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

Welcome to F.E.A.S.T's Around The Dinner Table forum. This is a free service provided for parents of those suffering from eating disorders. It is moderated by kind, experienced, parent caregivers trained to guide you in how to use the forum and how to find resources to help you support your family member. This forum is for parents of patients with all eating disorder diagnoses, all ages, around the world.

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Hi. I am new here. My daughter is 13 and has no diagnosis of an eating disorder. It wasn't even on my radar until about a month ago.  She is in therapy already due to suicidal gestures a year ago, self-harm, anxiety, previous trauma. She is a perfectionist and a straight A student.  But one with a lot of anxiety. She spent a week inpatient due to the suicidal gestures. Then came 6 months of group DBT therapy and ongoing weekly / biweekly therapy. But she has been doing very well over the last several months, to the point where therapy has backed off and she is only going every few weeks now. But about a month ago, she started talking about anorexia and bulimia a lot.  She learned about them from school. She admitted that she tried to make herself throw up one day (using techniques she found online), but wasn't successful. She says she hasn't tried since. And I have no reason to think she's lying on this at this point.  We live in a very small house..someone would likely notice. But she has been restricting her food, even before the past month. She started skipping breakfast at the beginning of this school year (August). But she eats lunch at school early, then ate a snack when she got home, ate dinner and another snack later. But then, she started skipping lunches, or throwing her lunches away.  And she cut back on snacks, very noticeable because I wasn't going through groceries near as quick as before. She's been unhappy with her appearance for quite some time.  Weight, stomach, and other body parts.  She is not underweight, nor overweight. She's a  recreational dancer and is in dance class 4 hours a week.   This year, she "moved up" to the oldest girls dance team (Girls range from 13-18).  She admitted a couple weeks ago, that lots of the girls talk about weight, how they look in costumes, etc.  And she thinks she looks fat. (She doesn't).  She is 5 feet tall and weighs somewhere between 102-106. She has been out of school this past 10 days for Christmas break, and I have been tracking her eating on an app (without her knowledge).  She basically is eating anywhere from 1300-1500 calories most days, with a couple days down to 1000 lbs. She is not counting calories, but does talk about what foods make her fat.  She has cut out all snacking, and most days is eating nothing until afternoon.  Then, she is so hungry that she is eating a large amount.  For example, today she ate about 1300 calories, but ate them all between 3:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.  (However, yesterday when grandparents were here for Christmas, she ate a more normal 2000 calorie day).  As a 13 year old (and a relatively active 13 year old), I know she needs more than 1000-1500 calories a day.  At this point, she hasn't lost any weight that I'm aware of. She insists that she actually has gained 6 lbs this week. That is simply not possible with what she's eaten. She is not drinking as much though so could she be holding on to some water weight?  I know some of this is subtle things, but I think she's "high risk" for an eating disorder based on her personality, ocd-tendencies, etc.  Also, she is built a little larger than the average girl her age. She is very muscular due to her dancing, but she interprets this as "fat" , no matter how many times I tell her differently. I'm pretty sure if I take her to her pediatrician, he will not be concerned at this point.  I did bring it up to therapist (who I love and who has been so helpful with other things), and she encouraged letting her make choices at this point, unless it became a problem.  At that point, she was only skipping breakfast. But things have changed..just not weight-wise yet. How do you know when it's become a problem? Many teenage girls diet and experiment with weight loss and while not healthy, they don't all development an eating disorder. So how concerned should I be? How do you "catch it" early and what suggestions do you have? I worry about it spiraling downhill because I watched her spiral badly last year..not with an eating disorder, but with self harm and suicidal behavior. It was like watching a train wreck happen slowly and feeling powerless to stop it. I really would not like to sit and wait for another train wreck, but am not sure how much to step in at this point.  
Hi Choosejoy

So sorry that you are concerned about your daughter. This is a good place to come for support. 

