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

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Hi folks,
My D, 21, started bulimic behaviors at 13 in 2010. It took me about a year before I realized how she'd lost so much weight and that she couldn't just stop; she got an outpatient therapist then and soon after a month of residential treatment. She's 21 now, going into senior year of college, and for the past year has been working really hard on everything, seeing her therapist and trying to do things right, and being less secretive about when she had "bad days"-this is after a really bad year the previous year, where I knew she was "using" but she wouldn't talk about it. She's home for the summer right now. My problem is her relationship w her 17-year-old brother. (I have one other child at home, 13, and a 23-year-old, so these are my 2 middle kids.)
My son also sees a therapist/takes meds and at one point was diagnosed with ODD, ADD, and binge eating disorder. Over the past year my son has lost around 60 pounds-he was unhealthily overweight.I'm not thrilled with how fast he lost it; I think to do it so fast, he starved himself during the school day and ate only at home. But he also exercises a lot-goes to the YMCA, often with friends-he enjoys food at home, uses better portion control and at least he wasn't vomiting. The problem, which really shouldn't be a problem, is he's very happy about his weight loss and likes to talk about it, and about how many crunches he does and how much he lifts and whatnot. (My son tends to obsess about subjects and talk about them until his audience beg for mercy. At one time it was suggested we have him evaluated for Asperger's, so we did, but they said it was just ADD/ODD.) If my daughter weren't around I could just smile and nod and tell him he's doing great. But my daughter finds all of this very "triggering." She has asked my son to stop talking about it in front of her but A) her tone with my son even on other subjects is often high-handed and imperious and so he has a hostile reaction to her requests; B) even if she were as sweet as can be, he's a stubborn little booger. This may be the ODD, maybe it's just being an adolescent male jerk, some of it's his own unique irritating personality. He just thinks he knows everything. He does read/watch-mainly watch-a lot of scientific and other non-fiction stuff but he knows less than he thinks.
And he likes to push people's buttons. It's a perfect recipe for constant tension/conflict. His sister has started to see malicious intent any time he makes a reference to diet/fitness and sometimes, tho she's hypersensitive, I'm pretty sure she's not wrong.

My son tells me what he says can't be "triggering" to his sister because "triggering means flashbacks, it's what vets have, not college girls." He says "why can't she just stop sticking her finger down her throat?" I tried to explain it's like an addiction but he says it can't be.

Does my son sound like an a**hole? Sorry if my frankness shocks anyone-I do love him-but he is, a bit. I mean he is very concerned about social justice, and he is polite outside the home, but he's a jerk to his sister and quite often to me.Not so much to little sister. I'm divorced. His father sees him a few times a month but I have given up asking him for help in these matters; besides his father is currently not speaking to me. His father has a bit of trouble understanding why my daughter just can't "stop sticking her finger down her throat" too, tho I think he at least accepts it now. (My son is a lot like his father -so much so that it's "triggering" to me-and scary, since his father was diagnosed late in our marriage as ADD/narcissistic. I'm not imagining it-my oldest boy is completely different.)

I think I'm mostly just venting. But also if there is anything I could give my son to read or watch or listen to that would be particularly helpful, I would appreciate your suggestions. Anything from a male perspective especially, since -he hates it when I say this, but I think he's sexist (his dad is, too-is there a sexism gene??🤔) so might take a male writer more seriously.
Thanks for listening-Fedup
Mom of 16-yr-old w bulimia

"I'm baby stepping! I'm not a slacker!"--Bill Murray, "What About Bob?"
Hi fedup,
I think the behaviour of your son is very mean and you should not tolerate that in your house. I can understand that it is a big trigger for your d and you will risk to lose your relationship with her or that she will not like to come home any more.

My ideas:
Is he listening to his elder 23 y old brother? Would that be an idea to have him for dinner and see how his brother is behaving and having a serious talk with him?
Do you have some moral or financial power that you can use against him? For example, if he does not accept not to talk about that at the table when his sister is around, he will not get the car for one day or get less pocket money? I think this has to have consequences.
If he thinks he knows everything, do you think he would read a scientific book about anorexia? It is not written by a male, but by a scientist who was a patient herself. It is called "Decoding Anorexia" by Carrie Arnold and it explains all the ED behaviour and the triggers very good on a scientific biochemical basis.
The problem might be that you tolerated that as long as your d wasn´t around and he needs to stop that now. But at his age this should be possible and he is not a 13 year old that needs to be in the centre of the audience all day any more...

Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Yes, your son's behaviour does sound unacceptable. Even if your D was not there it actually sounds very concerning, including the possibility that he himself has a restrictive eating disorder. Remember you can have anorexia at any weight and rapid weight loss with a change in behaviour is a significant red flag. 

It sounds as though there are two mentally ill children, both setting each other off. Being on your own makes things really tough for you. I agree your son needs a good male role model, as a young man I would be very concerned about the direction he is heading. Starting with older brother is a good starting place, therapy, evaluation for ED? I don't think reading something will help. Trying to persuade people they are wrong is often very difficult, in fact it often makes them stick to their guns more. 

D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13. Mostly recovered 10 years later.  Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.
Thank you for the book recommendation; I'll definitely check it out.

Given our family history, I certainly have expressed to my son concern about losing weight too rapidly...As I said, he is in therapy and on meds for ADD (with mood disorder): Zoloft/Adderall-yes, I'm aware of the potential for abuse with Adderall, but it is very strictly controlled, we're only allowed 30 days' worth at a time, and I have no reason to think he's abusing.

Binge eating disorder was part of his diagnosis; if his problem is now anorexia, I probably won't know unless things get worse, God forbid. I maybe should have specified that he is 6 feet and 200 lbs. (He was up to 260 lbs at one point, and he was also a little shorter at that time.)

It would be easier to think of his wanting to talk about weight loss/fitness as an example of ED thinking if he hadn't always been prone to get obsessive about certain topics.

At this point he seems to have a reasonable goal...he just wants to get under 200 lbs. If I find that he keeps moving the goalposts I will take him for another evaluation.

I think I will try talking to his therapist about the relationship with his sister, again...sometimes (not often) my son is willing to let me come in for a session.
Thanks again for listening.
Mom of 16-yr-old w bulimia

"I'm baby stepping! I'm not a slacker!"--Bill Murray, "What About Bob?"
Hi Fedup, your son's behaviour reminds me a lot of d's sister, although she doesn't bring up ED. Just like your son, d's sister wants to save the world, but just argues with everybody in the household. At the moment I'm trying several methods, the one that works is to get her to make dinner. When she feels she has done something worthwhile her self esteem is a bit better and her need to asset herself in argumentative way goes away. Maybe give him some responsibility, which he can't wiggle out.
D became obsessed with exercise at age 9 and started eating 'healthy' at age 9.5. Restricting couple of months later. IP for 2 weeks at age 10. Slowly refed for months on Ensures alone, followed by swap over with food at a snails pace. WR after a year at age 11 in March 2017. View my recipes on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKLW6A6sDO3ZDq8npNm8_ww