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Posts: 21
Reply with quote  #1 
We have had some tough situations lately with relatives/friends saying insensitive things around our child with AN. They simply don't understand the impact. I know that she's going to hear all sorts of ED-encouraging things at school and in the real world, but we strongly believe that her home should be a safe place.

Our FBT therapist suggested some 'House Rules', which I think is a great idea. I'm thinking rules like: "We don't discuss calories." "We don't attach value to body shape." "We don't exercise just to burn calories." "We don't label food good or bad."...

I don't need to re-invent the wheel. If any of you experienced caregivers have already done this, please copy and paste for me! With thanks, in advance.


Posts: 989
Reply with quote  #2 
Hi sandy toes,

I'm a pretty relaxed person but I always had designated safety rules that were strictly enforced.

My rules about the safety rules were
* keep it simple
* not too many
* make the consequences clear

In your situation I would say something like 'D has a very serious illness and certain comments are triggering. We want to make her home a safe place so ANY talk about weight, food and exercise is banned. For her safety if you can't refrain we will have to ask you to head home for a bit. (or whatever consequence you decide)

Habits are really hard to break so as you greet guests I would ask them do they remember the safety rule and for them to repeat it. This will let them know that it is of ongoing importance and help them to remember to put it into practice.

If they say 'yes, but...' you just need to say you have discussed it with her team and this is what is necessary. Do not justify yourself. They do not have the full understanding that you have.

Also, help them to know what to do if your d starts those topics. I would recommend you coach them to say something like 'Hmmm indeed, did you see...(change topic)' or 'Hmmm, I just gotta go to the loo' or 'I'm not discussing that with you'. You know what suits your situation best.

Warm wishes

2015 12yo son restricting but no body image issues, no fat phobia; lost weight IP! Oct 2015 home, stable but no progress. Medical hosp to kick start recovery Feb 2016. Slowly and cautiously gaining weight at home and seeing signs of our real kid.

May 2017 Hovering around WR. Mood great, mostly. Building up hour by hour at school after 18 months at home. Summer 2017 Happy, first trip away in years, tons of variety in food, stepping back into social life. Sept 2017, back to school full time for the first time in 2 years. Happy and relaxed, just usual non ED hassles. 

  • Swedish proverb: Love me when I least deserve it because that's when I need it most.
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence Recovery, then, is not an act but a habit. Aristotle.
  • If the plan doesn't work, change the plan but never the goal. (but don't give up on the plan too soon, maybe it just needs a tweak or a bit more time and determination [wink] )
  • We cannot control the wind but we can direct the sail.

Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #3 
Hi Sandytoes,

I think having some house rules is a great idea. When my D was residential they had three rules that pretty much sum everything up

-Be respectful to others at ALL times
-Avoid all body talk (includes sizes, weight, comparing ect)
-Avoid all food talk (includes calories, diet talk, how things are prepared ect. The only exceptions to this was positive things such saying they enjoyed the meal or saying it was their favorite meal ect)

Two helpful things on how to combat these is the 'feedback loop' when you_____ I feel____ I need___ and if someone says something negative about themselves (Was very helpful for my D and possibly could be used for friends/relatives) then in response they have to say a positive affirmation.

Good luck

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Posts: 1,526
Reply with quote  #4 
Sandytoes, another agreement on keeping it simple.  My rules:
-We don't talk about body size-not even compliments
-We don't talk about dieting, restriction of food, exercising
-We don't discuss food-nothing labeled healthy or unhealthy, etc.

People often don't realize they are doing it but if something was said, I'd often just say "Let's discuss something else".  The funny thing is that kids are often much better at following the rules than adults.  My nieces never break those rules-her parent on the other hand really struggle with it.

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Posts: 2,208
Reply with quote  #5 
Hi there,
I had to have him avoid some pretty toxic people ( mainly family or extended family), for a loooong time.

