Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is an eating disorder?
What can you do to support your loved one? What works, what doesn't?
Learn as much as possible about eating disorders so you
What doesn’t work: Ignoring the situation, isolating yourself, getting angry, hoping they will just stop, blaming yourself, and working with treatment providers who blame the family rather than helping the healthy part of the sufferer to grow.
What are the clues if your child is starving herself, has food phobias, or is restricting certain foods?
He or she may sit at the table with you and say he/she ate at a friend’s house or that he will take his dinner to his room. Going to the bathroom a lot, especially after eating, excessive exercise, passing out, slipping grades, social isolation, behavior changes, hair falling out, skin changes, sullenness, food rituals are just some.
Any food phobias and restricting foods can quickly develop into a life-threatening situation in a genetically pre-disposed person. These are all big red flags that need to be taken seriously. A great resource for these red flags is http://www.familyfeedingdynamics.com/.
What can I read to learn as much as possible about this disorder?
How do we not neglect our other children?
Make a conscious choice that the eating disorder will not be in control of the household. Choose to make time for the other children, even if it means finding others to be with your ill child.
How do we as parents not get pulled into all of the drama that surrounds an eating disorder?
Learn how to have healthy boundaries, learn as much as possible about eating disorders, and find a qualified treatment team to support you. Remember, you must “put your own oxygen mask on first” before helping your child. This is essential, not optional. These are complex, life threatening disorders and getting help is essential.
Learning to set healthy boundaries is something Becky Henry works with clients on every day. Weekly coaching provides the needed accountability and support to stay strong in the face of eating disorders.
How can we have a normal family meal?
Setting clear boundaries is essential, even when your child is very ill. Choosing to remain calm will help, as it may be a very long time before you have “normal” family meals again. This is easier said than done I realize, which is another reason that education and self-care are so important. You can check out individual coaching and the Caregiver retreats here.
Why did you write your book, Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders, and whom did you interview?
a. To let others know that they are not alone, reducing their isolation, to expose the reality of eating disorders, and reduce the stigma. It is also an educational resource for current and upcoming health practitioners in their training, so they are able to recognize red flags and be able to diagnose and refer people for treatment–in other words, open up pathways to proper treatment.
b. I interviewed parents and siblings who currently have, or had a child/loved one with an eating disorder, as well as people in recovery, and those who are fully recovered.
If we need to put our child into a treatment center for this disorder, how do we decide which one is right for him/her? How do I know if the treatment center near us has had good results? Do we use inpatient that is usually 30-day program? Will a local outpatient program be as effective?
Start with calling the Alliance for Eating Disorders and getting guidance on which centers will be the best fit for your child. And look at an eating disorders website such as ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders).
As you are researching treatment options, it may help to talk with other families to learn what their experiences have been, and we can talk about what questions to ask for your particular situation. A great place to connect with other families is on the Hope Network Weekly Group Phone Support calls (GPS).
How do we pay for the inpatient or outpatient treatment, the counselors, etc.?
It is not necessary to be wiped out financially, although it happens with alarming frequency. An excellent resource is the law firm of Kantor and Kantor; they can help you learn about how to make sure your insurance company pays what they are obligated to pay. An evidence based approach called Maudsley Family-Based Therapy, is an option for some people, is much more affordable than traditional treatment centers.
How do I recognize a relapse? How do I stay calm when relapse happens so I can support this slip?
Being aware that relapse is very common will help you remain calm, as will making sure you have a great support system in place. When you hear the eating disorder and not your loved one, this is a big red flag.
When you are seeing more secretive behaviors, and some of the signs that initially got your attention, it is time to trust your instincts and ask for help from your support team.