National Eating Disorders Association

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Just brought daughter home from college for treatment

We brought our daughter home last night from her freshmen year at college. She has been involved in this plan and is not resisting. She has struggled at school since October and can't manage recovery and school and friends on her own anymore so we decided to focus on this full time and get her healthy. Her hopes are to return to the university in the fall.
Yesterday was very hard but I know that this days to come will be even harder. We could not get her into the doctor until February 17 so we have to handle this on our own for a few weeks.
I am looking for any advice to help her through this. Food makes her very anxious. I don't want to push it because she will engage in eating disorder behaviors, but I need to feed our other 4 kids. Do I just make it available and let her choose? I don't want to fight about food. That won't help anyone.
I can help with the sadness of leaving friends but I don't want to do the wrong thing with her eating disorder.
Your wisdom is so needed here. Thank you.

Feeding Family when daughter comes home for treatment

Juli427, I can imagine how confused and overwhelmed you feel; I have been there. We brought our college freshman daughter home from school this fall when her eating disorder reasserted itself. We had thought she was healthy enough to leave home, but it turned out she was not. In the months that she was away at college, I realized how much her food-related anxiety had negatively affected the food and meal environment in our home and how unfair that had been for her brothers. When she was away, for instance, I could bake without fear of the anxiety it might cause her. I could keep food in the house that her brothers wanted but that I had avoided because of the stress I knew it caused her. It took her absence for me to realize that over the previous five years, I had let her illness police our kitchen. So when she returned this fall, I had two things in mind. First, she needed to do residential treatment away from home. I felt this was the best way for me to care for our whole family. Second, I would feed my family according to my family's tastes, not ED's rules. Since she has been at residential treatment, I have learned about "exposure therapy", which you may know about already, but the idea is that there are no bad foods. Foods have different characteristics, and we may make food choices based upon those characteristics. But we should not rigidly define food as good or bad. In residential therapy, my daughter complained greatly when she was forced to eat "bad" foods. But in the end, she learned those foods won't hurt her. In retrospect, I wish I had allowed more "bad" foods at the dinner table rather than cater to the anxious judgments of ED when deciding what food should be in our home. I hope this is helpful. I know there is no single best way for families to deal with a child's ED. There are certainly things I wish I had done differently, but I know we - like your family - have always done the best we could with the resources we had available.

It's really clear from your

It's really clear from your post how much you care about your daughter and want to support her. I think that is one of the most important things that one needs for the recovery journey - a loving support group.

Regarding how to handle meals, it's really hard to give advice, since recovery comes in different stages and every individual has different needs, preferences, and triggers. While therapy often involves exposing someone gradually to feared foods, I would be careful to consult with a mental health professional before I tried this (perhaps over the phone, before your appointment?).

I'd definitely recommend that you have a conversation with a qualified professional if at all possible. Also, do you think your daughter would be willing to agree to talk to you when a particular food or situation is triggering or causing her anxiety?

I will be hoping for the best for you and your family! Let us know how you're doing! Good luck.

thank you all so much. she

thank you all so much. she is doing ok but i am nervous as we are just doing the best we can. last night she wanted to eat a certain food for dinner but became very anxious after she ate. she took a medication as her doctor had prescribed for anxiety. temporarily. she woke up this morning and was violently ill. only once. this has happened before when she has eaten a full meal. always the next morning and usually after she has taken medication. does this happen when they begin eating again? is it hard on their system or is she sick? of course i am worried because she cannot afford to be sick right now. she has been quiet all day but won't really eat. i hope that tomorrow is a better day.

Hi juli427,

I hope things are still going well for you and your family today. Like others have said, you sound like such a caring and thoughtful parent, which is really going to be helpful for your daughter as she works toward recovery.

I would definitely try to get in touch with professionals if you can to get some advice about how to proceed until treatment begins. I know from personal experience that being around a loved one with an ED can sometimes feel like you're walking on eggshells. I was always afraid to do or say the wrong thing out of fear of making the ED worse or upsetting the situation. If you could just talk with your daughter's treatment team on the phone to get some preliminary advice, I think that might help you feel more at ease.

In regards to your daughter being ill after eating a larger meal and taking medication, I'm not a professional but I've definitely heard of people feeling and being sick when they start trying to eat regular portions or eat foods they haven't had in a while. I think it's normal to have lots of physical ups-and-downs when you're initially starting recovery. You could also check with the doctor who prescribed the anxiety medication to see if your daughter's symptoms might be a side effect. It's important to remember that the ED puts up a good fight when you're trying to recover. The ED wants your daughter to stay sick and will resist her efforts to be healthy. However, it's great that you're working so hard to be on top of things, and it's great to hear that your daughter is on board with seeking treatment. I think that her taking a break from school will be worth it in the end. While education is certainly important, and being away from friends is difficult, her health has to come first.

One last thing: you might check out NEDA's Parent Toolkit if you haven't already. They have lots of great information for people whose loved ones have an ED: .

Good luck, juli427! I hope you and your family will be happy and healthy. Please keep us updated!

thank you so much! your

thank you so much! your responses have helped so much. we had a good day yesterday. i am learning to take it one day at a time. she was sad yesterday, missing school and her friends. and her schedule. i am hesitating to get her very involved or busy while she is home until we know what her treatment schedule will look like. for now we are just hanging out together . a lot.
last night she was very anxious about dinner and really struggling with what to eat. she finally said, mom just make me something and put it in front of me. she has never said that before. i made her a healthy meal and she ate it! it was a huge victory. hoping today goes as well.
thank you for the advice to reach out to a doctor about how to respond and move forward until we meet with her doctor. it feels like forever until we get to meet with her. that is a great idea and i will do it today. thank you

Hi juli427,

I am so happy to hear that the forum was able to help you in some way and for your kind words! I wish you and your family the best. Please keep us updated!

Hi Juli427,

I hope you and your family are doing alright today! I was thinking about your post earlier today and thought I would check in. I hope all is well. Wishing you the best. Please feel free to post here anytime if you need support! :)

thank you so much for

thank you so much for checking in. we are doing ok. we are taking it day by day. no actually hour by hour. night seems to be the worst as far as anxiety over food. it seems to build all day and then dinner is horrible. we are trying to think snacks instead of meals. that seems to help. if she eats a full meal she has to lay down because she feels so sick. having her home is making me realize how bad she was and i am so thankful that she is here with us and safe for now. i can't wait to get meet with the doctor!


Hi juli427,

We just wanted to let you know that a portion of your post was edited in order to adhere with our community guidelines ( Thank you for posting, and we hope you will continue! :)