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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hopeburch
Hi!
My 13-year-old son is struggling with an eating disorder. He's afraid if he eats that he will lose speed. He plays lots of sports but has become obsessed with working out and staying at 80lbs.
My husband and I are feeling helpless. Our son's been going to therapy and seeing a nutritionist. Any suggestions for us would be greatly appreciated.
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OneToughMomma
Dear Hopeburch,

Hello and a very warm welcome to ATDT.  I'm so sorry that you are worried about your son, but I do honestly believe that you have found the best place on the internet to help him regain his health.

We cannot diagnose or give medical advice, but we are all carers with experience in supporting our kids with ED's. 

For me, the most difficult times of my D's illness were when I felt powerless to help her.  Here you will find the tools and the support to make positive changes for your son. This site helped me to save my daughter's life.

We are able to help you best when you ask specific questions (but of course you can always vent and celebrate wins!).  If it's ok I'll start by asking you a few.

  • Has he been competently, medically assessed recently?  It's very important that he has regular comprehensive exams that includes supine and standing heart rate and blood pressure.  This document outlines the medical tests that he should have, and they begin on p. 5. Please note that blood tests are not adequate measures of health, particularly on their own. Is anyone telling you about how he is progressing?  Are they talking about in-patient or other programs?

  • What is being done to ensure he gets full nutrition?  If his therapist is not encouraging full nutrition and supporting you in feeding him, then you might consider making some changes.  He needs to eat well and gain weight before his brain and body can heal. Here is a page with links about boys with ED.  Some of them deal with the importance of full nutrition.  Your son deserves nothing less.

  • What is being done about his sport?  Someone who is unwell shouldn't be placing that extra strain on his heart and expending the valuable energy needed for weight restoration and brain healing.  Exercise compulsion is ED's way of keeping a hold of your boy.  If you read here you will learn more about that.

  • What sort of support do you have?  Good friends, family, a faith community?  Do you feel like his team backs you or seeks to distance you from his care?  Are there two active parents and is one of you able to stay home with him for a while?

It's so much to take in--I remember.  I also remember how relieved I was to find a way to stop the long slow suicide that my D was headed towards.

After you've had a read and a chat and a think, come back (and back and back) to ask for clarification or advice or whatever you need.

Sending you warm support.

xoOTM
D in and out of EDNOS since age 8. dx RAN 2013. WR Aug '14. Graduated FBT June 2015 at 18 yrs old. [thumb]
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iHateED
Hi Hope and welcome to the forum.  You have found an amazing group of people who have all been in your shoes in some way.  One Tough Momma gave you great advice.  I also know how hard it will be to stop his sports but that is really what needs to happen next.  Our d was still playing her sport (because we didn't know better/no one told us) until she almost collapsed on the field.  She was hospitlaized for two weeks just to get medically stabalized.  A doctor not trained in eating disorders ran some tests on her heartbeat and said it was low because she played sports-- she must be so physically fit --- ummm, NO, it was low because she was about to have a heart attack! 

Ask lots of questions on here.  Or come on here just to vent if you are having a bad day.  We all get it!  We have all been there unfortunately.   Also, if you want to move this post to the general forum, you will get a lot more replies and welcome responses from the group.  
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Foodsupport_AUS
Welcome to the forum. You have come to a place where there is lots of support and information about how to help your son. 
The others have already given you good advice. 
I agree the sport needs to stop. He needs feeding. The anxiety is all part of the illness. 

On reading your post it would appear that you are not using FBT / Maudsley Method for treatment for your son. He would appear to be the ideal candidate and this is currently considered what should be used as first line treatment for children and adolescents with an eating disorder. Is there a reason  you are not doing this?
D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13.5. Weight restored July 2012. Relapse and now clawing our way back. Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.
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Torie
Hi Hopeburch - Welcome to the club no one wants to join.

If your son has anorexia, the treatment can be summed up quite simply: He needs to eat enough to gain a significant amount each week, and he needs to stop exercising.

