Reason and Eating Disorders: One Mom’s Perspective

My daughter, now 10, is  2 ½ years out from her initial diagnosis with anorexia nervosa, and in a very solid recovery. One thing I have learned about in guiding her recovery, is that what seems “reasonable” to me and to her has changed at different stages of the recovery process.

My daughter was an articulate (for a 7 year old), reasonable little kid before she got sick. She was amenable to logical explanations. So, at first I tried to talk her out of having anorexia. To talk reason into her. But, none of my reasoning worked. In fact, she became even more entrenched in disordered opinions. Or, or my explanations, so clear to me, would end up twisted and de-formed by the disorder to mean something quite different from what I had said.

Thanks to the moms of Around the Dinner Table (ATDT), I learned to say a somewhat bored “mm hmm” in response to disordered things she would say, and to change the topic to something other than food/bodies/eating disorders. My job was to present her with the nutrition she needed, to provide loving and consistent support, and to arrange whatever back-up I needed to create optimal conditions to promote calm meal and snack times. And, to try to help her to have a normal 7-8 year old life despite all of the supervision a kid who can’t self-regulate her own nutrition needs.

Fast-forward today, and my healthy, happy daughter is eating well, and doing great. I have my articulate (for a 10 year old) and logical daughter back, and that’s been true for some time now. Her reason has returned! She can understand and process a solid explanation, and her analyzed knowledge of how eating disorders work to trick her into disordered thinking helps her to recognize and disable the ED thoughts that come her way. For example, related to her desire to be skinny (yes, she does want to be skinny!) she can lament the fact that her muscular body isn’t a good fit for “skinny jeans” or “jeggings” and understand that fashions change (skinny jeans won’t be “in” forever!), that leggings work great with dresses or mini-skirts, and that our job is to find clothes that flatter the bodies that we have. And, I’ve been amazed to hear her repeating my explanations to others. My daughter still has some disordered thoughts, but is becoming an expert at sorting out the junk mail and asking for help with disordered thinking by asking for a reality check.

I am very grateful!

---Mother of a daughter diagnosed with AN at 7 and now in an active recovery.

ATDT Links:

How Long Does it Take 
How to Respond to the Irrational ED Talk


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