My 11 year old daughter has just been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. We have an appointment at a clinic next week. Until then, I am doing research of my own to find ways to help her! I know she has to eat maximum calories in small amounts at first to gain her weight back.
I have been reading the recipes on your website & they look delicious, but I have a question. I am a personal trainer and we are a very active and fit family. I have always emphasized eating healthy meals and snacks in our household, but I never forbidden my children to eat “kid food” (ice cream, cookies and chips). They eat it everyday! I do not have an eating disorder, but feel like I cannot eat the meals with all the fat and cream. Even if I only have a little, she will see that I'm not eating the amount I expect her to eat. I don't need to gain weight, but I know she does. How do I handle this?
Katharine Loeb, PhD responds:
I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s recent diagnosis. It sounds as though you are doing your best to get her the help she needs, and trying to think preemptively about potential obstacles, including her perceptions of your own eating habits relative to what you will be asking her to consume. Having a family culture that emphasizes a combination of physical fitness and flexible eating is positive and in no way incompatible with the Maudsley method. Moreover, the quantity and quality of food required for nutritional rehabilitation in the context of anorexia nervosa does not need to generalize to well family members, including yourself. While parental modeling of the healthy consumption of a range of foods, including desserts and snacks, in reasonable ratios, is good to implement as part of an overall family plan, family-based treatment for an eating disorder is a unique process that emphasizes food as medicine for the ill child. What is appropriate for your daughter to eat will likely be unnecessary for others in your home. If the anorexia nervosa tries to debate with you about “fairness” or “double standards,” please do not be distracted or thwarted by this! A firm but empathic response such as “I know the illness is looking for any excuse to gain the upper hand, but we love you and won’t let you be sick,” will get you farther than a point-by-point argument.
Katharine Loeb, PhD
Dr. Loeb is Associate Professor of Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Director of Research at the Eating and Weight Disorders Program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and serves as Clinical Advisor to Maudsley Parents.