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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Hello everyone,

I'm a divorced mother of two.  I have a 19 year old son and an almost 17 year old daughter.  My son just left for his first year at college a couple of weeks ago.  My daughter has been battling depression and anxiety for the past two years.  She has recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder.  She hasn't really lost any weight but has some physiological signs (low orthostatic blood pressure, low resting heart rate, etc) that the doctors all say point to an ED.  

I am slowly coming to terms that my 16 year old daughter has an eating disorder.  I don't know why I am having such a hard time this.  She really does restrict her food and highly restricts the types of food that she will eat.  I've had her therapist, her pediatrician, a dietician, and now the intake therapist at the ED clinic all tell me that all signs point to an eating disorder but I still can't accept it.  I keep thinking that there must be something else wrong.  I'm hoping this denial is a normal stage that parents go through.

Her official diagnosis is Anorexia but I think it might be something more lie ARFID.  Since becoming a vegetarian two years ago she has slowly begun to limit what she eats.  In the beginning she would eat eggs, tofu, and beans but now only eats pasta and rice.  She will be entering into a partial-hospitalization program in a week.  I'm terrified.  I feel like this is all my fault.  Logically, I know that it is an illness but it is still hard not to feel like I have done something wrong.  I can't stop crying.  I just want my confident, healthy, active daughter back.

I'm so glad that a friend pointed me to this group as I don't have any close friends who have experienced this first hand and I feel so lost.
Hello and welcome, although I'm sorry that you have to be there. My d is 14 we have been at this a short time (7 months) and she is doing so much better but I remember only to well being so shocked and frightened at the begining, quite a few weeks probably the first 3 months or so. What helped me was getting informed, I read and read, watched videos (look for toothfairy's profile, she posted loads of really useful videos) as long as Eva musby's book and videos. Ask away and the lovely people in this forum would do everything to help you. We can start by giving you ideas on how to up the calories of everything you serve to your daughter, add canola oil to everything, even fruit smoothies that she would drink and keep coming back for tips, support and hope. It gets better 
13 yo d started to eat "healthy" September 2018, she had a growth spurt a bit later, followed by tummy bug. She started restricting breakfast and school lunch in January 2019 (that we know). We succesfully refed at home.
I have found inner strenght, patience and compassion that I did not know I had.
Never retreat, never surrender
keep feeding
Hello Jens and welcome 
it’s such a shock when you first find there something is wrong we all felt the same, you are not alone 
ive cried an ocean of tears 
Please remember IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!
read around the forum there is so much information to help you understand the illness 
you are so fortunate to have a good team already and to be getting the professional help first up, this isn’t the case for many including us 
have hope they can recover from this illness but be aware it can take some time 
we all want our kids better quickly but usually it takes longer than we want 
take care of yourself it’s really important to do this 
it’s such an emotional roller coaster so looking after yourself is important so you can be strong for your d 
Welcome to the forum, so sorry that you have had to find your way here. It definitely takes some time to get your head around an eating disorder diagnosis. I think many of us have also wondered what we did, or how we could have avoided the diagnosis. Please know this is not your fault. It is good that your team has acknowledged an eating disorder without weight loss as it is not unusual for many teams to ignore the possibility. At the same time many of her symptoms, anxiety, depression, low blood pressure and heart rate may all be due to chronic food restriction and malnutrition. It may also be there are other factors at play including purging. 

As best you can read widely. Most of us only realise down the track how little we knew about eating disorders at diagnosis. It is very counter intuitive. Please ask lots of questions. 
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.

Hello Jens,

Welcome and I am really glad you have found us.  This is the best place to get help and support and up to date knowledge about eating disorders.  
You are bound to be in a state of shock - this is a very scary diagnosis and as parents we all go through the agonies of wondering what we did wrong and examining everything that has happened up until now.
You did nothing to cause this - your daughter has a genetic and biological predisposition to going down the path of an ed and it will have been triggered by her restrictive eating habits and either weight loss or failure to gain the weight which she should have gained for her age.  It really is as simple as that.  Restrictive eating practices, either through 'healthy eating' or through illness can often trigger the response in the brain which suddenly makes eating terrifying and weight gain equally so.

The route to getting your d back is through reinstating regular eating patterns and weight gain, and it will need a lot of support to ensure that this happens.  She will protest strongly, deny anything is wrong and you may well see very extreme and violent behaviours.

I think if it was ARFID you would have seen extreme difficulties around eating since she was little.  However, we are not medically qualified to make any kind of diagnosis.  The most important thing that needs to happen right now is to help her stop the restricting and start eating properly again.  If your clinicians suspect and ed, then this is probably what you are looking at.  But discuss the ARFID with them by all means.  
Please come back with all your questions - lots of people will be along to support you.

Believe you can and you're halfway there.
Theodore Roosevelt.

