Supporting a loved one through food addiction

Kurt and Emily Boller's wedding dayThirty years ago this Valentines Day my husband and I became officially engaged. We were young, naïve, and deeply in love. Little did we know about the dark prison that lie just ahead for both of us with my budding food addiction and resulting binge eating disorder and obesity. While we were dating, I had confided that I had a “food problem,” but neither of us had any clue whatsoever how powerful it was, or how severely food addiction would take over and practically destroy my life. [Back in 1981 food addiction was not openly discussed or understood like it is today.] Since today is a special day for sweethearts, I want to focus on those who are supporting a spouse or significant other through food addiction by inviting my husband, Kurt, to share his thoughts on the topic. Welcome to Disease Proof, Kurt.  


What was your initial reaction when I first told you that I had a “food problem” when we were dating?

 I thought it was no big deal.  After all, in my mind I thought, “Who doesn’t have an extra piece of cake once in awhile?”  Besides, you were so special to me that I couldn’t believe there was anything that was a problem.


From your perspective, what was it like to discover and see first-hand the seriousness of my food addiction / binge eating disorder after we were married?

It was hard, especially when it seemed like you were out of control.  I could see that you wanted out of the addiction, yet seemed helpless to help yourself.  My first reaction was to try to control things, and being a typical guy, I thought it was something that I needed to fix. Unfortunately as I tried unsuccessfully to “fix” it, usually in an unproductive way, it only made the addiction worse.


Emily Boller when obeseHow did it make you feel?

I felt disappointed and cheated. I realize now that I had very unrealistic expectations and views on life, but unfortunately, my perception was my reality at the time.


What was the turning point for you?

I don’t think there was one point as much as a series of turns.  I was so frustrated and disappointed that I got honest with God about how I felt.  Then I just didn’t care anymore.  For awhile I did my own thing, and found ways to detach myself and emotionally escape.  It was just easier to give up and not care or try to help anymore.  Eventually God pointed out my own “stuff” that I needed to deal with; and even though the food addiction was a terrible situation, He used it to burn up some of my own crud that was an issue as well.   We went to a professional counselor, and I learned the only person that I could change was me.  That was a huge turning point in the process because I finally stopped trying to change you.  I worked on dealing with my own garbage, and then I started to believe you when you’d say, “Someday I’m going to get free.”  


Emily afterWhat has it been like to see me get free from food addiction and get my health back?


It was like a light came on and good things started happening immediately when you committed to Eat to Live ~ beyond anything either one of us had ever dreamed.  It was amazing.  To see someone go from getting beat up mentally, emotionally and physically with food addiction to being healthy, confident, and free; and helping others to do the same is indescribable.  It’s like watching the movie “Rocky” for the first time; witnessing someone that you love and want the best for finally winning in a war they’ve been fighting for years. 



What are your thoughts to share with others who are supporting a loved one through food addiction and resulting eating disorders and diseases? 


  • Be honest with yourself and acknowledge your feelings.  Stuffing your frustrations and anger only makes it worse.

  • Be committed to the relationship.  Everyone needs someone solid and a good influence in their life.

  • Realize you can’t change them.  The only person that you can change is yourself. 

  • There may be times when you’ll need to pull back so your “boat” doesn’t sink.  A person drowning in addiction can pull others down with them so maintain your own mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical health; just don’t abandon them.

  • Seek professional counseling for the person as well as yourself.  Not all counselors are equal.  If a counselor doesn’t help, then keep looking. The key is being willing to be totally honest about the underlying root problems and cut out the destructive issues that psychologically fuel addiction.

  • Don’t quit.  Never give up.  Never give in.  Never, Never, Never.  Like the old adage goes, “When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!”





Related posts:

Are you a food addict?  by Dr. Fuhrman

Freedom is for everyone!  by Emily Boller

Take Charge of Your Life

Talia Fuhrman, Dr. Fuhrman, and Marilu HennerStepping into the New Year brings with it recollections of the past and hopes and desires for the year ahead. Contemplation about ways we can improve ourselves is a welcome sidekick of this time of year if we can put our goals into action in our day-to-day practices. For me, reminiscing about the past and what self-improvement goals I would like to make, made me realize how much I treasure my family and friends. I am blessed to have a wonderful, loving group of people in my life who care about my well-being and happiness and whose well-being and happiness I care about in return. I also thought about people in my life who have gone through serious health issues, and how these experiences have affected not just them, but their friends and family members. A physical ailment might be a one person ordeal, but the subsequent emotional reactions are not. It pains us to see a loved one suffering and we can enjoy our lives more fully when the people we care about are healthy and happy.

As such, I know that taking care of one’s own health is not a selfish act. When we feel well we are able to participate in activities we enjoy with the people in our lives. 

For example, an overweight, sickly father on the standard American diet might be restricted in his ability to play football or soccer with his sons, to their disappointment. I’ve had an overweight friend with type 2 diabetes say she does not want to go mountain hiking with me because she does not have the stamina. This is a shame given how enjoyable these activities can be, especially when we can bond over them and remember how much fun we’ve had. Most people can coast by eating standard American fare for a while, but eventually doing so will result in sluggishness, extra pounds, and health problems that will interfere with their happiness and the happiness of those close to them.   

If we are to make this year the best one yet, let’s all pledge to make eating nutritiously a priority and spend time participating in enjoyable physical activities and games. Plus, by making the right eating choices and feeling great, we are setting a good example for others who might be struggling to do so. Happiness is contagious and feeling our best will maximize our happiness. The emotional benefits of taking care of one’s health have the ability to spread like an invisible white light touching the people we interact with. When you are passionate about your lifestyle, other people can sense that passion. 

I can speak from experience that my father’s (as well as my own) passion for nutrition is easily detectable by others and they become motivated to make changes in their diets simply by observing how ebullient and lively my father is when he speaks about the subject. I believe that if you set healthy New Years goals for yourself and follow through with them, the feelings of accomplishment that result can enliven a passion in you that can inspire others to make healthy eating choices as well. Quality time spent with family and friends can then be appreciated undeterred by health maladies for the upcoming year and for many years to come. Taking the place of health problems will be the ability to laugh, bond, and have fun with those you care about. 


The above image is a recent picture of my father and me with Marilu Henner. 

Is the Fitness of Your Significant Other Important?

FitSugar is kicking around a great question. When picking a partner, or as some would say, following in love, do you consider your potential mate’s health and fitness habits? Does it even matter?

As for me, I’ll be blunt. I won’t even date a girl that doesn’t exercise regularly. And I prefer if they eat healthfully too, not necessarily like I do, but let’s just say, I’ve dated more than a few vegans and vegetarians. And since we’re being frank, I’ll admit it. I've actually ended a relationship because the girl stopped exercising and brought snack cakes into my apartment. Oh hell no!

Sorry, but for me, a healthy lifestyle is one of those make-or-break issues, among other things, but what about you, are the diet and exercise habits of your significant other important? Do tell.