Then  after he got a lot better, I exposed him more, but I had rules, you come into my home, you are not to talk about FOOD, FAT. CALORIES, SIZE,WEIGHT OR SHAPE..
That only worked to a point, and I often had to change the subject, one day I rem my MIL telling another family member at my table that " his eyes were bigger than his belly "....uuuuggghhhh.....and then another time my FIL started interfering with my Sons plate, taking his food off to taste and putting some of his meal on my Sons plate in a restaurant???

Now my Kid is in good recovery I expose him as normal, to whatever the dynamic is....With only one or 2 exceptions...
Best Wishes

Food is the medicine. Recovery is possible.

Posts: 1,204
Reply with quote  #6 
Hi sandytoes,
I think that is a great idea! I never thought about that but we would have needed it, too. I talked to everyone before visiting us but that were only words and quickly forgotten. A short list of about 3 to 5 rules, send per mail or whatsapp just before would be better.
Now in recovery my d could better stand all theses difficult themes at the table, but in the beginning it was hard to find something to talk about because even a discussion about saving whales organisations could be a problem [wink] I remember hitting my mother-in-law under the table for mentioning a thin actress at the table [wink]
Great idea!

Posts: 367
Reply with quote  #7 
All good ideas here. To the list of topics already mentioned (body shape, calories, fat, exercise, good/bad foods) consider adding portion size and hunger levels.

But people slip and those guidelines are abstract for people who are not dealing with ED.

I found it more effective when I specified common phrases that were not to be used with regard to food or appetite: "so much . . . ", "too much . . . ", "I'm full", "not hungry", "saving room", "too big", "just a sliver", "I shouldn't", "sinful", "greasy", "guilty", "stuffed", and so on. 

Posts: 9
Reply with quote  #8 
Sandytoes, thank you for your excellent question.  It could not have been timed better for me and my family.  Thanks to all who replied, because I have been searching for words on this very topic.   We have a lot of incoming family next month.  When I crunch the numbers, I realize that at least 1/3 of the people (teens and adults) have some sort of struggle about food.  Many of them are super skinny.  Meanwhile, my own daughter is weight restored but is not feeling fabulous about that, having gained a bit of recovery weight and showing more curves than she did at last year's gathering.  I still sting over certain remarks made by certain relatives, parents and non-parents alike, about themselves and their food choices, or the children's choices.  Those hit me hard , and made me worry about how my daughter (and younger son) heard them... Weight, size, shape, and a guilt complex about needing food certainly are preoccupations in American society.  I think it would be helpful to give adults a heads-up, requesting that they try to refrain from certain topics... At the very least, it would help them know why I WILL be changing the subject, if I hear it!!  Fortunately, I have some understanding and support from a few key family members, some of them in ED recovery.  Thanks again, this forum is awesome.
Fool me once, fool me twice, can't fool me thrice (chicken soup with rice!).

Posts: 21
Reply with quote  #9 
A huge thank you to everyone who replied. You gave me lots of great ideas. I compiled all the thoughts and examples and ending up sending out an email. I gave a few concrete examples of past triggering comments and their effects (without naming or shaming). I then explained that we are all human and even I slip up sometimes, but the goal is to make our home a safe place. I said the rules are:

"We don't talk about weight, food or exercise. More specifically...

-we don't talk about calories, diets/dieting, how food is prepared, anyone's portion sizes, good/bad foods, healthy/unhealthy foods

-we don't talk about body size, weight, shape, (not even compliments)"

Thank you again!

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Posts: 1,392
Reply with quote  #10 
Excellent thread, and thanks for getting it started sandytoes.  Lots of good ideas.

I find, even now, years after my own d's recovery from an ED, that some friends will still talk about weight, dieting, body is distressing to hear!

Usually, I just change the subject or offer no comment whatsoever, but occasionally I will speak up.  

On a brighter note, most of my family has gotten the message over the years that any talk of weight, body image, discussion of 'good' or 'bad' foods is not ok.  Haven't had to worry at any family gatherings about triggering talk for a long while....

It is good to not only hope to be successful, but to expect it and accept it--Maya Angelou
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