National Eating Disorders Association

Catch It, Challenge It, Change It! Supporting My Daughter Through Eating Disorder Recovery

Lance Kissinger

Catch them, challenge them, change them. Get used to this phrase; it is the seed of hope that must be planted in both you and your child’s minds for ANY chance of long-term success.

For the foreseeable future, almost every thought your daughter has will need to be "caught" and evaluated for accuracy by her. For example, when you meet at the agreed upon time at the agreed upon location with the agreed upon avocado sandwich, Ed will smirk the kind of smirk that makes your daughter feel as though she is missing something. She doesn't get the joke (although she knows that she is surely the butt of it). So, she will take a small bite of the homemade wheat bread and avocado sandwich you pull out of the brown paper bag as she gets in the passenger side of the car during school lunch time. This is inconvenient and awkward, yet necessary if you expect that sandwich to actually be eaten. Ed will mock her. 

She will need to "challenge" that thought. She will need to say, "Wait, I am on the verge of starvation…maybe eating this makes sense."

She will learn to "change" the thought. "Eating this keeps me alive. It's important for me to live even if it’s only because I know what it would do to my family if I died. I can't do that to them - not yet, they're not ready."

Now, repeat this process about 43,000 times a day. Tired much?

She must continually challenge the thoughts and beliefs that stream through her. Catch them, challenge them, change them. Catch them, challenge them, change them. What about you, dad? Perhaps you need to do a little catching, challenging, and changing of your own.

Catch it: "She's not really that sick." Challenge it: "Then why did the doctor say that if her heart rate goes any lower, she could simply go to sleep and never wake up?" Change it: "She's not pretending; she's closer to death than you want to admit. Make another sandwich and deliver it with a smile."

At this moment in time, you are the most important male figure in her life. If you want your daughter to grow up to have confidence, love, wisdom, warmth, humor, intellect, decision-making ability, etc., then it is your job to provide a framework to ultimately set her adrift, under her full power. She will leave your everyday influence at some point; make sure she is well-prepared.

To that end, my responsibility is to encourage her to have a life that has meaning for her, not me. I want her to think things through and, then, decide for herself. I have not always agreed with her choices (a tattoo, less than good boyfriend, another tattoo...), but I have always loved her. I have explained to her that there will most certainly come a time when she zigs when I would rather she zag. I have told her to zig anyway. I will come around eventually. We don't live in a perfect world—there will be disagreements, arguments, fundamental differences, and that's ok. We can catch it, challenge it, and change it together. One thought at a time. 

A version of this piece originally appeared on


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