Although simple to state, making it happen can be incredibly difficult. Many here have found that heavy whipping cream (HWC, or double cream in UK) and canola oil (rapeseed in UK) are tremendously helpful as they can be added to so many different foods and help increase the amount of dietary fat (which is needed as a separate issue from plain old calories - the brain is largely made of fats and needs them replenished in order to heal). If you whip canola oil into (full fat) yogurt, soup, smoothies, etc., that can help a lot.

Please feel free to ask plenty of questions and please keep us posted.

xx

-Torie
"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
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hopeburch
Hi Everyone,
Thank you so much for responding. I discussed all your comments and suggestions with my husband today. It's such a relief that we are not alone. We live in a small town and are hesitate to tell anyone other than family what is going on in our family. This has started to consume our daily lives. We are new to this process. Last night, I read all the posts from other families that have son's experiencing eating disorders. Their stories are all too familiar. We are working with a therapist and working to externalize his eating disorder. We are visualizing the disorder as a separate monster which my son has named "butthole"...(how appropriate for a teenager) [smile]
We are in the beginning stages so I'm not sure what method we are using. I will definitely find out at our next session.
As for sports...this is very difficult. We asked the therapist if we should remove him from all sports. She said not yet because we can use it for leverage. If he doesn't eat the appropriate amount of food, he cannot participate in practice or games. So far, we've only had one incident where he would not even eat a banana before practice because he thought it would slow him down. We are still debating on what to do. He's doing basketball now and wants to run track in the spring. We are scared to death that it may send his ED into overdrive.
You guys don't know how much this helps just to talk about it. Thanks so much. Please keep the suggestions coming. We need all the help we can get.
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Torie
hopeburch wrote:
....So far, we've only had one incident where he would not even eat a banana before practice because he thought it would slow him down...


I'm afraid you might be getting bad advice on this one. First, if it is acceptable for him to exercise at all, he needs to eat everything he would normally eat, and then much more than that to make up for the nutrition used up by the exercise. A banana is not nearly enough to fuel a practice. I realize no one would fuel an entire practice on bananas alone, but I would guess the appropriate number would be about 5 bananas for one practice.

Also, many (most) here have found that the exercise needs to stop because it is Ed driven and it perpetuates Ed thoughts.

Finally, I notice that your latest post arrived just a few minutes after I posted a reply on this thread. When that happens to me, I often miss the previous post, so you might want to scroll up a bit to see if you saw everything.

I hope I don't sound harsh - the last thing I want is to seem unfriendly. This vile illness takes such a toll on the whole family; I hate saying things I know the person doesn't want to hear.

Please remember that it does get better. (Although it often gets worse first.)

xx

-Torie
"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
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OneToughMomma
Hopeburch,

Don't forget that you are his mom.  You know him and love him best and you and H should be in charge of his care.  Of course you need a team behind you, but if you are at all questioning what they say, do remember that you are the boss. 

It's just that many of us here have had trouble getting evidence-based care for our kids.  The experts are not always right.

About sport, you might find that his interest in sport is driven by his ED.  My d was very into running and Pilates until she got well. Stopping her from running was a mercy--ED was forcing her.  Now she says she would rather poke an eye out than go to the gym.

Torie is right.  He MUST be gaining weight in order to recover. How is that going?

xoOTM
D in and out of EDNOS since age 8. dx RAN 2013. WR Aug '14. Graduated FBT June 2015 at 18 yrs old. [thumb]
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Elena
We have all been where you are, and it is horrible, terrifying and frustrating. But the stress does ease when you work out what it is that you need to do, and how to do it. As mentioned by others, Family Based Therapy/ treatment, FBT, is the best evidence-based treatment around just now, and should be the first place you and your therapist go for good treatment. 

