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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I discovered my 16yo daughter has an eating disorder in December. Anorexia. The wait list in Toronto gave me an appt just to get diagnosed, in April!!! I have counselling for her. I took her to a Dietitian. Trying to be supportive. But What do I do? Where do I start? If I put restrictions on her, she can self harm or think I’m not there for her. She says I’m the only one keeping her in this world. I went many times to the ER for self harm already. Does anyone have ideas? What can I do at home?
Hello, you will get a lot of support here. If it helps use it!
I am only just starting this journey myself and it just hard to get used to, and to accept. Someone more knowledgeable will be along soon i think. 

i think you need to start at home by trying to get her to eat regularly. not necessarily large portions but something for 3 meals and 3 snacks. this may be a glass of milk. remember her tummy may not be used to large quantities of food and it will feel difficult to her so if she can manage something 6 times a day you are starting to recover. I made a mistake of trying to feed my daughter maximally (as recommended) and after a day or so she became very resistant. i notice when she was admitted to hospital  the nurses started her off on quarter portions, increasing by a quarter every few days. and if you know what she is eating you can see if she is missing and might need to go to hospital sooner. 
 Try and stay calm - she needs you to be her friend and anchor more than anything - if she can't eat you can go to the doctor but if she stops trusting you it will be awful for a long time. 
Hi and a very warm welcome from Germany.
ENN is from Canada and I am sure she will be around soon to help you with all questions around your health system there.
April is a joke and you need to act NOW. You can start that at home and do not need to wait for the professionals to have time. Food is her medicine and you need to refeed her and help her to eat at home. 3 meals and 3 snacks. Distress and self harm at the start is quite often the case. But you can try to avoid that by supervision and taking away all things she can use for self harm.
Are you alone with her? Do you have family or friends to help?
Has she already seen a doctor? Blood and heart tested?
That is more important than a dietitian. Your d needs no dietitian, YOU can see her if you want, but for your d that is too much stress at the moment. Feed her normal food she had eaten before AN in normal portions that you would eat.
Ask all you 1000 questions, we will try to help!
Keep feeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Hi Kabaka and welcome,

So sorry that you are dealing with this difficult illness. We had a very long, frustrating journey to get a diagnosis and ultimately ended up doing all the work of getting our son well again with the help of an ED experienced pediatrician . A medical doctor of some sort is essential because the medical risks of malnourishment and/or purging can be life threatening. So I would say that your first port of call should be to a doctor to be on the safe side.

I really needed to read lots and get my head around how I could help our son and these are resources that I thoroughly recommend to get you up and running

We have resources and links at our FEAST website

If I might recommend a couple of very practical books?
When Your Teen Has an Eating Disorder: Practical Strategies to Help Your Teen Recover from Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating by Lauren Muhlheim is a crash course in all the essential information for getting your child to eat

Anorexia and Other Eating Disorders: How to Help Your Child Eat Well and Be Well by Eva Musby is a longer read with lots of great infomation, scripts you can use and covers lots of situations in depth. Eva also has a website. I have also added one of her videos at the bottom of her post.

If your budget can take it, I don't think it is excessive to buy both. I know that I still dip into them for ideas as we continue through the different phases of recovery.

A really good book for helping to understand the illness is Decoding Anorexia by Carrie Arnold who is a science researcher who had an eating disorder for over 10 years but recovered. I do not have a science background and I followed it easily. I loved the combination of scientific understanding and personal memoir.

We also dealt with self harm and our son was actively suicidal. It was very scary and that is where I tend to fall back on practical tasks. So, I read up on the danger signs when someone is suicidal. One really surprised me - that an improved mood can indicate danger. That was the case in our situation, once our son had made the decision on the time and method, he ate because 'it didn't matter any more' and his mood was better than when he was tormented by the decision. That is not to say that all improvements in mood are a danger sign! You can google the websites in your area for more information. I also decided that maybe I could not remove the risk 100% but I was absolutely going to reduce it as low as possible - so removed medication, chemicals, climbing rope from the treehouse, knives etc. And I was going to increase the chance of saving him as high as I could - so as much supervision as was possible, car always fueled, pointing towards hospital with keys in pocket. Mobile phone charged and in pocket or beside bed. We had to lock the windows and doors to prevent him running away and also to prevent him going running in the middle of the night. 

