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

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Hi everyone,

I am 5 months into refeeding my daughter and have read literally everything that is out there about anorexia. I am constantly trying to educate her to understand what is going on and why this is happening but she does not seem to have any interest in the facts. Why is that? Do I still keep on educating her or should I just leave it for now? How can you not be interested in what is going on with you? Even when the psychiatrist explains what is going on in her body I feel like she is only half listening. Just simply not interested.

She is only interested in talking about food and calories at the moment. I have been trying to step out whenever she starts talking about her portions, meals, etc. and not engage with her which makes her really angry.

If we are not supposed to talk about food with them and she does not want to talk about her illness, there is not much left we can talk about at the moment. Sometimes we sit in complete silence at the table if it is just me and her.

Any recommendations greatly appreciated.
Hi happiness, we are two years on in this ed journey. We were advised not to get involved in discussion about calories or portion sizes . We did the advising about the dangers of the illness and the harm it does to her body all her organs and brain . She sometimes didn't listen sometimes we thought she took some of it on board but she didn't . It's part of the illness the anosognosia they are not aware that they are sick . I know now none of this was taken on board . She was so sick and we as a family were beyond distraught we felt we had to have theses conversations with her well we felt we had to tell her. Her brain and body was starved. As time moves on and she is weight restored and we are going for a little bit more , she tells me of days when she was weak and thought she wouldn't make it to walk to the car, or days when the chest pains were so bad. She realises now that she feels so much better now and has more energy . We still don't discuss calories or portion sizes. We fully supervise and put out portions and just say it's normal. We have had days when it's hard to talk about anything at meal times but I try to talk about news or school or has she plans to meet up with friends. Board games or television didn't work for us at meal times.
Daughter started restricting in February 2014, tried re feeding at home hospital admission 4 1/2 months weight restored started restricting post discharge, back on meal plan full supervision weight restored april 2016. Starting to hand back responsibility for meals it's scary. 
Hi Happiness - It's really puzzling, isn't it? It took me a long time to believe the folks who explained that my d was completely, utterly irrational about everything related to body size, nutritional needs, and anorexia in general. Although she was entirely rational about everything else, she was completely irrational about AN topics - that's just how this illness works. It's a brain-based illness, and that part of your d's brain isn't working properly right now.

So there's really nothing to be gained by trying to explain these things to her right now - that part of her brain needs time to heal.

In the meantime, it's best not to discuss calories with her at all. If you would like to tell us examples of particular conversations, someone here can help brainstorm ways around the discussion of calories, portions, etc. 

Keep swimming. xx

"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
Silence is ok.sometimes I would just talk about stuff in my day.i would find random stuff on the Internet-try the website 'cracked',it's pretty funny.parodys of songs,reading books out loud -after meals a good one is 'just go the f---k to sleep'...there is also another book called 'you have to f---n eat' but that might cut close to the bone right now.
Educating them-I will be blunt-it's a complete waste of time.in her head she has a voice that screams at her all the time'DONT EAT THAT!YOU FAT PIG!YOU ARE DISGUSTING!...and THAT IS THE VOICE YOU ARE FIGHTING.it goes 24/7 in your girls head.it makes her act crazy.
DONT argue with it.learn from my mistakes.you can't argue or reason with anorexia.your daughter can barely hear you anyway over the noise in her head.just present the food,try and have some kind of distraction going for her-not you because you have to watch her like a hawk to make sure she isn't putting food up her sleeves,in her pockets or waistband.
Then it's just finding a distraction for a minimum of an hour after each meal-crafting,colouring in,knitting,reading,watching TV,watching you tube...anything that uses zero energy.no toilet for at least an hour after eating.make sure she goes beforehand.
I hope this helps,
It might be hard to hear, but 5 months into refeeding is still 'early days' for your d with respect to being able to hear/understand/tolerate any info on the 'whys and hows' of ED treatment.

As others have suggested, distraction during/after meals, lighter talk and no focus on the illness itself and causes/treatment are probably best.

It will likely be some time before your d is able to tolerate or understand such info.  She'll need to be WR, back on the healthy curve for HER, and at that weight for quite some time before she'll be able to 'get it'. 

Your energies are best spent getting the food in, and of course educating yourself & the rest of your immediate family (partner, any support people), so that you can best help/support your d.

Sending warm support,

It is good to not only hope to be successful, but to expect it and accept it--Maya Angelou
A great post on the role of insight can be found here:

We can get our kids well without them having any interest in the 'why' or the 'how' of it.  That is the lovely piece.  5 months in is early days (sad but true).  Don't worry if she is not interested.  She is right where one can expect her to be.  Just keep feeding and get her to proper weight.  Full nutrition and symptom interruption and TIME- confounding TIME.

The interest (obsession) with calorie counting is a symptom.  You are doing well by not engaging.  What about distractions during meals?  watching something on computer? or playing cards or simply sitting with her and reading?  

And on the anger piece-  yes!! ED will get angry when you interrupt a symptom.  Take it as a compliment.  There is a saying on the board "if you are not getting flak you are not over the target'.  Let her know you love her and that your job is to get her well and that the reason you are not engaging in talk about calories is because it is a symptom of the illness.  She will hear you.  ED will be mad as heck but your girl will hear you.

Another good post by Dr. Ravin on insight:

You got this Mum!!!

D dx at 10 years old in June 2011. She is now 16 and happy and healthy.  We were IP for 8 weeks and then refed at home for what felt like forever.  We chased vertical growth for years...as is typical for the age.

Go for the distracting talk. I told my d the complete history of all my boyfriends. (That's actually bonding talk, too, and leading into other important teen topics....) Then I told her all the stories my mom has told me about the outrageous things our relatives have done (riding with Wild Bill Hickock, etc....) She also liked those optical illusion puzzles you can easily search for online now.

Definitely, it was not possible for my d to think rationally about weight, calories, body size, etc etc any of that, for at least 9 months after wr, I'd say. AFTER wr. And then, there were just flashes of clarity. Although in good recovery she STILL cannot think completely rationally about weight.

And my d always hated and avoided any talk of ed, and resisted learning about it. Still does. I have to say, look, there are things you need to know. I know it's hard for you to talk about ed, so you can choose the time today or tomorrow for a five minute talk. And then I have to think hard about what I most need her to know, and the best way to say it, because I've only got five minutes!!

I dunno. I think part of the reason she avoids talk of ed is because she wants to be normal. And talking about ed all the time isn't normal. So I respect this reason, especially because the motivation to be normal is powerful and useful and effective. And part of the reason she dones't want to talk about it is that it's just too painful and confusing. Your own brain doens't work? Your own perceptions are faulty? So confusing, like waking up from a nightmare.

And part of the reason is shame. And THAT needs to be confronted, somehow. I told my d over and over that what she had was an illness, like any other, and that nobody is to blame for the illness they happen to get. I told her this is an many ways as I could think of and she didn't believe it, until one day, I forget what I was doing, serving her a fear food probably, and she yelled "This is hard!! Don't get mad at me, it's not my fault!!!"

And that was excellent, even tho she was resisting a fear food and yelling at me. because she'd grasped that it WASN't her fault. 

I'm rambling.....the point is, it's early days for you. Good for you for doing all that research, and right now, tell it all to your partner, but give it to your d in teeny tiny doses. The main thing now is to just keep feeding.

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.
Thank you for all your great answers. It really helps and I understand. 

The post was really good....I will not bother trying to educate her anymore at the moment then. I will try and find other topics we can talk about.