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

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Hi folks, this is my first post. I found the site thanks to NEDA. 
D is 17 y.o., senior in high school. Probably has had ED for some time but didn't see it til recently. 
Cut to the chase, then the chase: D is displaying many ED behaviors but H thinks it's only weight related.
Chase: History of depression in last 2 years along w/cutting. Body dissatisfaction since elementary school surfaced on & off. In the past has tried several restrictive diets that called for specific foods, would get mildly upset if changes/modifications had to be made. Started displaying obvious (to me & others) ED behaviors last month (Feb) while recovering from wisdom tooth removal. This was 3 mo to the day after surgery to repair broken collarbone. Ate out of boredom & depression, gained about 25 lbs. D is 5'5" tall & weighed about 140 back in October, got up to 167 by late Feb. Started counting calories, became disgusted with herself b/c she let herself "get fat". Believes she's disgusting, entire identity wrapped up in the scale & Korean pop (K-Pop) music, idols.
Observations, taken from NEDA website's Parent Toolkit:
-history of anxiety
-history of depression
-difficulty regulating emotions
-obsessive/compulsive behaviors
-emphasis on dieting, "ideal bodies" are within narrow range of shapes, sizes
-family & personal history of depression/anxiety
-family history of addiction/alcoholism
-negative/distorted self image
-self image dependent on body shape, weight
-fear of eating w/others/in public
-preoccupied w/food
-eating tiny portions or refusing to eat
-avoids eating w/others
-eating alone
-disappears after eating
-cuts food into tiny pieces
-little concern over dramatic weight loss
-social withdrawl
-makes excuses for not eating
-withdraws from social activities (this is getting a bit better)
-flat mood/emotion
-mood swings
-sleeps to avoid hunger (personal observation, not from NEDA site)
-drinks excessive amts of water to combat hunger pangs 
-difficulties concentrating
-preoccupied w/food, weight, calories
-denies feeling hungry
-eats very little during the day then hoards food in afternoon, too full for dinner
-limited social spontaneity
-states goal is to be thin "no matter what" (D wrote this in a text)
-extreme concern with body weight, shape
-gets angry when scale was taken away (twice), manages to find hiding spot (personal observation)
-exhibits fasting behavior after excessive eating

Despite all of this H believes this is just weight related. D had secret goal of 100 lbs (5'5" tall) but has since changed goal to 125 lbs. D believes that once she gets to that weight she'll be "pretty" and will stop dieting. Since goal is more reasonable by most standards H says "if she gets to that weight & there's still a problem we'll address it then". H doesn't understand that it might be the point of no return by then. H IS willing to attend D's dr appt next week to follow up on antidepressant medication if work schedule allows, that's a step in the right direction. I contacted dr's office in a panic when D's goal was 100 lbs & she wrote a letter indicating therapy at which time H started to see the light but not completely. I'm concerned dr will change her tune about therapy once D says goal is now 125.

D has 2 close friends (one is fellow high school senior going into medical field, one is guy who graduated last year) who have been helping me monitor her situation, both are concerned about D. They're also concerned about H's lack of understanding. Friends, H & I all did an intervention type meeting about 10 days ago. D stated she'd be willing to try eating/exercising in a healthy way but there's little follow through. Does go to the gym w/me or friends but workouts are short, probably due to lack of energy.

If anyone has any ideas or words of wisdom, please let me know ASAP.

Hi satipler - Welcome. So sorry you needed to find us here.

I'm trying to be sure I understand the basics of your situation: Does your h agree that your d has a serious problem and needs help? It's hard for many, especially dads, it seems, to wrap their minds around the possibility of an eating disorder, but he can see that cutting is a huge red flag that something is amiss, no? Does he agree that she exhibits obsessive/compulsiveness? We're not doctors here, and we can't diagnose, but it's clear that your intuition is screaming at you that something is very amiss with your d. Does your h agree with that - he disagrees with what the problem is or he thinks there's no problem other than "normal" teen drama/behavior?