I've found it best to read a number of books on FBT or  the Maudsley approach (pretty much the same thing). My top reads are 'Help your teenager beat an Eating Disorder' by Lock and Le Grange, 'Anorexia and other Eating Disorders' by Eva Musby and 'Eating with your Anorexic' by Laura Collins. These books all approach EDs in pretty much the same way so the information you get is consistent. There are many other useful books, but I don't want to overwhelm you. If you only have time to read one book read the one by Lock and Le Grange.

If you haven't already worked it out, your role is to take charge of your son's eating and other ED driven behaviours. This is heavy duty parenting, and very hard work, but it is doable, unless the ED is extremely resistant. You decide how much he eats and when he eats it, because he cannot decide for himself. This at the beginning means supervising 6 meals/snacks a day, every day. Time consuming and exhausting, especially when you have to coach him through every mouthful in the early days. Now you get the idea what you need to do, the next thing to do is work out how to get him to eat. This can be different for each child, but I and many others will be happy to share how we have done (are doing) it. No question is silly, just ask away and someone here will help if they can. We don't have all the answers, but we do have first hand experience, and we know what you are going through.

I'm sorry so much stuff is girl related, but EDs are EDs no matter what.

Good luck. 
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momofalexa
Just to echo what the others have said here, as the parent of a kid who was incredibly sporty and active, employing LSUYE was incredibly helpful; the idea that my D could not participate in any sports or activites until 1. She was at a healthy weight and 2. She had eaten was a big factor in how we managed to progress through her recovery pre-relapse.
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iHateED
Not sure how tall your son is, but 80 lbs seems rather low for a 13 year old.  Do you have his growth charts?  If you do, you will be able to estimate where he should be by looking at the last input before you noticed any weight loss.   Kids need to be gaining and growing every year.    It is so hard and counter intuitive to what you may think, but using sports as leverage does not work on an ED brain and it could put him in further danger.   As mom of alexa stated, using sports for leverage is best saved for when they are at a healthy weight. 

Another question for you, what advice is the nutritionist giving your son?  Many on here (me too) found that the nutritionist was not helpful in the early stages.  Your son's brain is too wrapped up in ED thoughts to be in charge of his daily foods.  On paper it makes sense, if he is in charge of his food, it will ease his anxiety, but in truth, it makes the anxiety so much worse.    If you take over serving all his food (magic plate or Life stops until you eat- LSUYE) his anxiety will hopefully start to lessen.

Please ask lots of questions.  We have all been in your shoes.
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hopeburch
Torie wrote:
hopeburch wrote:
....So far, we've only had one incident where he would not even eat a banana before practice because he thought it would slow him down...


I'm afraid you might be getting bad advice on this one. First, if it is acceptable for him to exercise at all, he needs to eat everything he would normally eat, and then much more than that to make up for the nutrition used up by the exercise. A banana is not nearly enough to fuel a practice. I realize no one would fuel an entire practice on bananas alone, but I would guess the appropriate number would be about 5 bananas for one practice.

Also, many (most) here have found that the exercise needs to stop because it is Ed driven and it perpetuates Ed thoughts.

Finally, I notice that your latest post arrived just a few minutes after I posted a reply on this thread. When that happens to me, I often miss the previous post, so you might want to scroll up a bit to see if you saw everything.

I hope I don't sound harsh - the last thing I want is to seem unfriendly. This vile illness takes such a toll on the whole family; I hate saying things I know the person doesn't want to hear.

Please remember that it does get better. (Although it often gets worse first.)

xx

-Torie
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hopeburch
Hi Torie,
I don't offend easy and honestly I need to hear it. I appreciate your advice and welcome it. My husband and I are discussing removing him from sports till he's at a healthy weight. My husband is afraid that our son will get depressed and that we will have nothing to encourage him to eat. After lunch today, my husband caught him doing pushups in his room. He lied and said he was cleaning his room. We told him that he had to leave his door open and we watch him after meals. Have you heard of any successes with individuals staying in sports?
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hopeburch
OneToughMomma wrote:
Hopeburch,

Don't forget that you are his mom.  You know him and love him best and you and H should be in charge of his care.  Of course you need a team behind you, but if you are at all questioning what they say, do remember that you are the boss. 

