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!


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Podcast Transcription

[DR. CRISTINA CASTAGNINI] Behind The Bite podcast is part of a network of podcasts that are good for the world. Check out podcasts like the Full of Shift podcast, After the First Marriage podcast and Eating Recovery Academy over at practiceofthepractice.com/network. Welcome to Behind The Bite podcast. This podcast is about the real-life struggles women face with food, body image and weight. We're here to help you inspire and create better healthier lives. Welcome. Well, hello everyone. Welcome to the show. Can I just say that I love that you are all listening and sending me in your email and your questions? I really, really do appreciate hearing from all of you. There are several ways to reach out to me but just as a reminder, I have just opened up a great new option for you to send me a voice message and it's on SpeakPipe. You can head over to the podcast website at behindthebitepodcast.com and on the right-hand side of the homepage, there is a vertical link that will bring you right to it. This week I want to say thank you to a listener Matt, who's out there and he's listening and thank you for writing in. He actually asked a question, which I want to answer this week. He asked if it's normal to fear having to face reality and things that come up like hurt, pain and self-esteem issues if he stops his eating disorder behaviors. Matt, what a great question. Yes, it is absolutely normal. Your eating disorder is not something you just chose to have. It really has served an important purpose in your life, probably helped you escape from or avoid feeling painful emotions or situations in your life. I oftentimes will ask people who I work with how much of your day is spent thinking about or engaging in behaviors related to your eating disorder? I usually hear something like 80% or 90% when they first start treatment. That's a lot, and as the eating disorder thoughts and behaviors become less and less over time, people do start to feel emotions and become more aware of things in their life that the eating disorder was distracting them from. These can be very painful and difficult things as this happens, the urge to engage in your eating disorder behaviors, they can be really strong. So when this time happens, I really want to encourage any of you out there who maybe are, if you have experienced this or you are experiencing this now, having a therapist or a supportive treatment team as well as really supportive people in your life during recovery can really help you to navigate ways to cope with and really manage times like this, especially when the urges to reengage are occurring because that's really key. Alright, I hope that helps answer your question. Just like with Matt, if any of you have questions, just reach out and I'll be sure to get them out here on the podcast. So now onto the show for today. The topic, dating, it's a huge topic and really there are so many things we could discuss on here today about it. It certainly is something that can bring up all sorts of emotions and really it can be so many things. It can be fun, exciting, stressful, disappointing, confusing. I could go on and on, but I really thought what is it about this topic that would be most relevant to my listeners out there? What is it like for somebody who has an eating disorder or who's struggling with body image issues to be dating? That's exactly what we're going to discuss today. I'm not here to do that alone. I am really excited that the one and only Ciandra Birnbaum is here with us today. She's a full-time social media manager by day and eating disorder recovery advocate and coach by night. She's passionate about eating disorder recovery after having recovered from anorexia nervosa, which took over 10 years of her life. She has a long background in marketing and social media and passionate about the pros and cons of this space. She has built her ED recovery Instagram, Flourish with Ciandra to help others and really loves seeing the community blossom. Well Ciandra, I'm really excited for this topic because I think we don't talk about it enough. I don't know your thoughts on that, but do you talk often with people or is this something that I think is under the radar? [CIANDRA BIRNBAUM] I think people are scared to talk about it cause it's taboo. Obviously, with mental health and eating disorders within the last five to 10 years, they have become a lot more open and people have started to talk a lot more about them. But I still think within romantic relationships or dating spheres, it's a very much unspoken topic. I think it's because people are scared to know where to start. When you are talking about dating and when you're talking about relationships, it's very much intimacy, what you should be doing, a lot of unwritten rules. Then mental health is like a forgotten topic and that's why when I've talk about it with, I suppose clients that I've worked with or just with others to try and raise awareness, I've had so much, I suppose positive comments because people have been like, wow, we don't talk about this, this is such useful information, which makes me think, do we talk about it enough. I don't know what your thoughts are on that. [DR. CRISTINA] Yes, I think it comes up a lot, too, when I work with clients and I'd like to get back a little bit to your background and the clients you do work with. But I think it's something that people feel a lot of shame about and people don't want to bring up, especially in the context of intimate relationships. It's something they feel very ashamed of and they want to hide from everybody, but especially from somebody maybe they're just meeting and trying to impress on a date or it's just something that they even maybe want to hide from themselves. So it's not