National Eating Disorders Association
Blog
Parents & Caregivers

Why is it so hard to talk to our parents about our struggles with ED, poor body image or low self-confidence? Guilt and shame probably play a pivotal role in why we don’t want to talk about these things with Mom and Dad.

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As I walked Sarah and Allison home from school, I noticed Allison falling behind. She began walking slower than us and staring down at the ground, silent. Our walks home from school usually involved nothing but talking and laughter, but today was different. She was usually the chatty one. I asked her what was wrong, but she brushed me off saying she was just tired. 

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Chase Bannister is the founder, senior vice president and chief strategy & clinical integrity officer for Veritas Collaborative, a specialty hospital system for the treatment of eating disorders in a gender-diverse and inclusive environment. He is credentialed as a certified eating disorder specialist by the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals and is a licensed clinical social worker.

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"Dear KJ" is a monthly advice column by Dr. Kjerstin "KJ" Gruys, sociologist, author and body image activist. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology with a focus on the politics of appearance and is the author of Mirror Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body By Not Looking at It for a Year (Avery Press, 2012).

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For many years, the reality we lived in was one of fear; fear that ED would take the lives of our daughters. Would they be alive at Christmas or their next birthdays? As morose as that sounds, that is the reality of being parents or family members of someone with an eating disorder. We were at battle with ED and every day that they were still on this earth, we had the opportunity to find a way through the fog ED created.

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When our family therapist told us that family relationships were wholly repairable, I was dubious. At the time, it felt like we would never fully escape the chaos, fear, and unhappiness that an eating disorder had brought to our family. We didn’t know how to communicate, to adjust, to support, and to manage in this new situation. But the biggest gift of the holiday season was the joy of seeing rekindled love in my children’s relationships with one another and seeing how we are all learning how better to be happy together. 

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The holidays are stressful for everyone and there tend to be a myriad of events to attend with friends and family. The emphasis on food, especially in very social settings, plus the stress of seeing family and friends you haven’t seen in a while makes for a difficult holiday season.

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When your child is struggling with an eating disorder, the holidays can be a complicated time for the whole family. With that in mind, our PFN Steering Committee shared their best tips on how your family can have a peaceful and healthy holiday season.

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Ed came along like a boyfriend you hoped your daughter would never bring home. I had been waiting for the day I would have to deal with this guy—I just hadn't realized he would come in the form of vapor, a cloud, something I couldn't reach out and injure. I expected flesh and blood.

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It was very difficult for our family to lose our daughter Karyn to an eating disorder in the prime of her life at the age of 46. We and she did everything in our power to save her, and in the end, by telling her story we would like the story to be one of hope and miracles.

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