The supervision and removal of sharps did reduce the self harm and ensured that he did not seriously damage himself but, of course, when he was so distraught the would bang his head or gouge his skin with his nails. I found these moments very, very upsetting and difficult to deal with. They often ended up with a pile of him and whoever was around bundled together and crying in the middle of the floor.

There is a big learning curve for parents at the beginning, both learning about the illness and learning the skills needed to get our kids to eat. Trial and error while we try to figure out exactly the words or combination of consequences that work for our particular child are pretty much inevitable and part of the process. It is also totally normal for it to look like we have made things worse by insisting on eating but stirring that hornet's nest is required. The only way out is through. 

You will be relieved to hear that getting through is possible. Our son is healthy and really happy in his life. The medicine was 3 meals and 3 snacks, all supervised for a long time and the love and determination of his family. With the re-nourshiment of his body and brain, the depression, anxiety, suicidality, self harm, emotional dysregulation, anger, isolation, perfectionism OCD-style habits etc have all disappeared. He is dealing really well with the pressure of end of school exams and chosing his university for next year.

Please feel free to come back and post any questions you have or to vent your fears and sadness with people who get it. We are here to help you as much as we can.

Warm wishes,

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

May 2017 Hovering around WR. Mood great, mostly. Building up hour by hour at school after 18 months at home. Summer 2017 Happy, first trip away in years, food variety, begin socialising. Sept 2017, back to school FT first time in 2 years. [thumb] 2018 growing so fast hard to keep pace with weight
  • 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.

Hello and welcome to this amazing forum. 

Food is her medicine so start straight away feeding often every couple of hours but leaving no more than 3 hours in between. It’s important to only have whole foods ie full fat milk, cheese, etc etc. She needs fats which she will be extremely frightened of so learning how to support her in eating them is invaluable. 

complex carbs just before she goes to sleep will have more chance of helping her last through the night without waking up through hunger so wholemeal bread with peanut butter on or wholemeal pasta etc is good. 

my D was suicidal early on so we had no choice but to supervise 24/7 including sleeping with her. We got a lock put on a cupboard and placed all sharps, medicines, cleaning products in there. 

These ‘symptoms’ of AN subsided once her brain started to recover from the fat restriction. 

Please come here and ask lots of questions. This disease is tricky and cunning and will attempt to isolate her and split family relationships. Stay united against it and try to see the illness as separate to your D. 

Eva MUSBYs resources both in book form and YouTube clips were fabulous when we stared out trying to learn how to refeed her. 

Virtual hugs. Xx

Kabaka wrote:
What do I do? Where do I start? If I put restrictions on her, she can self harm or think I’m not there for her. She says I’m the only one keeping her in this world. I went many times to the ER for self harm already. Does anyone have ideas? What can I do at home?

Hello and welcome from another mom who was faced with the self-harm/AN combo.  Ugh.  It is really overwhelming and scary.  On the one hand, you KNOW you have to get her weight up and on the other hand, you worry that requiring full nutrition will tip her off the edge.

I would urge you to do everything you can to stabilize her weight and work toward increasing it.  I'm certain you don't want her to lose any more weight if you can possibly avoid that.

Many find that ED is weakest in the morning.  One think that has helped many families is to wake ED kid at least an hour before normal waking time with caloric smoothie in hand, "Here, drink this."  Sometimes they will surprise you and just drink the thing and then they can roll over and go back to sleep.  It is almost like ED doesn't wake up in time to put up a fight.  That gets the day off to a good start.

Others find that it can help to pick up the spoon or fork and feed her as if she is a toddler again.  Sometimes it is easier for them if they don't have to be the one to put that bite in their own mouth.  I was really surprised that worked with my (teenage) d.

I can pretty much guarantee that canola oil (rapeseed in UK) and butter will become your best friends.  I was surprised to learn that you can add canola oil to everything from soup and rice to yogurt and smoothies.  If you stir it in briskly it will disappear without changing the flavor or texture.  It takes a bit of experimentation to see how much you can add but most people here are surprised how much they can add.

