Skip to main content

Family and Eating Distress Recovery

By August 14, 2020July 16th, 2022No Comments

Families where some of the members are suffering from EatingDistress (ED) are very often problem focused. What often gets you onto ED is different than what will get you out of it. Concentration on the problem can enlarge and over-emphasise the problem. We need to look for the person’s strengths, talents, skills and resources emphasising hope and successful ways of recovery.

Motivation is a simple mental strategy a person can learn to use for him or herself or to motivate others. A person needs this strategy when they want results, but it is hard to get exited about the process.

Different ways of motivation

Toward what we want – and away from what we don’t want.

Toward orientation is more goal-directed and away from orientation is more directed toward identifying and solving problems. Both motivations have advantages and disadvantages. Toward motivation is more commonly appreciated motivation of highly successful people, the less appreciated away from motivation can also be very successful.

What people value determines what life means to them and what action they will take to move toward or away from.

People with ED become disconnected from their values and they lose their motivation to get better. Their attention is on what they don’t want, and not on what they do want.

In coaching people with ED is important to use both motivations away from and toward to motivate them.

Treatment refusal is common occurrence is ED treatment, one of the aspects of ED is the denial that that there is any problem.

Different types of parents:

– Just bury their heads in the sand and hope it all will go away

– Wanted to fix everything

– Wrap them in cotton wool and protect them

– Learn to understand, encourage, believe in them, and believe in freedom and full recovery – the most helpful ones

Support is not always enough – education, coaching and willingness to change and learn, is often more important than just support. The education of parents in very important for the health of the sufferer and the person who is trying to help

Family needs to provide an environment that is nurturing or supporting emotionally and physically healthy development

Parents are confused and shaken by all these conflicting health messages, they need to learn to trust themselves again. Parents need to learn to trust their own judgments again and feel confidant in their parenting abilities.

Learn to enjoy parenting !

Parents and professionals need to work together and speak the same language of different values and hope. We all need to remember that weight, eating and health cannot become obsession, and that they are just part of what makes life worthwhile. Wellness and wholeness are not about attaining perfect health or even longevity, but improving our present quality of life in emotional, social and spiritual ways as well.

Cooperation between family and professional can restore normal eating by creating supportive atmosphere without fears and anxieties. Their negative feeling need to be workout in their family educational sessions with a competent eating distress practitioner. A flexible, low-key approach focusing on supporting the child with unconditional love and acceptance helps reduce the tensions and fears.

Mothers, fathers or significant others in children’s lives who are obsessed or worried over their own weight, continually restricting fat or calories, and often talking about these concerns, can set children at very early stages. Parent’s over concern about a child weight adds to the tension, fear and confusion child is feeling. Families need to be safe places were children are seeing as beautiful individuals.

Children need reassurance that every person, not depending on their weight is okay, just as he or she is. Parents and professionals need to model and teach active living, positive outlook on life and as part of that normal eating.

Parent’s A to Z to Recovery

AAccept that recovery takes time

BBelieve in the sufferer and their recovery

CConcentrate on what you like about your child and express it.

D Develop interests of your own.

EEmbrace all of who you are

FForgive YOURSELF and others

GGive yourself praise when you make small steps

HHave a sense of humor

IInitiate a conversation with your child. Often they are scared to do so, but would love to have a normal chat

JJust be!

KKeep getting back up

LLive for today not for tomorrow or yesterday

M – Mind yourself

N Never ever give up HOPE

OOvercome distorted thinking and ideas that run in the family

PPositivity…surround yourself and your child with as much positivity as much is possible

QQuestion the messages that are sent out by the advertisement companies

RRemember – RECOVERY is possible

SShare household task so that your child makes contribution

T Take time to spend together

UUse everything what you learned to make it easier

WWe can do it – think in “WE” not just her or him

X – eXamine your attitude to your child recovery regularly

YYet – maybe not yet, but one day….

Z Zoom – zoom to all the good things this season


Carers and Recovery

At the very beginning of my ‘recovery’, before MTC, my mam made the decision to commit to doing whatever she could do to help me. She bashed down walls, researched online for places I go get treatment and basically threw herself into trying to get me to work on recovery. In the depths on ED, I had no idea the effect this was having on her emotionally – she was so determined but also fearful.

