F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum

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 I seem to be full of dilemmas these days.  My in-laws stayed with us for 8 weeks to help out and just left 10 days ago.  However they're supposed to come back in July for another 3 weeks and don't know if that's a good idea or not.

When my 13D with AN was diagnosed back in February, my husband ended up having a nervous breakdown after she came out of IP in March because she was refusing to eat.  He has been battling very aggressive cancer since 2016 and he has had to be extremely strong and has endured some very tough things over the last few years.  For a while it seemed like my D's diagnosis and her mental state was just too much for him to take on top of everything else.  So I called his parents to come and help us because I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to manage everything on my own if my husband needed help. 

While I was very grateful for the help that my in-laws provided, I have however very mixed feelings about whether they actually help or hinder my daughter's AN recovery.  After my D was diagnosed, we learned that my mother-in-law was actually hospitalized for AN and depression for a year herself when she was in her 30s.  This was complete news to us, including my husband.  My mother-in-law has always been very selective about sharing her life history with others, including her children.  I had never before paid much attention to her relationship with food because it wasn't on my radar, but I realized during this visit that she still seems to have fairly significant issues with food. She will eat a small bowl of cereal in the morning, no lunch, and then a tiny dinner.  I'm pretty sure that my D noticed that.  Whenever we went out to eat I noticed that my mother-in-law would make an effort to eat lunch while in front of my D, but she often looked more scared of her lunch than my D did.  My mother-in-law's long list of food dislikes also meant more stress for me, but  because often food that my D needed to eat for dinner would be food that my mother-in-law would refuse to eat herself.  She never outright said it, but she would quietly just make herself a slice of toast instead.  

Then there is also the emotional part. My mother-in-law cannot cope with any type of disagreement or confrontation, even of the smallest type. She often insisted on making dinner, and she usually introduced a fruit salad towards the end of the meal which my D would always refuse to eat because it wasn't plated together with the rest of the meal.  While I agree that there is no rhyme or reason as to why the entire meal has to be introduced all at once for my daughter to eat it, we were still in the process of re-feeding and didn't think that was the time to tackle that.  So I asked my mother-in-law to please let me know when she made fruit salad so we could serve it all at once with the rest of dinner.  She replied by telling me that I should have known that she was making fruit salad from watching her chop fruit earlier in the day and she ran to her room crying and refused to come out for the rest of the evening.  Then my D blew up at me for making grandma cry. And by the way, most requests and discussions with my MIL have always resulted in this type of reaction.  Whether they come from me or from my husband. So talking things out so that we're all on the same page doesn't seem to be an option.  I've tried.

On top of that, she made several fat phobia comments that really set my D back and were so extremely unhelpful. She started saying right in front of my D that the reason her cousin was so fat was because she ate too many snacks.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing, I started shaking my head and saying "No! Please stop".  And she actually kept talking!  So I left the room.  But it was too late, the damage was done.  My D actually said to me later "Why did you get so angry at grandma, she's right, people get fat from eating too many snacks".  😡😡😡 And for the following two weeks my D started pushing back really hard on portions and snacks, every meal time became a battle ground yet again.  

And yet my mother-in-law holds a really special place in my D's heart.  There have been many things that my D has done to tackle her ED only because grandma was asking her to do it (such as going out to a coffee shop for snack or forcing herself to eat a dessert only because grandma made it).  My mother-in-law is 83 years old, she is starting to battle her own serious health challenges, and she lives half-way around the world, so I know that there won't be many (or maybe any) more visits beyond the upcoming one in July. 

So I'm feeling really torn about it.  On the one hand I now know that my in-laws are not built at all to cope or help with my daughter's ED and despite their best intentions their visits create a bigger burden for me.  Yet my daughter absolutely adores her grandmother and really wants her to come back in July.  My husband is concerned about his health and wants this opportunity to see his parents again. He said that he would however support me in whatever decision I make, and if I decide that we should ask them to cancel their trip then ok.  Of course they wouldn't take this lightly and I'm pretty sure that it would cause a huge family rift, but as far as I'm concerned my responsibility is to my D. 

Yet I'm genuinely not sure of what the best course of action is.  I want to put my daughter's AN recovery first, while also recognizing that both my husband's cancer diagnosis and my mother-in-law's advanced age and her own health challenges bring about other considerations as well.  

Hi TP7, I can appreciate your dilemma, one the one hand you want to focus on your d's recovery, but on the other hand you know that an 83 year old has limited travel time available to them. My father in law is only 74, but he won't be able to travel to us anymore due to his health. My father passed away at 72, just before we were going to visit, so I know that the regret of a missed visit is very real.

