When your son or daughter has been diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia or another eating disorder your job description gets a lot longer: now you are a nurse, a researcher, a record-keeper, a team leader, a cheerleader, the chauffeur, and the sounding board for an illness your child probably doesn't believe exists. You are in charge of food, activities, and treatment prescriptions and all while you are on a steep learning curve you hadn't expected. (Read: Finding An Eating Disorder Treatment Specialist) This is a good time to "let things go."
Eating Disorder Recovery
A lot of people seem to think that "re-feeding" is just for treatment of anorexia. I'd like to argue for a different way of looking at weight restoration and nutrition for all eating disorders.
I encourage parents to step up early and with urgency when a child has an eating disorder. Sometimes, for various reasons, this encouragement gets me into trouble.
I have tried to write another blog post, several times, but can't get anywhere. This happens when I'm trying to avoid something: I stumble over it anyway. There is no avoiding it: I went to a funeral this weekend of a young woman killed by anorexia and I'm sad and I'm mad and I'm sad again and I don't see how to think about anything else.
I'm an optimistic person and an activist by nature. I'd rather talk about what we, as parents, CAN do than what NOT to do. But sometimes doing less is not only best, it is lifesaving.
What happens when a clinician tells our child to do something we don't agree with? This is confusing for children, at times, and for us! The reality is that when we take our child to consult with a professional, we are engaging in co-parenting at some level. Another adult is telling our child what to do. But, at times, these instructions are in opposition to our guidance, and that great friend of eating disorders -- triangulation -- gets a boost.
I just came back from the Academy of Eating Disorders international conference in Salzburg. To my chagrin, one thing I discovered is that eating disorder treatment professionals around the world can't agree on eating disorder terminology. They still use different terms to describe the same thing, and it makes discussing eating disorders very confusing.
Back in 2002, when I first started learning about eating disorders, it was rare for the media to mention genetics. Now it is rare for it not to be mentioned. But how much further are we on this? The idea of a genetic predisposition to eating disorders still causes a range of reactions: from relief to ridicule.
When most people think of anorexia, they think of weight loss. But often the first clue isn't losing weight, it is a child failing to gain expected weight.
At first your child's new habits seem normal, even admirable: a diet to shape up or new health-conscious habits. Then it seems to be getting extreme: refusing to eat what the family is having, and questioning every ingredient. One day, you realize this isn't a phase, this is an eating disorder, and the eating disorder can get very ugly, very fast. As a parent, it's important to support your child and not to demean them for their mental illness. It's important to separate your child from the eating disorder.