ARTICLES, HEALTHY LIVING & WELL BEING. EATING DISORDERS
How Can I Fix My Anorexic Child?
The hardest question to be asked and one with no definitive answer to guarantee a cure.
But having had anorexia myself and got through the other end of it I want to offer my thoughts around this.
I lived with anorexia from the age of 12, becoming the master of deception. I hid it from my family and friends for four years before I got any help. Anorexia made me do things I never thought I would do. It made me angry at anyone who made me eat, it made me hate life, and it made me shut everyone off from around me. I stopped trusting people and made everyone my enemy.
I feel awful at times for how I acted when I was growing up, the nights that I would make myself sick in the bathroom while I heard my family listening in outside to the endless family arguments about food.
As a parent, I cannot imagine how hard it is watching your child slowly starving themselves whilst they ignore your begging voice, ignore the warning signs you get told.
So as a parent what can you do?
- Educate yourself – we aren’t asking you to know everything about our eating disorder or to think you know best trying to understand bits of it will 100% help and it will help us feel you are taking me seriously
- Build trust – this is key! We need to know that we can trust you to not make us fat and that you aren’t feeding us more than we should have. We need to learn to trust that we can tell you anything and it is okay. And above all, we need to know we can trust you that when we eat food you don’t assume everything is one hundred percent ok
- Activities away from food – this will help keep those positive happy memories coming. When I was living with anorexia my Mum and I used to go on long walks and these memories are amazing
- Meal plans and set meal times – please don’t change these last minute and let us plan them with you
- Avoid talking about portion size, diets and weight – this may seem completely harmless to you but could have a hugely negative impact on our recoveries
- If exercise is a problem for the person then speak to your local gym about getting a couple of Personal training sessions. For me exercise was hard to manage and I was obsessed with it for so long. When I relapsed in 2016 I got myself a personal trainer to help me get back on track with my exercise
- Hold our hand through it – please don’t give on us
- Remind us you love us
- Find other ways to communicate if we struggle to talk about our feelings – we have spent so long showing our emotions through food but we need to work together to find other ways
- Speak to your GP – and be persistent if they don’t take you seriously
Looking after a child with an eating disorder can be a complete and utter minefield but it is possible. Despite the many tears and arguments recovering from an eating disorder is possible and worth fighting for. But please remember to look after yourself!
If you have more questions on this please do contact me on Twitter @HopeVirgo or https://www.facebook.com/Hopevirgoauthor/
About the Author
Hope Virgo suffered from anorexia for 4 years before being admitted to hospital in 2007. She lived in the hospital for a year and since being discharged, has fought to stay well. Hope has just published her first book; “Stand Tall Little Girl”; and now lives and works in London, runs marathons, has a keen interest in exercise and maintaining good mental health. She has recently launched her own website – please do check it out www.hopevirgo.com