Do you need to address your thoughts and feelings about food, weight, and eating before you will be able to effectively feed your anorexic daughter?
I naively thought that if my daughter would just start eating normal meals again that she would gain weight quickly. I actually worried that she might gain it too quickly because I assumed that just like with any diet I’d been on, that as soon as she increased her calories, she’d immediately gain weight. It absolutely baffled me that after a whole week of successfully getting her to eat 3 whole meals a day, she lost over 2 pounds.
It was scary that after a lot of hard work overcoming her resistance to eating, and taking all forms of exercise away from her, plus monitoring her for an hour after each meal to make sure she was not purging, that she lost weight. That’s when I became educated about what anorexia can do to the metabolism.
Her body was basically using up all of the fuel immediately upon her eating to try to restore all of the functioning that had been lost during her rapid weight loss. She was metabolizing her food at a rapid rate, and we needed to give her a lot more nutrition to see even a slight weight gain.
At first, the type and amount of food she required was physically sickening to me. I couldn’t imagine eating that much, so I had to get around my thoughts about how I felt about requiring her to do something that seemed almost cruel to me.
An anorexic already doesn’t want to eat, and is terrified to gain weight. This terror is hard for a mom to experience at all, much less 6 times a day. This is where the tools I have learned as a certified life coach came into play. Without these tools, I do not think I would have been able to continue feeding her at home after that first disappointing week.
It is only by learning to manage my mind that I was able to create emotions that allowed me to act like the parent she needed. Pushing her to eat an amount and type of food that I was very uncomfortable with, but that I needed to require her to eat, was not natural or easy. But, I learned to be uncomfortable, and to do it anyway. A good analogy here is that if your daughter had cancer and required chemotherapy, you would follow through with the chemotherapy even though it would cause her pain and discomfort.
Just as chemotherapy is a medicine that is necessary for cancer recovery, food is a medicine that is necessary for anorexia recovery.
Addressing your own discomfort about weight gain is important to being able to feed her what she needs. It may seem like you are requiring her to eat more than you can stand for her to eat. That’s okay. It would seem like you were requiring her to have more chemotherapy than you thought you could bear if she had cancer too.
In order to successfully support their teen’s recovery, parents must adopt a medicine mindset with food. Food is her medicine. I underestimated just how much food she would need at first. It was terrifying to work so hard, and to put my daughter through so much anxiety, only to see the number on the scale go down.
Luckily, I knew that I had the choice to feel however I wanted to feel. At first, I was devastated because her weight restoration was essential to her getting better, and she had lost weight. I was also scared that I didn’t know how to require her to eat enough.
But, I knew that by her next meal, I wanted to feel confident that I knew what to feed her. I wanted to feel confident that she would gain weight at her next weigh-in. I knew that feeling disappointed and discouraged at her next meal would not enable me to show up in a way that would be helpful to her being able to eat, so I needed to have a thought in my mind that created confidence.
We can decide how we want to feel at any time under any circumstance.
Before your daughter’s next meal, decide how you want to feel, and then figure out what you would need to be thinking to create that feeling. Notice how deciding how you want to feel ahead of time changes the way you parent your daughter through her next meal.
I can help you learn how to overcome your fears so that you can confidently support your daughter’s recovery. Contact me to schedule a free 20-minute coaching session at firstname.lastname@example.org.