A handful of pulverised nuts can increase the calories in many foods, too,  without increasing the volume appreciably.  When each bite is a trial, you want as many calories per bite as possible.

It is usually best to keep them out of the kitchen while cooking and also away from the grocery store.  We had a rule that we didn't discuss ingredients or calories because that just leads to argument and misery.  Most here get pretty good at a response along the lines of "I don't discuss ingredients ... do you know where the dog's collar has gone?"  I learned to always have a topic or two in mind as a subject changer because I don't have much natural talent for that.

It is really great that your d values you.  That is not always the case with AN kids, although they are affectionate before and after ED, they often push us away while in the thick of the storm.

Please feel free to ask all the questions you like.  It is hard to find a situation that no one here has experienced. xx

"We are angels of hope, of healing, and of light. Darkness flees from us." -YP 
Thank you Torie. My daughter is on Cipralex drug to help with the depression/anxiety. One Psych prescribes her Remerin, which got her to eat like crazy. She hates that week. And did not want to take the Remerin any longer. She tried to overdose in order for us to listen. So now she is back on Cipralex and is slowly counting calories again. But she loves pancakes, Coca Cola, junk food. I am not sure what her magic number is anymore. I want to give her more healthy foods, but she always says no. It’s so hard to not worry, and not obsess on this as a mom. I took time off work to deal with this. Thank you for taking the time to respond 

Ok, so I don’t know how to respond to each response yet so it can be displayed under each. Thank you so much for the overwhelming support. I am glad I took tome off work to learn everything you have shared! Lol

i take her to the family doctor every week for bloodwork and cardiac exams. So upset the wait list is so long, as it will only get worse if I don’t step in even though the ed clinic won’t. It’s so crazy!! Do they expect parents to take time off to deal with this in the interim? Cuz she can’t go to school feeling faint and tired and what is she going to learn with being malnourished? I’m going to see if I can contact our govt official to complain about this side of healthcare!! I have started her in an alternative school at this time so she learns on her own at her own pace.

Maybe premature, because I didn’t see some of the videos or read the books you all advised me to. But here are some questions I had: do I take away her social media and change her apple password? I read that I shouldn’t buy her clothes. I told her I would sew her clothes to make the waist smaller. I am going to monitor her sleep hours on a Fitbit. So I know she is getting enough sleep and isn’t oversleeping or exercising in her room. I made her a schedule to balance her day, so she doesn’t Netflix binge.

thanks for guidance everyone. 


Hi Kabaka, 
I wish to ask a few questions to understand your situation better as I am not sure from you have already posted what the actual  current issues are.

May I ask how the diagnosis of AN came up? Was it the psychiatrist? They are very well equipped to make the diagnosis .If this is a provisional diagnosis, don't wait just start feeding. 
Did your family MD make the referral to the ED clinic? Was she referred to a hospital or CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association- where many local ED clinics usually are in Ontario).
Are they taking her Blood pressure and heart rate lying and standing?
How much weight did she lose? And what exactly is happening at home now with the eating?
As for the wait list, nothing is stopping you from getting a hold of ED now. All the advice about feeding her regularly ie 3 meals and 3 snacks per day is necessary.
The family MD can call the clinic and make and urgent referral if they feel it is necessary. 
If she is eating less than 500 cal per day or not eating or drinking for 24 hr take her to the ER. If her HR is low less than 40 or she has low BP she may need to be admitted. 

Some do need to take time off work to get the feeding going. The sooner the better. School was important to my d and was motivation to eat. You may need to keep her off school until she starts eating properly. That would be motivation for her, I would think.
Taking her to the dietitian may not be needed, she may not agree with the dietitian. Usually the dietitian is there for you to teach you what to feed her. 
What is she eating? 
You may need to change your parenting style and insist on good nutrition and not ask her if she agrees to eating. 
So let us know how we can help you.
When within yourself you find the road, the right road will open.  (Dejan Stojanovic)

Food+more food+time+love+good professional help+ATDT+no exercise+ state not just weight+/- the "right" medicine= healing---> recovery(--->life without ED)
Hello and welcome from a mum of a daughter of similar age. 

