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

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linefine
Yesterday we had a discussion with our D, who was making a fuss about how much we wanted her to eat.  It was quite a good-natured discussion at first - deteriorated later when we insisted on her finishing - but it left us not really knowing what words to use with her.

She accepts that she's too thin, and whenever she talks about it, says she hates herself and she's got a body like a 12 year old (she's 17) and EVERYONE at college (high school in the US, I think) is "normal" and curvy.

BUT, she does not accept that she's unwell, or that her eating habits (if left to herself) are abnormal.  So, if we use words like "unwell" or "ill", she gets cross and says please don't keep saying that!  If we use words like "normal" she tells us that she's perfectly normal, and none of her college friends ever talk about being hungry, never, ever. ( They're all aged 16-18 and a number of them are boys - can't believe the non-ED ones are never hungry!!)  Also, ALL of them are allowed to get home whenever they like after the college day finishes.  We are insisting that she's home by 7pm so she can get a good meal and snack in before she goes to bed, but everyone else (so she says.....) can stay out till 10pm or midnight.  She doesn't know when or where they eat.  We have explained that they are probably a good weight, which makes a difference.

As she's 17, it really doesn't work to never answer a question ("Why do you have to keep giving me food?" eg) as she gets very upset and feels like we're treating her as a child.  We try to avoid words like abnormal as it's sounds so negative, but "normal" and "healthy" don't work (unless she's using them herself, of course!).  

On the plus side, I discovered quite a good and easy lever, almost by mistake.  D was making a fuss about the last lot of calories I wanted her to have.  I had given her a choice of orange juice, cream in her milk, or yoghurt.  She took her milk to her room and said she wouldn't have anything else.  So I followed her, sat on her bed, and asked, over and over again, what she was going to have.  (We've found that a certain amount of choice is the better way to go with our D.)  She replied, over and over, that she wouldn't have anything else.  So I sat there, and said, "I'm going to stay here until you tell me what else you're going to have".  

So I sat.

And she said, "Oh no, you're not!" (loudly)

I said, "I am" (quietly)

I sat.  Then I said, "As I'm going to be here a long time, I'm going to get my crochet"  She said, (loudly) "You're not staying in here!"  I said, (quietly, as I disappeared out the door to get my crochet) "Yes, I am."

She yelled, at about a million decibels, "FINE! I'LL HAVE ORANGE JUICE THEN!"  

Seems having Mum sitting on your bed is one of the worst things that can happen!

She drank both milk and orange juice, by the way.
Heather

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always PROTECTS, always TRUSTS, always HOPES, always PERSEVERES. Love never fails.
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deenl
Hi linefine,

Communication is a huge thing for us - it is nearly not possible.

Certainly anything we say while he is eating/trying to eat causes him to stop eating immediately. So very few supportive words at mealtimes.

The only thing he does respond to is medical necessity. 'This is what your body needs right now' 'The doctor has told me exactly what you need' 'You heart rate is telling us that your body needs more fuel' etc.

I am hoping that when the medical emergency part is over he will be receptive to other prompts.

Good luck,
D
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.
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Elena
I did a lot of 'bed sitting' while refeeding. I had to learn that silences were often just as effective, or more so, than too much talk. So I became the immovable object in her room until she ate. I'd give her reminders to eat, and quietly say 'good job' when she did eat, but I also gave her plenty of time to process what I asked of her. There are times when you just can't be in a hurry!!!
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evamusby_UK
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She drank both milk and orange juice, by the way. 

Look to me like you've found something that works. What I see in your experience is calm, non-blaming, non-catastrophising, persistence/focus on your intention. And you gave yourself enough self-care to make it realistic: getting your crochet so you can really stay as long as required.
And silence - like Elena says, silence is often effective. Maybe you've heard of "silent empathy" ? It means you don't use words but you are in a compassionate state towards yourself and your daughter. It often works better than words, which can so easily be misinterpreted - and it is  so hard to find the 'right' words.

Having said that, since you're asking for language suggestions:
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"normal" and "healthy" don't work 

I find bits of the following can work: "so you're really well and enjoying yourself, so you have a great life, I'd so love you to find some peace of mind, wouldn't you love to feel free, carefree, to be able to concentrate on fun things?"

