eating disorders, whatever it may be that is impacting your partner
Talking to your loved one and [saying] things like, “You can talk to me. I’m not going to judge you, please let me know what you need and how I can support you”. (Ciandra Birnbaum)
4 – Start the foundations of always offering open communication 5 – Give love and receive love because it is healing to know that somebody cares
Recovery is a journey and it’s not a race, and so relationships [are the same]. They’re not races, they’re journeys, and if you can support each other on that journey, it will be a long, happy, and loving one. (Ciandra Birnbaum)



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


Did you enjoy this podcast? Feel free to comment below and share this podcast on social media! You can also leave a review of Behind The Bite on Apple Podcasts (previously) iTunes and subscribe!