The first week we started re-feeding our daughter, we thought we were doing a great job because even with her resistance, we got her to eat three full meals every day. We were shocked when she lost over 2 pounds in the first week. Her frightening weight loss taught us that we not only needed to add 3 snacks into her daily meal plan, we also needed to feed her a lot more at every meal and snack.
Although she was eating substantially more than she had been, her restriction and resulting weight loss had dramatically changed her metabolism. She needed many more calories than we could have imagined, and she continued to need a higher number of calories for an extended length of time.
It is already challenging to get an anorexic to eat. It is even more challenging to get her to eat what seems like a massive amount of food. Many anorexics need 3500 to 4000 calories a day to gain even a small amount of weight, so parents must figure out how to provide enough nutrition without filling multiple plates per meal.
These are some of the ways I learned to increase daily calorie intake without substantially increasing the volume of food we required our daughter to eat:
1. Switch to full fat dairy products. In place of reduced fat, low fat, or skim versions of milk, yogurt, and sour cream, give her the full fat versions of these that are made with whole milk.
2. Use heavy whipping cream wherever possible—in sauces to put on chicken, fish or beef, in smoothies, with cereal, in oatmeal, etc.
3. Add nuts and nut butter to smoothies, oatmeal, or full fat yogurt.
4. Make “smoothies” with high fat/high calorie ice cream, heavy whipping cream, and fruit.
5. Cook with or add butter and/or oil to her food. Canola oil is easy to add to any sauce, soup, yogurt, pudding, or hot cereal.
6. Make or buy granola that has high fat and high calorie content per serving.
7. For omelettes: add cheese and meats, whip eggs with some whipping cream, and use oil or butter in pan while cooking.
8. Add butter, brown sugar, whipping cream, nuts, nut butter and dried fruit to oatmeal.
Don’t be afraid to add a lot more butter, cream, cheese, and oil than you would ever eat yourself or serve to anyone else in your family. Your anorexic daughter has different nutritional needs than you and your other family members do right now. Be willing to push yourself to feed her what her body and brain require to heal.
For more tips on how to feed your anorexic teen, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 20-minute mini coaching session.