How women with eating disorders surrender their power to exploiters


Often women with eating disorders feel generous and powerful in their relationships and at the same time feel weak, exploited, bewildered and afraid they will be abandoned.

This all too common situation and results in familiar eating disorder stories  If this is you, then you are harsh in your self-criticism.

Unable to use your gifts to enhance your own life.

You also do not use your gifts such as creativity, intelligence, endurance, determination, resourcefulness, education, or talents in the service of your own hearts desire. You may not even know what your deep and authentic desires are in life.

You can feel like a failure because you know you are not living up to abilities you sense are within you.  You may even have external validation for such gifts, like academic achievements, awards, trophies, but you don't believe in them.

What attracts your exploiter to you

Other people (who may not even know they have a tendency to use others), perhaps a romantic interest or friend or family member, will see the abilities you are not using on yur own behalf. They will applaud you for having the talents and resources they need.

They will also invite you to be involved in their projects, and you will be delighted.

You accept as a friend or loving daughter.  You expect no pay or very little compensation.  What you receive is their appreciation and a smile that makes you feel better about yourself.

What attracts you to your exploiter

They compliment you, deservedly, for your talents.  This motivates you to give even more.

You feel relief and pleasure at being recognized as the valuable person she is. The talents and inner resources you cannot use for yourself you give away.

Examples include these scenarios:

  • You help them start or run a business
  • You design and perhaps also create promotional material for them.
  • You extend herself financially to shore up their poorly handled money situations.
  • You entertain their friends and associates.
  • You field their phone calls making excuses or apologizing or lying for them.
  • You smooth their difficulties in work and personal relationships.
  • You teach their children.
  • You do research for school and work projects.
  • You help with fashion and style choices for home or office or clothes and makeup or all of the above.
  • You obey parents and grandparents by running the family business with a promise that someday it will be yours.

Why you continue to be exploited

You can give away your talents and energy to any person you want to please and hope to make love you, or at least keep you safe and protected against isolation and abandonment.

A certain type of person is happy to take what you are not using.  A few compliments and a sincere looking smile, an expression of yearning and need will evoke in you a hopeful joy.  You feel a thrill that you can meet that person's needs and find  appreciation, love and security.

Once you feel vital to another person's life you will feel good about being competent and productive.  You will continually postpone the effort required to nourish and make real your own dreams because you feels strong in what you accomplishes for the other person.

You feel that as soon as you have a free moment or two, or perhaps a week end on your own, you make make a little effort and get big results for what you would like for yourself.

Eventually you will like a failure in terms of your own life. But you will convince herself that the other person's life is your life and that you should get satisfaction from this.

The other person by design or through the routine of this unbalanced relationship, will expect this system to continue.  The person has become an exploiter and will  work to influence you to believe you are living the best life you can by devoting herself to the cause of someone else.

How you defend your position of being exploited

As a defense against mounting despair you can become arrogant .  You develop a sense of superiority created by what you need to believe is your noble self sacrifice. You are the vital key that contributes to the other's success.

This superior attitude can be off putting to others who are shocked by your obliviousness and your willing acceptance to be used.

At some point you will feel tired and drained.  You may protest or request relief. Too often you will experience your fatigue as a badge of honor, as proof that you are giving your all and proving your love.

Techniques used to keep you exploited

If and when you try to put some of her energy into your dreams your exploiter will speak in a supportive way but will actually attempt to sabotage your efforts or become actively abusive.

Your exploiter may also accuse you of being selfish and too sensitive for wanting to withdraw or limit your services in any way.

You will be terribly hurt and bewildered by this reaction and won't understand how someone who has been so reassuring and full of praise could attack you when you want something for herself.

Unfortunately you may think the other person is right, that you are selfish and too sensitive. Then you do even more for the exploiter in an attempt to get who you thought was a loving person in your life to be loving again.

Years can pass before you understand that your exploiter will say and do anything to keep you supplying his or her needs and ignoring your own.  You may never understand and will become a tragic figure when you are discarded.

Your grief or eventually, rage will plunge you more deeply into her eating disorder.


For some people, this kind of intense flood of emotional pain will bring them to psychotherapy, perhaps for the first time.  They come for relief. If they stay they have a chance to do their real recovery work. Hope for a better life can then turn into an exploitation free reality.

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