When we came to MTC, my mam became a class-member too. She attended group on a weekly basis regardless of whether I went or not in the early days. Initially she wanted to learn about ED and to gain understanding. She has since told me that by coming to MTC, she learned how to put complete trust in my practitioners. She saw the recovered and free people coming to group and believed that I could be one of them too. She listened to other freedom fighters share things that I initially wasn’t able to express myself, and could identify times that I was struggling at home. Group is a safe place for her to leave her worry behind and to share what is concerning her so that afterwards she comes home much clearer and refreshed. Her attitude at home with me gradually changed – instead of the worry and the anxiety and the stress about the family and me she learned how to manage challenging situations. She often says how she’s learning another language – a new way of speaking and expressing. With time she knew how to react to the things my condition shouted, cried or whispered to her and knew that the real me was still there under the distress.

The beautiful thing however, is how much my mother learned, and is continuing to learn, about herself from attending group. She doesn’t consider group to be all about going for me and my benefit – she gets so much out of it herself. Before MTC my mam was going through a time where she was going through the motions of life, putting up with bullies in her own personal life. She soon realized that group could help her to discover more about herself again and she rediscovered her strength and independence. From watching her develop into a more free person and seeing her prioritise her own needs, I was motivated to do the same. By not putting her life on hold for me or anyone else anymore, I was encouraged to take my own recovery seriously. I sometimes worry that ‘everyone’ is becoming conditioned with diet talk and low-fat food etc but seeing my mam not giving a rats about any of that really inspired me that there are people out there who don’t care about it – and that they’re so much happier as a result.

My mam has helped me in more ways than I can express by simply attending group every week. She committed to learn and in doing so, committed to me too. I am so grateful and lucky to have her by my side and I cannot stress enough – if you are a carer and are able to come to group then come and learn – your loved one will (eventually!!) thank you for it.


A Parent’s Guide To Supporting Your Loved One

When we struggle with ED we often fall out with the people closest to us, most likely our parents. There is no doubt that being a carer is not an easy task in any perspective especially if you are emotionally attached to them like a parent is. There is nothing worse than seeing your child self harming and not looking after themselves. Parents, like people with personal experience, can often say and do things based on fear. This isn’t beneficial to parents or loved ones as it can cause arguments and make both people feel isolated.
Trust is vital in any relationship and this is no exception. It is important to be open and honest with each other. “White lies” can often be damaging to the loved ones self confidence because it makes us question ourselves and why the cares felt the need to hide things from us. Bottling up anger only leads to an explosion. Expressing feelings directly and direct communication prevents misunderstandings and hard feelings.
Words like “how are you feeling?” “Are you ok?” can seem caring but can actually be quite grating on the ears of a loved one, especially when both of us know we are not ok. Some more helpful sayings could be “how can I help?” “Do you need a hug?” “Do you want to hear a bad joke?”.
When a loved one feels down it is often tempting to over analyse our thinking and question “why?” We are feeling “overwhelmed, scared, lonely, sad, bad etc.” because there is an accumulation of red thoughts. That’s all we need to know. It’s that simple so it’s also that simple to change.  Talking about something else is often more beneficial. Talk about a funny event, story, video, talk about work/school/collage, about a story you heard on the radio. This makes connection which is often something we crave when suffering from ED. It creates green thoughts. Our relationship also benefits because we practice having light conversation instead of being consumed by our negativity. Please don’t ask us to talk about what we are feeling “bad” about. Wallowing in our negativity with us only promotes valuing being a victim.
Key words can be just as helpful. Repeated theory becomes a fact. We often repeat negative affirmations and put ourselves down so simple, hopeful even cheesy positive affirmations can help draw us out of this self destructive thinking.
Asking “why?” is also quite grating because often we don’t understand our own thoughts and a lot of them can be red thoughts. We don’t need to know why we have an ED we only need to know why we want freedom. Talking about freedom and all the possibilities of what we can do when we’re free is often a more helpful conversation. Talking about things we are passionate about can help give us a sense of self knowledge, something we often lack in early stages. Ask “where would you travel in the future?” “What person from history would you like to meet?” “What would you do if you won the lottery?” “If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?” “What’s your favourite holiday, book, movie, place?” Even if we have different views it can be a good way to build up confidence in our own opinions and respect for others and their opinions. It can teach us that it is ok to have different opinion and that it doesn’t make one person “wrong”.
Only 7% of communication is verbal, hence the phrase “words are cheep”. This is very true. As sufferers, we often think we are brilliant actors but we’re not. Parents aren’t either. Much like animals can sense the nervous energy of people, condition can sniff out fear and resentment. Often it is used in a destructive manner and condition convinces us that our parents are angry at us because we are terrible people and that we are a disappointment. Direct communication again is very important and can stop sarcasm and unwanted tension. Even if you are annoyed at us please tell us! Everyone is entitled to feel annoyed but the person you are annoyed at is entitled to be told directly that you are feeling that way and why. Open relationships don’t work because the people don’t get angry at each other, they work because they verbalise this gently and work through it.
Sometimes we just want a hug. Sometimes words aren’t needed. Kinaesthetic touch promotes connection and in simple terms who doesn’t feel better after a hug?
Gandhi was right when he said “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. One of the most helpful things you can do as a parent is lead by example. Taking care of your self, being open about your feelings, owning your own values, taking time to relax can be simple ways to help yourself and your loved one. Asking them to join in in this self care time can be even more beneficial. Ask if they want to join you in some meditation, some yoga, watching a movie, even just sitting down and listening to some nice music. When we see our parents taking care and being nice to themselves it can be very helpful.
Don’t scare yourself with all the bad things that can happen. Especially at the start of recovery it is often easy to try to gather as much information as you can. You will notice that you come across many contradicting opinions and information and sometimes you can be on an information overload. Reading books written by doctors and such can often be more detrimental the beneficial because you can end up scaring yourself. These fears like I said at the start are unhelpful to parents and loved ones. Gathering other people’s stories, unless they are motivational, is very destructive and please don’t share them with us! Often it may seem that telling us how bad things are for someone else can help give us a kick up the arse to recover but this is usually used by our condition or else scares us. There is a time and place for reality but recovery is a reality too.
Please respect our privacy. Sometimes we can be quite annoyed when we realise that people have been told about our ED when they don’t need to. There can often be a lot of shame attached to our condition and we can feel quite embarrassed that other people know. There is nothing to be ashamed of and even as we let go of this we still would prefer for our ED to not be shared around. It may seem like it “explains” things to family or friends but please talk to us first. Sometimes it may be necessary to get others involved but when our behaviours or things that we did which we are not proud of are shared with others, sometimes even when we’re present, feels quite invasive. There is a lot of stigma attached to mental health and ED and especially older generations can be quite judgmental.
We do want your help. Even though it may seem like we are being defensive and shutting people out, the thing we crave the most is connection. So please don’t think we don’t want your help.
Don’t tolerate bad behaviour. Condition is not an excuse for bad behaviour. Shouting, put downs, comments, raised voices, verbal and physical abuse are not ok under any circumstance. Protecting yourself from this and not engaging in this is an excellent example for us. Often we don’t remember these episodes and feel guilty afterwards this is a vicious cycle so it can’t be entertained. Walking away and not fighting back is the best thing to do. Talk things out when everything is calm not in the heat of the moment. This is like trying to fly a paper plane through a closed window, wait for the window to open.
Sometimes we just need space. Sometimes we are very distressed or just need to think. It can often be frustrating when you are trying to help your loved one and they want to be alone but everyone needs some alone time to figure things out. Ten minutes to write our thoughts down can help us to clarify things in our head so please understand it’s not personal.
Remember to give yourself credit. Respecting yourself is another brilliant way of leading by example. Give yourself credit for being willing to help your loved one, for coming to group, being willing to learn, being there to give us a hug and taking the time to read this.
All of these depend on your own personal situation and where your loved one is in their recovery but I thought these were some general things that I find helpful. I would love for others to add to this and to hear from some parents and carers because 2 heads are better than one.
Fly High:)