And there's also (for the questions during a meal, that distract from eating)  "I wish I could answer your question right now, but we know from the experience of loads of other young people who are now well, that it's not helpful to discuss these things. I'm guessing you're having a really hard time just now and you'd like this feeling to pass?  I'll stay with you. Have a bite... So did you hear what the neighbour's dog did today?...."

Maybe something along this spirit may contribute to your already fine repertoire.


Eva Musby, mother, author, produces lots of resources for parents at https://anorexiafamily.com and on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/EvaMusby/playlists
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mnmomUSA
I have found that talking about food/eating in any way while eating is completely non-productive.  Just leads to the nasty voice ED is so famous for in our home.  So, if she tries to start something, I say "we can discuss that later when you've finished eating....now, how about the latest episode of (favorite show)....should we put that on while you finish eating?"

Distraction, calm support....only things that worked for us.  Oddly enough, she's never really interested in discussing food outside of meal times.  Distract.  Lather, rinse repeat.

BTW, I'd say you definitely won the orange juice battle.  Good for you!!!
D, age 18, first diagnosed March 20, 2013, RAN, at age 13 Hospitalized 3 weeks for medical stability. FBT at home since.  UCSD Multi-family Intensive June 2015. We've arrived on the other side.  :-)  D at college and doing great!
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linefine
evamusby_UK wrote:

I find bits of the following can work: "so you're really well and enjoying yourself, so you have a great life, I'd so love you to find some peace of mind, wouldn't you love to feel free, carefree, to be able to concentrate on fun things?"

And there's also (for the questions during a meal, that distract from eating)  "I wish I could answer your question right now, but we know from the experience of loads of other young people who are now well, that it's not helpful to discuss these things. I'm guessing you're having a really hard time just now and you'd like this feeling to pass?  I'll stay with you. Have a bite... So did you hear what the neighbour's dog did today?...."




Hi Eva, and thanks for the encouragement!

The trouble with saying things like you've suggested is that D doesn't accept that she's not well, and will protest loudly that she would have peace of mind if we just stopped trying to get her to eat "such mountains of food" (20g of grated cheese yesterday was a mountain...) and stopped trying to control her life all the time.  

She gets very cross if we say anything along the lines of "Eat a bit more" and if she says she's feeling sick (which she says every day) and we just say "Mmmm" or "I know, it's hard for you" or anything sympathetic.  (Especially if we say it with the wrong facial expression - that's a red rag to a bull...) On the other hand, if we say nothing, or something she construes as unsympathetic, she says we're unfeeling and don't care...  

And anything along the lines of "We know....." followed by any fact or explanation re ED is met with "Oh yes, you're doctors, aren't you?  Oh, wait a minute, you're not actually, are you?  And you've got no proof that there's anything wrong with me, none at all".  Unfortunately, she's right in that we don't have a formal diagnosis, because she won't go to any ED specialist whatsoever.  We usually counter this with, "Well, that's because you won't see anyone to give us that diagnosis, but we do know that you're not eating enough on your own, so whether you have an eating disorder or not, you still need to eat more."

If, however, we say nothing, or "I'm not discussing this with you now", we get a huge barrage of abuse and stuff about how we treat her like a child, and how we've told her enough times how rude it is not to answer a question. 

I know what we have to do, but it's very, very hard when she's 17 (18 in 3 short months, eek!), intelligent and articulate, and like a brick wall when it comes to changing anything!
Heather

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always PROTECTS, always TRUSTS, always HOPES, always PERSEVERES. Love never fails.
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evamusby_UK
It's useful reading your description. You're describing a stage we probably all know well. Where our children just don't recognise they're unwell, or deny it in order to stop you intervening. 
This will change, so keep our tips up your sleeve for another stage. Though you may find words never quite work.
Perhaps for now what will really help you is to know the difficulties you're hitting are part of "normal", not a sign that you're lacking anything, not a sign that you could be doing better. She can get cross, blow up etc, and you're still doing the best that can be done.

If she had a diagnosis and if you had family treatment, the therapist would visibly empower you in your D's eyes to do what you're doing. So it might help you to be very assertive in response to ""Oh yes, you're doctors, aren't you?" and claim (with kindness) your place as an expert.

I've just noticed your tag line and it is just perfect to guide you into a (silent) state of compassion, which (just as you did with the crochet) will do wonders. 
I hope this helps you have more peace of mind while you're working through this stage.