You say your d disappears after eating. Do you know why? Is it possible she's starting to purge after meals? Can you require her to stay with you at least an hour after meals? Many of the good folks here have learned through bitter experience that it's really important to identify and stop purging behavior early on. (I probably wouldn't mention purging to her because if she is developing an eating disorder, that type of discussion can be twisted around into being heard as a suggestion or challenge.)

Honestly, it's hard to know what to make of your situation. So many of the warning signs truly are pretty common teen behavior, and yet ... 

If her friends are that worried about her, she needs help. Whether she's developing an eating disorder or not. I guess that's how I'd I'd approach it with H in your shoes. Maybe find the points of agreement as a place to start.

Hang in there. I remember that escalating sense of something being wrong, not knowing where to turn, what to do. 

Please give her friends a big hug for me. Friends like that probably saved my d's life by alerting me when they knew my d needed help. xx

"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
Hi Torie,
-H doesn't see there's a serious problem unless these behaviors continue after she reaches her goal weight, at which point it'll probably be the point of no return. D doesn't cut (or purge) anymore so that's a non-issue. The OCD was related to a different issue too, sorry to confuse things I was just trying to give an overall history.
-H does agree something is amiss, but isn't convinced it's an ED. He thinks it's purely weight-driven.
-D disappears after eating, in my mind, because she feels guilty & has the urge to purge but won't do so. She fasts instead.
-The warning signs I listed are straight from the Parent Toolkit from the NEDA website, with the few exceptions I noted in parentheses.
-I agree she needs help, but H thinks they're over-reactive teenagers & that I'm overreacting as well. The writing on the wall is plain to us. And even if he does acknowledge it's an ED he'll be like "oh geez here we go again, time to fix her again". Don't get me wrong, he loves her, but he has a hard time handling people who aren't "whole".
-I'm hanging in there, giving up is not an option. I have plans to meet a friend for coffee on Thursday, her daughter is an ED survivor so I'll be picking her brain. If I don't I'll lose it. In fact, I'll be honest, I dream about taking her scale from the bathroom, putting it in the living room and "worshipping" it, saying "oh mighty scale, you are my god. I'll do anything for you to make your number smaller & smaller. I'll give up my health, my family, my friends, my faith in God. You are powerful, oh scale, I will do anything for you." That's how frustrated I am. Yet I know that it's not her, it's ED. I have to separate the two.
-I'll give her (and now my) friends a hug; they're indespensable, no question.
Thanks for caring.


Welcome, satipier!

I'm sorry about your d but I'm so encouraged that you are seeking help for her!  That bodes well for her future!

Weight is not a great indicator of mental health.  EDs are biological brain disorders, and you can't tell the state of someone's brain by looking at their waist.  Unfortunately, kids who might be considered overweight often suffer for a long time before anyone gets alarmed.  They may exhibit all the symptoms of ED (as you have listed) but no one puts 2 and 2 together until they have reached some critical weight--and by that time they have been ill for a long time and the ED thoughts/behaviors are seriously entrenched.

Do you have height/weight records for your d as she was growing?  It would be helpful if you can plot her growth--especially if you can get records from before she was depressed--and see what is happening with her weight.  You can enter the data into mygrowthcharts.com.  It will help you see what kind of percentile line she tracked and project where she ought to be now (or at least an initial estimate).

We can't diagnose here, but this is the kind of information that you can take to your d's doctor.  You can also take these AED guidelines (many doctors don't know what to look for) and any of these FEAST family guides--in fact show your h the Puzzling Symptoms pamphlet.

Whether you can get your h on board at this point or not, you can still move forward with your d.  She should see a doctor, but you should let the dr know your concerns ahead of time.  Many parents here have been burned by drs saying inappropriate things (like "She's fine, mom, relax"--ED loves that!), and you're at particular risk of having that happen because your d is not at a scary weight yet.  We were in the same boat.  So if you can, talk to the doctor ahead of time, and have him check her orthostatic heart rate and b/p, maybe even order an ekg.  Don't rely on bloodwork, as it can come back normal right up to the point of death.

