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

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Hi everyone 😉.  It has been a loooong time since I have visited this forum and/or posted.  All of you were so helpful to me when we were at our worst, so I am reaching out again for guidance.  

Long story short - my son became terribly ill with an eating disorder 2012.  We were able to get him help and weight restored, and aside from some eating quirks here and there, his eating has been relatively steady once we got weight back on him.  His mental health has been a very rough road for us during these years, and as he is 19 now, his doctors feel our son has schizophrenia (or this is the closest diagnosis that fits what he experiences - they are not too fixated on this diagnosis, everyone is just trying to help ease his symptoms). He has a great team of people helping him and helping us, and he continues to take medication to help control symptoms.  His medications do cause an increase in appetite, and he has recently gained a little weight.  His body is also changing as he is becoming a man.  

So... here is where I would love to have help and guidance from folks who understand... with his history of restrictive eating and over exercising, how do I help him when he comes to me very distressed with how he sees his body? He says he is feeling embarrassed, ashamed etc. with how fat he feels he has become.  He is not overweight or fat.  His body is changing though, and he is eating more and is at the highest weight he has been.  It is so tricky to navigate these conversations with his history, and I don't know how to comfort him or help him with his worries out of fear I will say something that will send him down a dark, restrictive eating road.

Thank you for your time.
God bless, Hollyhill, it really is hard, isn't it?

Firstly, if there is someone on his team who might be able to help, be sure to ask them.  They know him better than we do.

That said, my advice would be to try the old validate and deflect method.

'You seem really upset about putting on weight around your middle.  I'm really sorry.  Remember X told you that that's part of getting a man's body? Hey, can you teach me to play Fortnite?'  Or leave out the logical bit if he is not able to hear it. 

It really is best to not engage at all if possible.  We both know that, Hollyhill, and we both know how stinking hard it is to avoid these 'conversations'. Others seem to deflect them really well, but I never was good at that.  Spent hours upon hours at my kitchen table 'validating' my d's fears aka getting argued at.

With weight, medication and time, his fears should abate.  In the meantime, you are doing a great job and just keep going.

D in and out of EDNOS since age 8. dx RAN 2013. WR Aug '14. Graduated FBT June 2015 at 18 yrs old. [thumb]
Thank you so much, OneToughMomma 😉. Unfortunately, it is the weekend before a holiday here, so the person on our team I would trust the most to handle this question  (as he worked with my son through the worst of the ED and has specific training in eating disorders) is out of town until the end of the week.  My son came to me this evening pretty distressed, and while I feel I handled it ok tonight, I know more is coming [frown].  Then I remembered the amazing support on this forum - and realized that asking here would be appropriate as it relates to his history with ED.  This forum has been a life line for me during some of our darkest of days.  I truly appreciate your guidance and supportive, kind words.  And yes... it is so HARD... and heartbreaking too [frown]
Sorry that your son continues to have body image concerns. 

I tend to agree that validation and then helping him to move on is the best way forward. Body image concerns can be present in any one, eating disorder history or not. As you say the big concern is where to go from there. The natural order of things in society these days is to move from validation to "why don't we help you lose weight" which is the last thing he needs. Is your son able to talk about and discuss his ED history and what that means for his body? Perhaps looking at seeing someone to discuss nutrition with a health at every size approach may help him work towards his body being the best it can be for him. 
D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13. Mostly recovered 10 years later.  Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.
Hi Foodsupport 😉.

Yes.  He is able to talk about everything fairly easily with us (which is so awesome - and as a side note to anyone in the worst of this with a kiddo who is distant... they can return to you in this way of trusting you 😉.  I questioned whether that was possible when we were at our worst, and now, he is very open and encourages us to attend doctor and therapy appointments etc.  So, please know with love, love and love... and food... they can come back to you).  

Anyway.... His ability to understand where he is from in terms of ED also makes these discussions a bit trickier. For example last night, he said something to the effect of "I know you won't tell me that I have become fat because of my history..."  So that is where I kinda wanted to hear from you guys.  He has gained weight (thankfully) through these years.  And as he is 19 now, he looks more manly (broader shoulders etc.).  He has also genuinely put on some weight in the last month or so, and he sees it. It isn't just in his head that it has happened, it has happened.  So, when he asks "Can you tell I have gained weight?" - it is tricky.  And he knows me so well, if that makes sense.

But hearing that deflecting is best and to move beyond body image regardless of history is very helpful to hear again.  There is that part of me that will think, "well if you want to feel better about how you are looking, you could...."  But I know that would be terrible.  

So, all these years later, I thank you guys so much for offering wisdom, kindness and understanding.  

Dang.... this is so hard.

Love to all.

Hi Hollyhill,

as a mother of a 18 year old d I can somehow feel what you are going through.
They both seem to have trouble with that body they get as an adult version of them. These kids do not want to grow older and get adult and they do not like that body changing now. My d on one hand would love to get some breast but she does not want to have the curvy body of a young woman.

Try not to engage in that gaining and fat talk but maybe give him compliments for his new broader sholders or so. Ask him to carry something which is heavy and tell him that you love to have a son whom you can ask to help you to carry such heavy things.
And get some girls into the house. I bet if he has a girlfriend (I suspect he has none at the moment) he will forget those questions...[wink]
That is at least my strategy at the moment...

Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Hi Hollyhill,

We have schizophrenia (also not a perfect diagnosis) in the extended family so I am familiar with the weight gain caused by the medication. This person has also had many periods of severe restriction but it is seen as a symptom of the schizophrenia rather than a co-morbid. 6 of one, half dozen of the other if you ask me.

Anyhoo, I'm not really one for ignoring the elephant in the room so in your shoes I would be inclined to acknowledge some slight gain, acknowledge that it will take a little time to get used to his new size and change the subject. I would emphasise that the discomfort will not last long, it's a temporary feeling and that he will aclimatise. I would be aiming for a dialectic viewpoint, yes, there is discomfort at some weight gain but it will get better and does not have to throw him off course and it is for his overall good. He just (just!) needs to tolerate the distress for a short time while it becomes his new normal. With my ED son, I tend to drop in short comments over a period of days/weeks rather than having a heavy conversation.

Those were just my stream of thoughts and, as always, take whatever might suit your situation or recognise in them precisely what is not suited to your situation. It might be nice to know that with our family member the weight gain evened out and although he was sturdier than his previous lanky form, he was by no means fat.

Best of luck,

2015 12yo son restricting but no body image issues, no fat phobia; lost weight IP! Oct 2015 home, no progress. Medical hosp to kick start recovery Feb 2016. Slowly gaining at home, seeing signs of our real kid.

May 2017 Hovering around WR. Mood great, mostly. Summer 2017 Happy, first trip away in years, food variety, begin socialising. Sept 2017, back to school FT first time in 2 years. 2018 growing so fast hard to keep pace with weight. 2020 Off to university, healthy and happy.
  • Swedish proverb: Love me when I least deserve it because that's when I need it most.
  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence Recovery, then, is not an act but a habit. Aristotle.
  • If the plan doesn't work, change the plan but never the goal.
  • We cannot control the wind but we can direct the sail.
I wonder if it would make sense to tell him it is normal and expected to gain a little weight each year into and through the mid twenties as their organs mature, bones increase density, etc.  You might even acknowledge that very few people are happy about this, but it is the way of the world.

Just a thought.  xx

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