something that they're out there going like, hey I'm going to talk about how this is affecting my life right now in this context. It's more of a very individualized thing, talking about their more day-to-day, like personal life and how they're eating disorder thoughts or affecting them their individual choices with them waking up and how they choose their entire day, like in terms of if they exercise or what they choose to eat. But the very specific part of dating and what that all entails I think we do need to talk about it because look, when you're dating somebody, a lot of the dates are going out to dinner. It's going out to grab something to eat. So it's very much, well it's, I mean, that's part of it, but it's also like, what are you going to wear? You're trying to find clothes and that can oftentimes be very stressful. So there's a whole bunch of components and then you go down the line further if you're getting intimate with somebody, body image and sex and all of this. It's very, very important to talk about. [CIANDRA] Definitely, definitely. I mean, I suppose I have a background of eating disorders myself. I had anorexia for over 10 years of my life and I know firsthand how it feels like to be dating with an eating disorder. That's why now I'm recovered and I work with clients to coach them and help them with their recovery, that I also want to guide them in such an important part of their life. Because a lot of these women and men have, are navigating their romantic relationships be that when they're just going into dating as a young age or even older in life when they're trying to navigate marriage, kids and keeping intimacy alive, which is hard in itself if you don't have eating disorder. So I think these conversations are integral to relationships aren't everything, but they're very important and therefore recovery. So I would say, I mean, to start off talking about the ways that eating disorders affect dating and relationships, I think one of the biggest things for me is 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, you're low, you're depressed, it even impacts further down line biology, your sex drive and then these are things that important parts of relationship. Restrictive eating disorders affect everything not just emotionally, but also biologically. So a lot of the time when it comes to relationships, people don't want to have them, or when they do, they're confused with their feelings and maybe do they actually like this person or is it because they're restricted from nutrition that they don't know how to feel? I think on the other spectrum when you're looking at binge, purge, bulimia a lot of it comes down to secrecy. Therefore, secrecy within a relationship can affect one's mental wellbeing and emotional health because there's a feeling of guilt, lying, secrecy, not being their true self. So I think that's first and foremost what I think is one of the biggest components of it, which therefore affects everything else, your emotional health and your behavior go hand in hand. I suppose following on from that, it has such an impact on behavior. Like you said earlier on how many of us surround our dates by food, the main component? Like I can imagine when you've dated you go out for dinner, you go out for pizza, or you just have something where food is a big part of it, and whether you are a restrictive, have a restrictive eating sort of, or on the bulimia, bingey thing, any spectrum, there's a whole host, it's going to affect you going out for food in one way or the other. Navigating that with an eating disorder can be incredibly hard when you're not being open with the person you're dating. I don't know if you have anything to add to that. I mean, there's a lot more that you, there is obviously a lot, lot more about that it affects dating eating disorders, but those couple of things, what are your opinions on that? [DR. CRISTINA] Yes, I love what you said about the secrecy part and not being your true self. Because how can you form intimacy, an emotional intimacy with somebody if you're hiding this big part of yourself and you have so much shame? I just love that you brought that up because think about that, and I too, like you, I had my eating disorder for years and I wasn't even connected to myself. I wasn't being honest with myself about who I was or what I wanted or anything. So just in that like, are you even ready to have a romantic, intimate relationship with somebody if you are at the point where so much of your life is revolving around, like hiding the things you're doing and hiding those things even from yourself? Because what you're really doing with your eating disorder is you're avoiding a lot of your own feelings. You're avoiding a lot of your own pain. You're trying to numb out. So just from my own experience, just until you really get to figuring out what's so painful or why the eating disorder is in your life and really, in my words like breaking up with ED per se, like, you really can't have the space and the ability to have a true intimate relationship with another person. Maybe if somebody listening's going, oh, come on, that's not right. But just really think about that. That's really difficult if you're not in a relationship already to start one when you are really knee-deep in an eating disorder. [CIANDRA] There's a couple of things I'll draw upon from what you said. It's like breaking up with ED, breaking up with your eating disorder. It's like, well, you are cheating on the person that you're seeing because it's like you're already in a relationship with this horrible eating disorder. It's like an abusive relationship within you. And also, the other aspect of, I know what people always say and cringe about, but it's, you can't have a relationship until you, or you can't have a deep connected relationship until you fully love yourself. This is why