Support for Parents/Carers

Following last Saturday’s recovery class, I felt that I just had to share a bit of my experience of my daughters recovery.

This was my second time round with having had two daughters with an eating disorder. The first time round there was no help, there was no support, and in fact if you googled the causes of ED quite often the parents and family were blamed. I was very alone and very stressed out with trying to help my child, deal with the arguments and protect the two younger siblings from knowing what was going on.

However, second time round has been different. This time there was more education available on the illness of Eating Distress. The family were not to blame and you could actually get involved in your child’s recovery.

This time around there was Recovery Class for both the carers of loved ones and for the loved ones, together. This recovery class is very facilitated and has a huge energy in the room. People are there because they want to be. Because they want to learn, want to share some of their experiences and want to share what has helped them. It is not a forum for comparing how bad or how ill any one person is, but instead it is a forum for each and every person who has any form of eating distress to be helped, supported and comforted in a very non judgemental setting.

As a parent it helped me to see that my child was not unique in the behaviours that she engaged in. That if she did not respect her safety, or did not engage in therapy, or refused to eat, or refused to stop eating, whatever the behaviour was, that she was not alone, that this was nothing new. But it also helps the sufferers know, what we as parents are going through. How we worry about them, how we want to help them, or even how some parents just can’t face it. It also gives the clients the opportunity to inform the carers what helps and what doesn’t help, but at the same time acknowledging that that is their experience and not necessarily what works for everyone. Attending the recovery classes brings like-minded people together and people who are all striving for something better. It helps you understand what some of the struggles are for the people who are experiencing the eating distress and also to learn how they are recovering from them. It helps you learn and accept that the journey is one with lots of little bumps in the road, with lots of choices, and that a step backwards is not a failing, but instead a learning.