I think there are differences between the last and next visit. The next visit is for only 3 weeks and 3 weeks go much quicker than 8. You said they left 10 days ago, now 10 days are not much time to recover from their 8 week visit. You might find that in a month's time you have regained your energy and recharged your batteries enough to brace for another visit. Another difference is that you know what to expect and you can plan for that. Can you give your MIL other 'tasks' to do, maybe scrap booking with your d? Grandma might be able to take meals at different times, thus avoiding your d seeing that she is eating not the same. In the mean time you can tell your d that the elderly has different nutritional needs than growing teenagers. 

Also your d might be in a better place in 2 months' time and might be better able to handle that your MIL is eating differently or better at ignoring the things she says.  If you feel that July is still too soon, can you convince them to come in September maybe? 

This is a very hard decision, indeed. Sending you lots of hugs 🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗
D became obsessed with exercise at age 9 and started eating 'healthy' at age 9.5. Restricting couple of months later. IP for 2 weeks at age 10. Slowly refed for months on Ensures alone, followed by swap over with food at a snails pace. WR after a year at age 11 in March 2017. View my recipes on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKLW6A6sDO3ZDq8npNm8_ww
Hi tp7,
I hear you and I totally understand why you are concerned and your MILs behaviour does make refeeding harder, that is obvious I think.
We had a bit similiar problems here, my MIL is not a former ED patient but has very strange eating behaviours too and FIL must be careful not to eat too much at all and too much fat because of heart problems. In our case the In-laws are living with us 24/7.

So during refeeding we decided to eat only on Sundays together with the inlaws and only for lunch (which is the biggest meal here). I cooked but they ate downstairs and we upstairs in our living room. On Sundays I told MIL before every meal what comments she should not do but it did not work very good at the start and I had to kick her under the table quite often (I think she must have a lot of bruises on her legs at that time 🙁). With time it went better. She did not really understand why this is important but she learned to avoid to be kicked under the table 🙂.

When we eat lunch together it is clear that the inlaws do not refuse to eat anything that is on the table and that they finish what is plated. Today that is not important any more but in the early days my d watched every bite they ate...We still plate for all family members even when my d is not at home, that is funny, but it helps FIL not to eat too much too as he can not have seconds any more...

So in your case - my 2 cents:
Is it possible not to eat ALL meals together? Can you split in the house or make the inlaws go to a hotel near your home so they can come over for distraction but will not be there for every meal/snack?
If that is not possible, can you introduce some rules for cooking/serving? Can you for example ask MIL to make all the deserts/puddings and you cook? You could explain that you need to make dinner as the dietitian told you what needs to be in there and she can do all the "extras" (and that you will just not count).

All you describe about MILs behaviour and her emotional weakness sound very much ED. Can you ask hubby to talk about that with her and maybe get help for her? I know that she will not recover at her age any more but maybe late help is better than no help at all? It is not healthy to eat so little even for an old woman.

Here it helped a bit to make MIL read Harriot Browns "Brave girl eating" but I do not know if that is a good idea for an AN sufferer to read...it might trigger her too much.
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Laughing here while I am picturing that scene of you kicking your poor MIL Tina. Xx
Courage is not the absence of despair; it is rather the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair
There is an old ATDT rule: "whatever is needed to get the food in".
It was needed. 😁
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
I hear your distress at having them there. I know your h would want more time with them of course. 
I see how they can upset your routines to feed your d. So many different options and I wonder if they should not come back in July. 
Options as I see them:
1: your h goes to them for a few weeks and you take care of d
2: they come but you have a big discussion with them first. If they cannot understand what is happening and cannot abide by your rules or it is too hard for them, it may be h@!! for you and d and H.
3; they come and replay the same issues as last time as they are elderly and likely not going to change.
4: Are there other family members to keep them and you only visit at times  where there are no meals.
You mention in your post that you asked them to come and help out and that they were not helpful and maybe some harmful stuff was said and done? 

I keep thinking of you and the  tremendous stress you would be under if there was a replay of this last visit.
So I will be quite contrary to the others and say: I would not want them back. Not right now. 
This not the time for d or you to have an extra burden. That would be my priority.

Please note there is no right or wrong and everyone so far has made some great suggestions that may work beautifully in your situation. I am coming at this from my own relationships with my and my h’s families. I know they would not get ED. I know they would undermine me. I know my family and h’s would blame me. So I never, even to this day have told our families. Sad but true. 
No matter what you decide I support you all the way!
When within yourself you find the road, the right road will open.  (Dejan Stojanovic)

Food+more food+time+love+good professional help+ATDT+no exercise+ state not just weight+/- the "right" medicine= healing---> recovery(--->life without ED)
I've found that I had to just lay down the rules and keep reminding people of them.  Can you talk to your MIL and just ask that she not make any comments, etc?  Give her a list of things that your daughter needs her to avoid.  I would also include in there (so as not to get anyone's back up) the helpful things she did and could continue doing.  It's really hard on daughter when you say this but it really helps her when you say or do this.