once as stress is yes, you can have relationships, but they might be very surface level, they might be abusive, you might be throwing yourself in a fire because of the way you feel. I can take that from experience, like I've had many relationships whilst I was ill and then they weren't good and they weren't fully connected hence I am not with those people now. It only took, it took me getting to a point of actual true acceptance to be in a healthy, connected, long-term relationship. That being said, there are problems within humans, there's not saying once you recover from your disorder, it's never going to be any problems with your relationship. That would be incredible but it's about your ability to connect emotionally develops, and therefore when you navigate through problems in relationship, it's relationships. You don't use your eating disorder to number one, control that, or number two, take it out on yourself. And I think that that can be also, I suppose an aspect that goes further down the line is once you're dating, and if it doesn't go well, you then relapse or you say, oh no, but it's my fault. It's because of X, Y, and Z. And then you use your eating disorder as a punishment set per se. So it's a very tricky line to navigate. That being said, and again, is something that will develop on, there is ways that partners can help within recovery. You want to move along that line, so like, it's about patients as well, so talking about things like sex drive and your biology. Right now, if you're dating somebody, it might not be the ideal, you might not be having that intimate connection, but it's being able to support someone with their help, so it's individual needs to, they're able help. The secrecy is the line that needs to be broken and drawn upon because with secrecy comes a service level relationship, guilt, shame, hiding their true self. Therefore, recovery is even, it's not even an option because you're not letting somebody in. That's why I think dating somebody with an eating disorder is so hard if you've not truly accepted that you need help. [DR. CRISTINA] Well, that's true. I think there's two things to that, one, if you're dating somebody and they have no idea you have an eating disorder or a lot of the things that are going on in the relationship, they might go, what is going on? So letting them in is really necessary. Like you said, you have to break the secrecy because let's say some of the behaviors that go on to the outside person, the outside world might seem like they might take it personally. So like you said, the intimacy, like if you have an eaten disorder, you're feeling really bad about your body and you're constantly like rejecting physical affection. Or if your eating disorder is that like, I have to make sure I work out like for this many hours a day or something and you not sleeping over the person's house because you have to make sure you get up at like four in the morning to go work out or something and they're not understanding, they're feeling like it's a rejection of them, but it's really your eating disorder behavior. If they don't understand and you're just doing these things and they're taking it as like, oh my gosh, they don't like me, what's going on? You're acting like this certain way. It is important to say, hey, this is what's going on with me. This is why I am doing these things. Because then there can be a level of understanding of like, oh, this is part of your illness. This is what's going on. It's not me.. Because like you said, to be able to support the person and say, okay, how, how can I help you work through this? I really want to have a level of intimacy with you. Is there something I can do or say or is there a way I can support you so that maybe you don't feel compelled to have to go do that every day? Or if you're feeling uncomfortable in your body or intimacy's hard, can we talk it through instead of you just rejecting me and I don't know why, or there's ways, exactly like you said, for people to actually work together. If it's the right person, I think they'll be open to supporting you but again, it's up to you to open up and be vulnerable, which is scary. It's really scary. [CIANDRA] A couple of the clients that I've worked with quite recently have expressed that feeling of shame that they need help. it's like, well, I don't feel, I wish I could just do it myself. I don't need anyone's help. It's about taking, it's about allowing somebody in, it's about like being vulnerable. Relationship's about being vulnerable, and then adding another layer is just mind blowing to somebody with an eating disorder. But once you've taken off, I suppose that plaster and told somebody that you're dating or even told somebody that you are already in a romantic relationship with, from the other side, what the individual, what the partner can do to help. I mean, there's five main things that I know that can help support somebody with an eating disorder if you are their partner. I think the first being get help yourself. It's very emotionally draining. You are confused you need that if, let's say even if you're in the early stage of dating and you feel like you're being offloaded with some of these issues and some of these issues around food and maybe navigating things, and also they're constant walking on eggshells that they're going to say something or do something wrong can put another layer of anxiety and the relationship. So I think first and foremost, it's make sure you're both guessing individual help and not just using the relationship as the soundboard. I think that's the first thing. Secondly, it's about using positive language. That's not necessarily just positive language around food and body around, it's also around like I believe that you can recover. I trust in you. I give you, like, I have hope in this. Because I think so many individuals have