Just quickly a few answers:

- Social media: I would put a moratorium on it and yes, change the Apple password. You will need to be in charge. There are some dangerous influencers out there. Even the well-meaning recovered anorexics can trigger a relapse in others.

- Netflix: I would save it for the times your daughter may need distraction from AN thoughts, like mealtimes.

- Fitbit: I would try to take it away from her as it might reinforce any urge to exercise. This urge can be maddening for all, but luckily goes away with weight gain. 

- Clothes: another mum here, @PurpleRain, has some great tips.

- Feeding: in the beginning, any food you manage to get her to eat is great, but over time, your daughter should be able to eat what is in front of her. Sounds easy? The trickiest part, actually! Because those AN thoughts are giving the child hell.

- Resources: I read Eva Musby's book/ manual at random chapters, depending what was most urgent at the time. And later I read it for her soothing and loving tone...

I hope this is not overwhelming.

All the best,
Mum's Kitchen

14-y-o "healthy living" led to AN in 2017 and WR at 16. Current muscle dysmorphia.
This topsy-turny upside-down world of ED is so confusing.  I found it really hard to wrap my mind around it all (or, truth be told, any of it).

Here's the most important thing I learned:  The person who would save my kid was me, the mom. Yes, she might end up with a higher level of care for a time, but then she would be back under my care and I would be the one who had to get all those calories in.  I wanted a white knight to ride in on horseback and save my d, but I belatedly realized that no white knight was going to come - I would have to roll up my sleeves and wrestle ED to the mat myself.

And she would fight me every pound of the way.  She would tear at my heart with her anguish and lash out at me in anger.  And still, I had to require her to eat.  Every day, every meal, every bite.

I learned here that I had to be stronger than ED and smarter than ED and more determined than ED.  I had to fight for my kid with everything I had; I had to muster more strength than I thought I possessed.

Many people come here and say, "But you all are so strong."  That is not me.  I am a marshmallow; a softie.  I have no idea where you are on that spectrum, but please do not think we are all strong people here.  We are determined.  We love our kids.  That is enough.

Kabaka wrote:
But she loves pancakes, Coca Cola, junk food. I am not sure what her magic number is anymore. I want to give her more healthy foods, but she always says no. It’s so hard to not worry, and not obsess on this as a mom. I took time off work to deal with this.

I'm not sure what you mean by "healthy" foods, but she is not allowed to say no.  If she had cancer would you let her say no to chemo?  Of course not.

We say here that food is their medicine.  Personally, I would never say that to my d because I don't want to say that food is yucky and bitter and anyway, my d said she did not want to get better so why would telling her "here is your medicine" be a good idea?  But to YOU I say that food is her medicine.  It is every bit as essential as chemo for a cancer patient and just as important for her to receive the full therapeutic dose.  Every. single. time.

No one can jump out of the starting gate and do that immediately.  It is way too counter-intuitive and challenging for such quick success.  But in the end, that's what you will do.  You will figure out how to get all those calories in day after day and meal after meal.  Day in and day out.

Our job is to help you figure out how to get there.  And to hold your hand when you are scared and tired and overwhelmed.  And to remind you to put on your own oxygen mask first and take good care of yourself because you can't help someone else if you can't breathe yourself.  And to be there for you in whatever way you want us to be.

Now, pancakes.  Great that she likes pancakes.  You can add extra oil and pulverized nuts and I think maple syrup to the batter.  Butter them on both sides.

I have learned to embrace junk food; I'm glad to hear your d likes that.  In the early days, I spent what felt like forever in the grocery store (without D) reading the labels to find which foods had the most calories per bite.  If she will eat ice cream, splurge on the premium brands.  I had no idea how much more caloric they are.  I looked for full fat everything - I found it a challenge to find the right flavors of full-fat yogurt and the kinds of calorie dense bread others here were able to find, but eventually I figured it out.  People here have amazing recipes for muffins if you think you can get her to eat that.