It's just that many of us here have had trouble getting evidence-based care for our kids.  The experts are not always right.

About sport, you might find that his interest in sport is driven by his ED.  My d was very into running and Pilates until she got well. Stopping her from running was a mercy--ED was forcing her.  Now she says she would rather poke an eye out than go to the gym.

Torie is right.  He MUST be gaining weight in order to recover. How is that going?

xoOTM
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hopeburch
Hi,
You made a great point that his interest in sports could be driven by his ED. I definitely think it helps fuel the ED. He is the fastest boy in his grade and he thinks he will be nothing if he loses this status. That's why he wants to stay small because in his mind, it makes him faster. He believes gaining weight will make him slow so he doesn't eat enough. I found exercise lists in his desk. Makes me so angry at this ED.
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hopeburch
Elena wrote:
We have all been where you are, and it is horrible, terrifying and frustrating. But the stress does ease when you work out what it is that you need to do, and how to do it. As mentioned by others, Family Based Therapy/ treatment, FBT, is the best evidence-based treatment around just now, and should be the first place you and your therapist go for good treatment. 

I've found it best to read a number of books on FBT or  the Maudsley approach (pretty much the same thing). My top reads are 'Help your teenager beat an Eating Disorder' by Lock and Le Grange, 'Anorexia and other Eating Disorders' by Eva Musby and 'Eating with your Anorexic' by Laura Collins. These books all approach EDs in pretty much the same way so the information you get is consistent. There are many other useful books, but I don't want to overwhelm you. If you only have time to read one book read the one by Lock and Le Grange.

If you haven't already worked it out, your role is to take charge of your son's eating and other ED driven behaviours. This is heavy duty parenting, and very hard work, but it is doable, unless the ED is extremely resistant. You decide how much he eats and when he eats it, because he cannot decide for himself. This at the beginning means supervising 6 meals/snacks a day, every day. Time consuming and exhausting, especially when you have to coach him through every mouthful in the early days. Now you get the idea what you need to do, the next thing to do is work out how to get him to eat. This can be different for each child, but I and many others will be happy to share how we have done (are doing) it. No question is silly, just ask away and someone here will help if they can. We don't have all the answers, but we do have first hand experience, and we know what you are going through.

I'm sorry so much stuff is girl related, but EDs are EDs no matter what.

Good luck. 
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hopeburch
Thank you so much for the books you suggested. I will be reading those for sure. We are taking control of his meals....or trying like hell to. Right now, he will only eat 3 meals with a few healthy snacks in between. He will NOT eat any junk food and very little fast food. We usually prepare all meals at home except lunch at school. We are trying to encourage more food but he says he's not hungry. We know this is the ED talking and it's so frustrating. We are trying to remain calm but it's very difficult.
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hopeburch
iHateED wrote:
Not sure how tall your son is, but 80 lbs seems rather low for a 13 year old.  Do you have his growth charts?  If you do, you will be able to estimate where he should be by looking at the last input before you noticed any weight loss.   Kids need to be gaining and growing every year.    It is so hard and counter intuitive to what you may think, but using sports as leverage does not work on an ED brain and it could put him in further danger.   As mom of alexa stated, using sports for leverage is best saved for when they are at a healthy weight. 

Another question for you, what advice is the nutritionist giving your son?  Many on here (me too) found that the nutritionist was not helpful in the early stages.  Your son's brain is too wrapped up in ED thoughts to be in charge of his daily foods.  On paper it makes sense, if he is in charge of his food, it will ease his anxiety, but in truth, it makes the anxiety so much worse.    If you take over serving all his food (magic plate or Life stops until you eat- LSUYE) his anxiety will hopefully start to lessen.