expressed that real sadness when somebody's given up on them and saying, I don't understand, you're never going to recover, that dismissive language. People then close down, and it's about using positive, helpful, compassionate language. Even if you don't understand you know like it's very hard for somebody to understand if they haven't really been through it themselves and that's okay. I understand that from my own perspective, like from the people that I was dating I expected them to understand it completely. I was like, why do you not understand this? It feels so real for me? As I got older and when I started developing coping strategies and understanding myself, I was like I don't even understand this so why should you? So I think there's ways that you can talk and use compassionate language. That moves on to then learning about eating disorders so the third thing's about learning about your loved one's eating disorder, whatever it be. You even go to the spectrums of a there's so many different types and they also all have such specific requirements and symptoms that you can spot for, let's say, let's use the example of a restrictive eating disorder. If you notice that the person you are dating or your loved one is starting to be secretive around food, is starting to be a bit sketchy about when they've eaten or what they're going to eat, you can then start to put things in place to help them open up. So if you learn and know everything about an eating disorder, it can give you a good grounding for helping your partner or the person you're dating. Not enough people did. I don't know about your experience when you were unwell, but I can imagine that you've experienced some times where people have just not understood. [DR. CRISTINA] Oh my gosh. I think that is so key because like you said, people don't understand it, and it is a little bit, for somebody who doesn't have one, they just like, why, how is that triggering what I just said or what I did? So really understanding some of the nuances of like, when you make a comment on what somebody's eating, especially at like, at a restaurant or something that can be very triggering and understanding maybe the person you're dating like stops eating or gets really quiet. Or if you say something like, wow, you look really healthy that can be a really big trigger and to the outside person, that sounds insane, like why is that like a trigger, that's a compliment? But to somebody with an eating disorder, like I know myself, I was like, oh my gosh, if somebody said that I was in the tailspin, or like to your point, if you notice like every time you go out to eat and then they are in the restaurant or the restroom for like a little bit longer than normal, that could be a sign, like what are they doing in there? If they're purging or something. Or just again, noticing some little behaviors, like are they really eating? What's on their plate? Are they just cutting it up and moving it around their plate? Again, just little behaviors, but also learning, like I said, the things that maybe their trigger words or things that you say just to be sensitive about, because I think there's a lot of words that people say and that they think nothing about, but talking about diets, talking about weight loss, talking about other people's appearances, all that stuff can be really hard for somebody when they have an eating disorder to hear. [CIANDRA] I think there's an aspect of that, of the actual individual with an eating disorder needs to be open enough to tell their partner what affect them. Because your partner's not a mind reader and what might affect me might not affect you. Each disorder is very individual I'd say. You can definitely get a good grounding from pages like ours on Instagram or like helpful information charities and just the internet in general, when you look in the right places, very helpful information but actually talking to your loved one being 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. Those words about like, I suppose it's, that's about, that'd be my fourth thing, it's starting that conversation, having that open communication of I'm really struggling today. Can we go out to a safe place to eat or can we just do something else or can you help me or can we just talk about this? Having that open communication there and that trust is the bed for a relationship and without that you're destined to fail because you need, communication is the key to any successful long-term relationship, especially if you're recovering from an eating disorder. [DR. CRISTINA] Oh, I think that's exactly, and I think that's a big part of it too, I work with clients too, and I tell them one big part I think is getting your voice back is being able to tell your loved ones, or especially maybe somebody you're dating, hey, these are the things that impact me, these are the things that really affect me. That's a hard thing to be assertive and to open up and ask for what you need or really say, even have that awareness, oh my gosh, this is how this word or these situations or whatever affect me. Could you please try to be sensitive or aware of these things? That's a huge step in being able to communicate that, I think in getting better. Then to be with a really loving, supportive partner who acknowledges that and does something to support you in that, I think that's amazing. That would be amazing. But I think to have a loving, supportive partner, again, if you are able to communicate that to them and say, these are my triggers, so to say, they can really support you out in public events or parties or situations where let's say they know, oh gosh whenever diet talk comes up or weight loss talk comes up, or people start talking about calories or food, like let's say at Thanksgiving dinner, say, maybe they can be your support person. Maybe you don't have the strength to do it in