I will stop now because I don't want to overwhelm you (any more than I probably already have).  We want to help.  Please ask all your questions and feel free to vent or moan or whatever you need. xx

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

Hi Everyone! Thanks for all your advice. It is overwhelming but so very useful.

an update, after my daughter took herself off of Remerin (an old antidepressant) that made her eat ravenously, she struggled for a bit to count calories. I told her I’m going to start taking her social media away and change passwords (as this board recommended) and that there would be more lifestyle changes. 

I don’t see her counting calories. I see her eat a lot more than she used to. She started a new school and is motivated to catch up to her old class and go through completing her credits and do coop. I will just continue to monitor. 

As per your questions, Enn, the psych diagnosed her, but she wasn’t qualified she said. the family doctor does all the tests every two weeks even her BP both lying and sitting. We are waiting on the halton clinic (hospital). 

thank you everyone for your support. So glad I can speak to you all and can understand what I’m going through!!

Kabaka, Great news on your progress. As hard as it is, taking a firm stance on things like social media, etc is really important. The books recommended above are really important. I waited nearly a year before I read them and regret that decision. If it's difficult to find time to read, then I would also recommend listening to the podcasts by Tabitha Farrar. You might find her views odd at the beginning of your journey, but I would encourage you to keep listening as they are important.
D fell down the rabbit hole of AN at age 11 after difficulty swallowing followed by rapid weight loss. Progressing well through recovery, but still climbing our way out of the hole.
Kabaka I am feeling a bit concerned about your daughter. You mention your D has stopped Remerin because it was making her eat a lot, and it caused trouble with her counting calories. Elsewhere you have mentioned she is only eating 500 calories per day. If so she may be rapidly physically deteriorating. Although you are waiting for your appointment this does not mean that she may not need more urgent management. When she is getting tested by the GP are her observations stable, her weight? If things are deteriorating it is possible she may need urgent hospitalisation. 
D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13. Initially weight restored 2012. Relapse and continuously edging towards recovery. Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.
Hi everyone! Thanks for all your wealth of knowledge. Update. Our appt never solidified with Covid. So no ED clinic yet. I hid the scale and only brought it out for virtual dr appts. Didn’t let her see the weight. Also threatened the taking away of her cell and cutting wifi. My daughter has put on weight, from 98 she is now 120. But her thoughts are the issue. She said yesterday that she made a conscious choice to stop restricting her food intake. And wants to be heathy. So that’s good. I just have to monitor now. But she is having trouble with the thoughts. Doesn’t want to gain weight. “She looks fat” although clearly isn’t. How do I deal with the mind??
It is great to hear that your D is gaining weight and is willing to work with you. Fear of weight gain and being fat is unfortunately often one of the last things that seems to improve. For many kids this occurs six or more months after full weight restoration. For some kids the fear of gain never truly goes away - after all many healthy non ED people have a fear of weight gain too. The important thing is that she continues with regular nutrition and her weight continues to increase or once weight restored is relatively stable. Her fear of eating will improve as she gets more used to things. The body dysmorphia also often improves slowly  with time. 
D diagnosed restrictive AN June 2010 age 13. Initially weight restored 2012. Relapse and continuously edging towards recovery. Treatment: multiple hospitalisations and individual and family therapy.

The mind is the last thing to catch up once eating normally again. Concentrate on feeding every meal and snack...6 times a day. Breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and supper. 

The brain is recovering from a trauma so it needs time and lots of nutrients to get it back on track and then more time....this is a marathon not a sprint so try take one step at a time. The mind is not able to do complex thinking at the moment...only simple stuff to keep it alive. Once full nutrition is regular (and that’s the tricky part with this illness as it’s so sneaky) then the brain will heal and things will become less exhausting for her. 

Kabaka wrote:
How do I deal with the mind??

The same way you deal with ANY irrational person.  (It is so weird how irrational our ED-kids are about ED topics when they are perfectly rational about everything else.)

By definition, rational arguments do not help against irrational thoughts.  The best advice I received was to acknowledge the complaint and change the subject.  ("That sounds really hard.  Do you know where the dog's leash is?")

So pleased to read about all your progress! xx

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