Please ask lots of questions.  We have all been in your shoes.
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hopeburch
Hi,
My son is 5'1". I've looked at the growth chart and frankly it scares me. He's underweight and actually has lost 7 pounds since May. He's been involved in football and now basketball. I don't think he's had an opportunity to gain. Removing him from sports seems to be something that we need to focus on right now. Sports are everything to him. But, we need to save him.

The nutritionist explained to him the amount of calories that an athlete needed per day, etc. She told him he was damaging his organs and not letting his body grow to its full potential. She gave him sample meal plan of what he actually needed.

I appreciate your thoughts and welcome any suggestions.
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Torie
hopeburch wrote:
....After lunch today, my husband caught him doing pushups in his room. He lied and said he was cleaning his room....


I don't think that was your real son - it sounds like it was Ed.

xx

-Torie
"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
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Torie
hopeburch wrote:
Hi! My 13-year-old son is struggling with an eating disorder. He's afraid if he eats that he will lose speed....


As you gain more experience with this vile illness, you will learn to recognize whether it is your real son talking or if it is Ed.  Don't argue with Ed - Ed is not rational, and there is no winning a rational argument against someone who is irrational. Most here have developed mantras that we repeat for the situations that face us repeatedly in our homes. If this is something he says often, you and your h may want to come up with a canned response like, "If you don't eat, you will lose speed," Or "I know this is hard, but you need to eat this." Or whatever works.

We're all a bunch of broken record players here. (Dating myself again ... does everyone know what a record player is?)

xx

-Torie
"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
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Sotired
If I said a scratched cd,that still dates me,right?[smile]
Sotired42
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srscmom
It was very difficult for my 11 year old daughter to have any chance of recovery while staying in her competitive sport, gymnastics.  She too, expressed she wanted to stay small and light to be the best at her sport.  After we made the hard decision to pull her from her favorite sport, we found her setting her alarm to wake up at 3am in the morning to exercise, just as sotired mentioned. We too found exercise lists in her desk drawer, down to the exact number of minutes she was exercising each day.  Like other parents on this site, I had to sleep with my daughter every night for several months to break the exercise compulsion. 
After months and months of begging and hoping to return to gymnastics, my daughter has since moved on only after a lot of hard work in achieving complete weight restoration.   In addition to keeping her out of gymnastics, we also had to take her out of P.E. and monitor closely all ED-related exercise behaviors (standing constantly, going up and down the stairs excessively, etc).

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K63
Hi homeburch, welcome to the forum, this is a horrible illness the most important thing is that the nutrition is going in. They also need full supervision for meals as they need the support ,my d was dumping lunches at school and sometimes was able to hide food in pockets as I sat beside her. . can you supervise lunches at school also. Have you a system in place for weighing by a therapist , doctor or dietician who is tuned in with ed behaviour Ensure there is no weighing scales available to him ,my d had one hidden in her bedroom in the early days and was constantly weighing herself and tormented. Staying calm and supporting them while eating is important but very difficult as it's so upsetting to watch them not eat. Look up eva Musby s video on u tube to help your child to eat and gives us an understanding of how difficult is it for them.wishing you the best .
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. 
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trusttheprocessUSA
It is overwhelming. But once you have a plan in place - step by step to take charge of his recovery you will be able to focus your energy. I think you will find that no amount of explaining the situation to your son will help. His brain has been hijacked and he needs you to take over. Remind him you are his mother and it's your job to keep him safe. Plan to stop all sports and physical activity and begin to feed him 5 times a day. He is not able to be a partner in his recovery (yet). He needs you to save him. You can do it and we can help.
Son diagnosed @ 12.5 yrs old with Severe RAN 2/11. Co-morbids - anxiety, Active restriction for 3 months. He stopped eating completely 2x. He needed immediate, aggressive treatment from a provider who specialized in eating disorders, adolescents and males. We got that at Kartini Clinic. WR since 5/11. 2017 getting ready to graduate slipping lost 8lbs. Fighting our way back.
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