a big group, but maybe they can try to like veer the conversation in another way knowing like, oh gosh, here we go, this is really going to be hard for you. Okay, I'm going to be here to try to protect and support you and like, hey guys, let's talk about something else or try to get you out of that situation if it's possible. [CIANDRA] Definitely. I think there is so much more that can be done by individuals and by awareness to help bring knowledge to people about this. These are very unspoken topics, but there is certainly things you can do and this information doesn't just apply to romantic relationships. A lot of it applies to friendships as well as making friendships. So I suppose with friendships, there's that lack of intimacy there. There's one step removed, but there is still the thing about open communication, understanding eating disorders. A lot of this information is, can apply to workplaces, can apply to family, friends. So I think this is valid and very useful tools that people can take and go, okay, I can use this. Even if you're not with somebody with an eating disorder or I suppose any mental health condition it's very useful to understand because you might be, you might be supporting somebody with need in the future. So it's about arming yourself with knowledge and tools to help yourself and to help others, I think is really, really important. It just takes a little bit of, I suppose, self-awareness and ability to ask for help as well. As a person without an eating disorder, a partner being like, I need help too. That's also, they have to be vulnerable. They might have their egos up and go, I can do this myself. I don't need anyone and I take that. From experience it's like, but then they can take it out on you. So it's about making sure that everyone has the support and the knowledge that they need, I think. [DR. CRISTINA] Absolutely. So did you get to the five, I know you said the five --- [CIANDRA] The last one, the fifth one is about, I suppose, showering them with love. I think again, it links to a lot of it and love doesn't necessarily have to be romantic love, but love rules of the world. We all have that. We all need a bit of love and compassion and support and feeling like somebody cares. That can be, again, romantic or non-romantic relationships, just that knowing they're not going to leave me because I'm not average. I'm not normal, I'm struggling. They're going to still love me no matter what. It's also knowing that somebody will love you no matter what you look like. I think that's very important for an individual to know because if you don't, if you have that expectation or that, I suppose, yes, that exacting love is like, oh, I only love you, if I only love you if you look a certain way, or I only love you like this, people can feel very restrictive and it can fuel or keep an eating disorder there. So it's about, if it's all possible, try and remove that expectation around appearance, around weight, around eating styles. Those five are very, very important. So it's all about communication and conversations. Getting help yourself, support and just being able to guide each other through it, I think is really important. [DR. CRISTINA] No, I love those five. I love that you're talking about like both partners parts in what they can do when they're in a relationship with each other. Because I think there can be this tendency to just put all of the focus on the person who is the eating disorder. Like what do they need to do? What's their part like? It just go both ways. [CIANDRA] A hundred percent. That's a relationship for you. Otherwise, you have that codependency that the feelings of reliance or that you know it, okay, the person with the disorder, that they have a real issue that needs to be solved but it comes from both parties, like somebody has to take responsibility for their own issues, but the other person also has to take responsibility by the way that they act on those issues. [DR. CRISTINA] I'm curious for you, like looking back at those times where you were dating and you had your eating disorder, did anybody pick up on anything or was it just something you kept hidden? [CIANDRA] I think I was always very much like, oh, I had an eating disorder. I'm recovered now. But I wasn't and I think I'd put this like front on, I'm recovered, I'm out hospital, everything's fine. But they always would know that I was a little bit odd around food and I just made it, I was very secretive. I didn't spend a lot of time with my intimate partners. I'd be like just doing things and then leaving because I needed to go and eat or I needed to exercise or I needed to do my special routine, whatever I had back then, God knows. I think the only reason that I'm in a successful, healthy, long-term relationship now is because I actually have got to a point where I can call myself recovered and I navigate things with a healthy mind. It's taken time, it's taken years, and it's taken me being honest with myself and really looking at myself in the mirror and going, yes, you're not recovered. But that was hard and I had to be vulnerable. It all comes down to your strength in asking for help and knowing that recovery is a journey and it's not a race and so are relationships. They're not races, they're journeys and if you can support each other on that journey, it will be a very long, happy and loving one. [DR. CRISTINA] No, that's amazing. I'm so glad for you. Thank you for sharing that. I'm so glad for you were able to get to that point and really connect with somebody and have something long-term and successful. [CIANDRA] What about yourself? What your own experiences navigating relationships with your eating disorder? [DR. CRISTINA] I think I had, when much younger, obviously, I hid so many things. There wasn't a lot known about eating disorders really so I didn't even know a lot about what I