Good luck!  You are a heroic parent to get this recovery started early!
Colleen in the great Pacific Northwest, USA

"What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn't much better than tedious disease."
Alexander Pope, 1688-1744

Hi Colleen, 
Thanks for your suggestions & support. I assume your first paragraph refers to my husband; I've become aware that ED is a brain disorder [smile]

I have height/weight records from when she was growing; almost always in the 50th percentile.

I dropped off some info for the Dr to look over before D's appt on Tuesday afternoon. I'd printed the pages from the NEDA Parent Toolkit that lists the risks & behaviors of ED in general as well as ana & bulimia, with D's specific behaviors circled. At least half of the behaviors/characteristics were circled in each category (general ED behaviors, ana behaviors, etc). Despite this H still insists that we not overreact. I'll look at the pamphlet you mentioned & give it to H if it seems like he'd "get it". I'll also look at the AED guidelines so I can talk to dr about it even if it's after the fact. If I have to I'll make a separate appt with her to discuss matters.

I just had coffee with a friend whose D is recovered/recovering from bulimia, she shared a wealth of info after I vented for what seemed like an eternity.

D told me yesterday that she thinks her rx (prozac) is finally kicking in, since she no longer feels like she has to drag herself around every day. Her mood seems more upbeat in the last few days & she's eating better. However I know better than to assume things are all better now.

I don't know that I'm a heroic parent, but I do know better than to try & wait this out. But thanks for the kudos!

I'll keep everyone updated. Keep the info & support & prayers (for those of you who pray) coming, we need all the help we can get!


Dear satipler,

Dads really take a bit to get an understanding of whats going on.

If you can get your H to read all my posts & the other dad post here he might start to get some ideas.

Joe Kelly the Dadman has heaps of ways to get the ""Male Loved Ones"" into an understanding of eating disorders & that includes Husbands. Joe, Pamela Carlton & myself will be doing a presentation at ICED on engaging male loved ones (me by video from Australia)

There is a great book called throwing Star Fish Across the Sea by Laura Collins & our darling Charlotte Bevan. Wish it was available when our D was first diagnosed.

One book that was really hard to read but taught me so much about eating disorder head noise was Winter Girls not one that a person with an ed should read but for dads if they take the time to read it right through to the end that when it all makes sense.
ED Dad

My h is a super intelligent, caring, listening guy, took the illness seriously, supported me etc, and it took HIM a while to grasp the difference between a choice (dieting/being obstinate) and an illness, and that d had an ILLNESS over which she had no control.

It took him some months and me kicking him out of the house until he read what I told him to read, actually. I have never before or since kicked anyone out of the house, and that was the worst and most traumatic day I can think of, but...I was just in no mood for waiting around while my d was dying.

Anyway, books that helped him were Decoding Anorexia, How to Help you Teen Beat and Eating Disorder, and small parts (the first bit and more of the technical stuff) of Brave Girl Eating. In other words, the scientific rational stuff. You might also want to search on here for the study Colleen recently posted about brain imaging of anorexic patients, and how their brains are actually shrunken and damaged, even at a not-dreadful BMI. I think that could be a very effective persuader.

What my h said later is that he was in denial. He'd heard what the doctors and therapists said, and he'd seen our d at meals, and....he just didn't want it to be true, that his daughter had a major mental illness.

Which is very understandable.

But ya know, I didn't have time or energy to waste on denial, because I just had to get the food into the kid. I think that was the difference.

Anyway, hope that helps a bit. Give him Decoding Anorexia and kick his butt until he reads it.

best wishes, 

D diagnosed with EDNOS May 2013 at age 15, refed at home Aug 2013, since then symptoms gradually lessened and we retaught her how to feed and care for herself, including individual therapy, family skills DBT class, SSRI medication and relapse-prevention strategies. Anxiety was pre-existing and I believe she was sporadically restricting since about age 9. She now eats and behaves like any normal older teen, and is enjoying school, friends, sports, music and thinking about the future.