Eva Musby, mother, author, produces lots of resources for parents at https://anorexiafamily.com and on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/EvaMusby/playlists
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Psycho_Mom
Hi,

Oh, yeah, what you describe is familiar. My d complained bitterly about every single blessed thing I said, and when I said nothing she yelled "Why aren't you talking! don't you love me!!!"

Anything your d says before or during a meal is for one of two purposes:
1. expressing extreme anxiety
2. getting out of or delaying eating.

When you keep that in mind, it become obvious that the most merciful thing to do is get the meal over with.

"I'm glad to talk about that after your meal," worked best for us. She didn't like it, but it was respectful while staying firm and not delaying the meal.

After a time of healing tho, there were glimpses of the real d, and I didn't want to cut those off. These appeared however, only AFTER a meal. 

Before wr, our d accepted that there was something wrong with her, but didn't accept that she needed to eat more.

WE HAD a formal diagnosis and a doctor and a t, and d STILL denied that I knew anything at all of what I was doing because I WASN'T a doctor. It's all nonsense, for the purpose of avoiding eating.

Your'e doing great!

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.
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Torie
My d denied that she had AN even after being diagnosed with it by one of the premier ED docs in the U.S. Oh well.

Ed argues like a trial lawyer - not sure anyone here has ever won an argument with Ed. I guess part of the goal is to find something to say that helps YOU - a few mantras you can repeat. Here are a few that helped me (don't know if they will help you): "It really sucks having an eating disorder, doesn't it. I'm really looking forward to getting back to our normal life, too." "I'm sorry this is so hard. Please take a bite." "It's not that I don't trust you; it's just what I do." 

Also, it helped me when I remembered that although it was Ed I was arguing with, my real d was in there, hearing my words, too.

Great job getting her to drink the OJ!

Linefine 1
Ed 0

Keep swimming.

xx

-Torie


"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
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evamusby_UK
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"you've got no proof that there's anything wrong with me, none at all"

I have just read a good article by the wonderful Lauren Muhlheim, therapist, on Anosognosia. It's a good reminder that "there's nothing wrong with me" is usually not denial. That it's a symptom of a brain disorder. http://eatingdisorders.about.com/od/understanding_eating_disorders/fl/Anosognosia-and-Anorexia.htm

And the link to Laura Collins' blog is perfect too: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/eatingdisorderrecovery/2010/05/my-daughter-does-not-want-to-recover-from-her-eating-disorder/



Eva Musby, mother, author, produces lots of resources for parents at https://anorexiafamily.com and on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/EvaMusby/playlists
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Colleen
If you're looking for language that doesn't get twisted by ED or doesn't provoke screaming outrage or maybe one that leads to a calm rational conversation that ends in mutual understanding...I don't know...Farsi maybe?  I know English didn't work.
Colleen in the great Pacific Northwest, USA

"What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn't much better than tedious disease."
Alexander Pope, 1688-1744
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linefine
Thanks Colleen, that gave us a chuckle....

D does Sign Language at college - maybe H & I should learn it too and communicate that way with D.  It would certainly be a lot quieter  [smile] 
Heather

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always PROTECTS, always TRUSTS, always HOPES, always PERSEVERES. Love never fails.
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schnook
linefine wrote:
Thanks Colleen, that gave us a chuckle....

D does Sign Language at college - maybe H & I should learn it too and communicate that way with D.  It would certainly be a lot quieter  [smile] 


Funny you should say that! S and I use signs at meal times because he finds them less stressful than verbal reminders to keep chewing, keep swallowing, have a sip, well done, etc.
Working hard at meal support and WR for an anxious and food avoidant 6yo
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mjkz
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As she's 17, it really doesn't work to never answer a question ("Why do you have to keep giving me food?" eg) as she gets very upset and feels like we're treating her as a child. 


I have told my daughter many times that I am treating the age she is acting.  A normal 17 year old maintains a normal weight, eats, and does not have to be reminded or forced.  Until she can eat a normal amount, maintain a good weight and not be forced to eat more by mom sitting on the bed-she is not acting like a 17 year old.  I also turned questions around so if my daughter asked me "why do you have to keep giving me food?" I would say "That is a really good idea.  Why do I have to keep giving you food?  I think it has something to do with the fact that you are not eating unless I do so. Maybe eating more and on a regular schedule whether you feel hungry or not would help me not to have to give you food."

There are other times also where I just give it to her and say no discussion.  Just eat it.  It would be great if you were like every other person out there but you are not and this is what we have to do keep you healthy.
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