was doing myself. I just thought I was failing at dieting, so I didn't even know. For the longest time I just was like, oh, I'm trying a new diet. I need to go work out. I didn't really have even a label for it. I didn't know how really sick I was for the longest time. Looking back, obviously I was in it but yes, it impacted everything. My goodness, I didn't even really know myself. So I was, like you said, a lot of my life revolved around the rituals and the routines and things I had to do and so if my whole world revolved around that, like how could I possibly create a life with somebody else? They weren't going to fit into my eating disorder life. It was just not going to work. [CIANDRA] They weren't a component in the relationship. It was your eating disorder or no one. [DR. CRISTINA] Yes. It was exhausting, trying to fit, it was the people pleasing. I was trying to please them. I was trying to please the eating disorder. I was like trying to be everything to everybody, and in my mind, I was just failing at everything. So ED was just like telling me, you're not good enough. You're not doing this enough. Awful. I mean, I think back and I'm like, oh my gosh, how exhausting, ugh. [CIANDRA] You wouldn't push it on anyone, but with two examples that you can move through that and you can navigate through that. I'm sure it's taken you jumping over hurdles and ducking under things and just looking at yourself in the mirror and going, okay, I need to deal with this, or I need to navigate this better and asking for help. So thank you for also sharing your side. We've both got similar experiences, but probably widely different at the same time. [DR. CRISTINA] Yes, I'm just, I think back to like how many times I dreaded like, oh gosh, what are we going to eat? I don't know what's on the menu. Just would be a nightmare. It'd be so scary sometimes, or like so many things I think back to and just think, gosh that was very stressful. So much of it. Oh gosh, like, is something going to fit tonight, like, going and getting dressed, it's like, what am I going to wear and trying on like 20 different outfits, just so much stress and pressure [CIANDRA] So much. Too much. [DR. CRISTINA] For anyone listening recovery is well worth the journey. Like you said, it's not a direct shot to like, it's not fast and it's not this linear, once you decide I'm going to recover, it's not like okay, in five sessions or five weeks, it's over. It's a journey, but it's so well worth it. [CIANDRA] So worth it. It's being patient with it and allowing yourself to fall and pick yourself up again. Your partner or who you are dating can be an element in that if they're willing to also learn and support you and help to pick you up as well. [DR. CRISTINA] A note to that, if they aren't willing to, that's very telling as well. Don't blame yourself and say, oh, it's me. I shouldn't have said anything. I'm damaged. I'm not good enough. They left me because I told them. No. If anyone gets in your way of recovery and they leave you because you open up and you're vulnerable and you choose yourself and you choose recovery, that's not your person. [CIANDRA] Yes, you know the people you want in your life, the people that will support you in the hardest times, and there'll be hard times not related to eating disorder, that's just life. You want somebody that you can trust at your most vulnerable times and your, yes, your weakest times that you can be vulnerable and ask for help. If somebody's not showing sides, they'll willing to do that, then maybe should just have a think about the people that you want in your life. That goes to friendships as well. [DR. CRISTINA] Yes, absolutely. Well, I really appreciate, like I said, you opening up and sharing these things. I think they're great. It's great information for people out there. I think lots of people listening probably can definitely relate. People are trying to form relationships and probably out there dating and struggling. Do you have any final words or anything you want to say? [CIANDRA] I think it's okay to not be okay as well. It's not going to be a straight line and when you're dating it might feel really scary, but there are resources out there. We've talked about it on this podcast and I'm sure we can both be open to speaking through like social media DMs and just support in general. If you have any further questions on this topic, and I'm sure that there's a lot of things that we haven't covered, it's such a broad spectrum, but the information shared today was concise and I hope that you've got something from it and good luck. Relationships can be the most beautiful things in the world. So I hope that you are able to flourish both physically, mentally, and romantically in the coming future. So, yes, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to talk with you today about this topic. I think it's been really nice being able to share it, so thank you. [DR. CRISTINA] Yes, thank you. I loved talking to you about this topic and I know it was a long time us trying to get together to make this happen. For my listeners, if anyone does want to find you and learn more about all the work you're doing, how can they find you? [CIANDRA] You can find me on Instagram at Flourish with Ciandra. My website again is flourishwithciandra com. I'm sure you'll be able to leave my details in the show notes. [DR. CRISTINA] Absolutely. [CIANDRA] If not yes, you can find me there, have a lot of infographics about these topics, so if you are interested, it'll be amazing for you to check them out. Likewise, you have such good information on your Instagram and social media and website too, Cristina, so yes, we've got a whole host of information out there, you guys. Thank you again. [DR. CRISTINA] This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or any other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.