Can I recommend some books for you to read:

Help your teenager beat an eating disorder, by Locke and Legrange
Anorexia and other Eating Disorders How to Help your child eat well and be well, by Eva Musby

Are you able to tighten up the loopholes in your d's eating: for example make sure that she has breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as snacks, every day? Can you try to make sure that she does not restrict or skip meals, and then see how things go?



Hi and Welcome to the Forum,

This is a great place for evidence-based, up-to-date and useful information and support regarding the care of a loved one with an eating disorder. This site was instrumental in helping my family help my daughter recover from anorexia.

You have identified some extremely concerning signs, and you are right to be extremely worried that your d may have an ed. The first step really is to get a diagnosis from a competent medical practitioner.

How to do this, tho, when not all medical practitioners are competent to diagnose eds?

First, you could let us kknow what part of the country you are in, and people can recommend the best practitioners in your area. 
Second, go to the Info for Practitioners page and print out the relevant booklet. This will let any practitioner know what to test and look for. 
Third, track your daughter's weight. It is NOT NORMAL for a teen to lose weight. Any weight loss whatsoever is grounds for extreme concern, and taken in conjunction with your d's other alarming symptoms, any weight loos would be immediate grounds for you to step in and serve her, and require that she eat, an adequate diet.
Fifth, yes, start informing yourself. This is a great site, read all around it, ask questions here. Lots of questions. We are here to help.
Sixth, do know that the sooner and the more aggressively you respond to your daughter's symptoms, the better off she will be. Jump on this, get her in to a doc asap. Waiting and seeing how she does nearly always amounts to "waiting and watching her get worse and go downhill fast."

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.
Welcome to the forum. It sounds as though you are right to raise some concerns about your D's eating behaviours. Although you feel no clear diagnosis is made at the moment, there seem to be a number of red flags. There is an Australian website called feedyourinstinct.com which has a check list for you to complete and to take to your doctor. It helps to clarify what you should be looking for and the print out gives warning signs and information for the doctor to remind them of what they should be looking for.  
D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13. Initially weight restored 2012. Relapse and continuously edging towards recovery. Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.
Thanks everyone.  We are in Alabama and have used doctors in both Birmingham and Atlanta for variety of reasons for both my girls.  (So traveling to Atlanta to see someone wouldn't be out of the norm for us).  Today was better..still skipped breakfast and snacks, but ate a large lunch and a reasonable dinner. One of the interesting things is that she's not really focused on healthy foods.  She's more focused on number of foods.  So for example, she ate a whole can of chili (total of like 600 calories)  with sour cream, cheese, and crackers. To her, she ate "1 thing".  One day she said she met her goal to only eat 4 things. But those 4 things were mostly high-fat, high calorie items. So she's not afraid of certain foods, it's more about the number of foods she's eating. She has a doctor's appointment next week (for other reasons)  and they always weigh her at that office, so it will be a good chance to see if her weight has in fact decreased.  Thanks for all the good information.  I'm off to read some of the threads here now.

Given that your d has told you about learning about anorexia and bulimia at school and openly admitted trying to make herself sick - I would be having a frank conversation about what she thinks anorexia and bulimia are.  It sounds as if she has picked up that people use these behaviours as techniques for losing weight  - I don't get the impression that she realises these are horrendous illnesses which are life-threatening and very difficult to overcome once they are present.

I would also be telling her that dieting in adolescence is a high-risk activity - as high risk as drugs and alcohol, and tell her that she needs to stop skipping meals and thinking of restricting foods in any way at all, especially as she dances.

I would also weigh her now and start monitoring her weight weekly, even before she sees a doctor - because weight loss could be really bad news and push her into a very quick descent.  

If you see a huge resistance to all that you are saying, unfortunately it would appear that the beast has already taken a hold.  But if you can step in now and reverse these changes, you may be lucky.  I really hope so.
Believe you can and you're halfway there.
Theodore Roosevelt.