Now in Marino you have the added opportunities of learning about and educating yourself on the illness and its recovery from the Parents Workshops that are run periodically. These unfortunately came too late for me, but I did actually attend one. At this workshop I learnt how I could maybe have done things slightly differently, not that I ever want to have to deal with it again! It gives you skills on how best to work with your loved one and at the same time look after yourself.

There is also the opportunity to engage in care work. I know when I was going through this for the second time that I didn’t cope with it very well myself. I did all the right things for my daughter, be it by supporting, encouraging, financing, trekking backwards and forwards to sessions and the doctor, attending group, doing family sessions, etc etc etc, but I didn’t do anything for me. I could have done with someone to talk to about how this was affecting me, how I could perhaps support her better, how maybe I could start letting go again and trusting her to stay safe and healthy. Getting some support for yourself and taking a time out for yourself is also so important. So perhaps maybe think about a care work session or two just for you. After all, the healthier and happier you are, the more controlled and capable you will be to help your loved one. Don’t reach burn out before you reach out!

Finally, as a parent/carer perhaps consider the following:

For yourself

Engage in some self care every day.

Do not tolerate bad behaviours directed at you.

Walk away from an antagonistic situation until you are both calm enough to discuss it

Don’t waste time and energy on feeling guilty.

Educate yourself.

Attend group sessions regularly.

Talk and get support.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable – its human afterall.

Take the journey with your loved one, it will be hard, it will have its ups and down, it will have its fun parts, it will have its successes – but in the end its worth it.

Always believe there is full recovery.

Believe in your loved one

Do not personalise their bad behaviours!

For your loved one:

Don’t smother your loved one

Listen to him/her

Give your loved one space when they need it.

Learn to trust him/her again. (with nutrition, safety, alcohol etc)

Acknowledge the successes

Let your loved one recover in their own time.

Do not accuse them of doing this to you – they did not ask for this illness.

Let them know you love them/proud of them

Support and encourage your loved one.

Be there for them.

Do not pressure them into talking about their therapy sessions. They will talk when they are ready.

Do not expect a quick fix.

Don’t be afraid to ask what you can do – and don’t be offended if they say “nothing”

If they are in education or working, consider whether time out from these may be of benefit in your loved ones recovery.

Encourage continuity of care – I firmly believe that this was a crucial part to my daughter’s recovery. She started with twice weekly sessions, then weekly, had nutritional sessions, group sessions, doctor visits and care work sessions.

Ask only that your loved one does his or her best, not what you expect or what other family members have achieved. Treat them as an individual.

I’m sure there are many other tips that could be added to this as with each journey there are different experiences. Good luck to anyone who is starting their journey, it’s an interesting one with many ups and downs, so celebrate the ups and learn from the downs. Get as much help and support as you can and practice self-care every day. Keep the light of hope shining and always believe that there is full recovery. I have witnessed it!! J


Beware The Chameleon

I am a parent of our fully recovered daughter from an Eating Disorder, and what a great place we have being in for a couple of years now. I am prompted to write this as I am concerned about new trends, well at least trends that appear new to me.

I live on the coast and regularly take a stroll along the sea front promenade with my family. We love doing this in both stormy weather and sunshine.

I have noticed that some of those on the promenade are not really aware of their surroundings. I have been involved in sport at different levels throughout my life. Most enjoyable, and hugely beneficial. Some of my lifelong friends I met through sport. So I am all for sport for the right reasons. My concerns are that some of the people that I meet on the promenade are not jogging/running for the enjoyment, actually they are doing so much harm to their bodies by the continuous pounding on the concrete. This is only part of my concern, the other big concern is the “ Healthy, Clean Eating”concept/obsession. Mix these two together and anyone can see the problem.

So where does my friend the chameleon come in. Just imagine Sir David Attenborough speaking in his whispering voice as the chameleon appears on screen. “At first glance this little lad looks so cute with his bulging rotating eyes, and his ability to change to all colours of the rainbow. But be very aware, behind this cuteness lies a LETHAL KILLER. One lash of its very far reaching tongue, can mean instant death to its prey. Sound familiar. So parents, beware of the Eating Disorder camouflaged as a sport, or obsessive, so called clean/healthy eating program, it maybe something more sinister. If you see this I would raise your concerns with a professional. Not making a mountain out of a mole hill, but prudent to check it out. I am glad that we got the proper help. Now we all walk the same promenade, and enjoy both the stormy/and sunny times.