Dear Jens,

It is difficult in the beginning as one doesn't quite know what to do and there is a steep learning curve. I also thought I had caused it in some way and felt guilty before reading up on the science. But I learned that parents do not cause eating disorders; instead families are an important part of the team helping a child recover from the disorder. A person has to have a genetic susceptibility in order for it to take hold. What you are describing also sounds familiar. The vegetarianism, the restricting of certain foods. The anxiety and depression. And as far as the weight loss, I also remember saying to myself when I first found out: But she has only lost 3 lbs. But what I didn't realize at the time, was that she had also failed to gain an additional 10lbs because teens are supposed to keep gaining throughout their adolescence—and because she had been restricting she had not. 

What is counter intuitive about this illness is that usually you go to the doctor and they take care of an illness. But in this case, recovery really starts where ever the sufferer is able to start having full nutrition. The doctor will monitor your daughter's health, vital signs and bloodwork however they will not eat with your child or help her with her food issues. The therapist will talk with your daughter, however she or he is also not at home eating with your child. So starting to restore a normal everyday relationship to food and eating enough really has to be reinforced at home, which is completely terrifying and difficult for any parent new to grappling with this. 

Fortunately there are a number of resources we can point you to to get more information. If you have not already, visit the feast site and take a look at the info there as well as the family guides.


There are also several books we can point you to start out by reading:

When your teen has an eating disorder by Dr. Lauren Mulheim

Anorexia and other Eating disorder: How to help your child eat well and be well by Eva Musby

and Eva Musby's website has some videos posted which might be helpful:


No matter what it is called, ARFID or anorexia, it sounds as though you are doing the right thing. Building a team and reaching out for support. 

I hope that some of the resources will give you some ideas about how to start serving 3 meals and 2 snacks every day at home and having your daughter eat them. Broadening her food choices is also important to tackle.




Thank you so much for your replies.  Logically I know that this is an illness and that I did nothing to cause it but emotionally I keep thinking of all the things I did wrong or could have done differently.  I'm going to spend the next few days reading through the resources you've all shared.  

We are going to the doctor this week to have her blood work and ekg done in preparation for admission to a partial-hospitalization program that will begin on the 14th.  Right now, I'm just trying to take it one day at a time.  (I've even only cried a couple of times today!)

It's such a steep learning curve, and totally emotionally & physically exhausting, as you come to terms with what an ED diagnosis means.  Self-care is very important as well. You've got to take the best possible care of yourself, in order to be in the best possible shape to help your d.  Whatever you can do on a daily basis to nourish your soul is a top priority.  You'll find your stride in time.

Sending hugs & warm support.  
It is good to not only hope to be successful, but to expect it and accept it--Maya Angelou
Thanks, it truly is a steep learning curve and I feel like I'm drowning in information!  
You will learn all that. We also did not know anything about ED when we were in your shoes. One day after the other. Step by step. I am sure you will be more professional than most professionals in a few weeks! Information and wisdom is the most important step. If you know how the ED works and what it does with her brain you can help her much better.
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
I'm so grateful this forum exists. I'm a divorced mother of a fifteen year old d. In the last half of the second semester of grade 9 she had a growth spurt and was becoming increasingly underweight which prompted some research on my part. It was when I learned she had missed a three periods. With that news received my wake up call.
I had noted restrictive eating patterns earlier but the dietician we saw failed to engage. The np also was not on it. I obtained a new doc. She assessed, based on my daughter's word, that she was fine. I then secured private services from a dietician with a specialty in adolescent eating disorders who seems excellent although it might have little effect for my daughter. I have also secured  a privatepsychologist for her. 
When the full realization of the ed dawned on me when services were failing us before i found my own fee for service private clinicians it sucked the life out of me for a while.  I work fulltime and have rebuilt my daughter's and my life. Her father blames me for her ed and my partner isn't mentally able to support this process.
This morning after her outbursts and abuse around eating because she is hungry but can't eat I dropped her off at her dad's. He needs to share this burden or at least he has to support what I'm doing. 
When I try to put restrictions in place she threatens to move with her dad. My partner has told me he cant deal with the stress. I may move to an apartment on my own to devote my time outside of work to helping her. On the same token she might move to her father's. 
I feel for all of you on your journey. My heart goes out  to you. All the public services thus far have failed us. Luckily my family doc is on mat leave so I have been able to ask for bloodwork from her covering physician.
Oh bec_s, that sounds like a really hard and difficult situation. Can we help you with anything?
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Hi bec_s, it does sound so very challenging at the moment.  Would it be helpful to start your own thread that others could respond to, in order to offer some specific support, insights or just a bunch of virtual hugs?

There are certainly others who have had exs and current partners who find dealing with an ED to be overwhelming.  But you need on-the-ground support to help both yourself and your d.  
Great that you have found a couple of professionals to help in your journey.  We also had a long haul, 3 years in fact, before we found adequate professional support.  But things are changing, more online & in-person peer support, and more evidence-based health care professionals available.

Sending warm support to you.
It is good to not only hope to be successful, but to expect it and accept it--Maya Angelou