National Eating Disorders Association

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New Member and Frustrated

Hi everyone, I am a new member and frustrated and so glad I found this forum. I am the stepmom to a bright and wonderful 16 year old who suffers from an eating disorder. My husband is a good father, but he is stressed out about hearing about it, so we argue when I try to talk to him about it so I need some support from others who understand.

My 16 year old stepdaughter has some eating disorder behaviors that are extreme and very hard for me to deal with. I don't want to sound cruel, but some of them infuriate me and I am finding myself taking it out on her, even though I know these behaviors are complex.

Here are some of her behaviors that I find the most frustrating:

She restricts food all day, every day. I am stuck begging her to eat, checking her intake every day. It is making me crazy.

If she isn't restricting, she is binging in the middle of the night or when I leave. Then, she is purging when I am not home. This makes me so angry because while I understand it is part of the disorder, we are low income and I don't have money to throw away like that on food she is not using properly. She will go through $50 worth of food in her binges.

She insists on being vegan. This is hard for us to afford and it is only a way for her to restrict. Sometimes during her binges, she will binge on 'my' food if its vegan and then claim she didn't know it wasn't hers, but she has specific shelves we place her food on in the house so she does in fact know better. She makes excuses for everything.

She exercises excessively when I am gone or asleep. I have "caught" her several times using the exercise bike ferociously at 3 am when she thought we were asleep.

Because she is not eating, she is always tried and sleeps all the time when she is not in school. I would have to literally entertain her the entire waking hours if I want to make sure she stays awake. I simply cannot do that. I have to work.

She refuses to take vitamins.

We buy bottled water (our water tastes terrible) and she drinks it excessively and we also can't afford to keep up with it.

Both her father and I have tried having 'come to Jesus' talks with her, telling her what will happen if she continues (health consequences), I have tried having gentle, understanding talks, tried punishing for breaking rules (getting out of bed at night, binging at night etc) and nothing helps as far as her stopping. I know she will take years to get through this, but I can't live like this much longer as it causes me great anxiety and financial burden we simply can't just deal with.

She just started seeing a therapist.

I would love any advice. Thank you.

Hey Stressed_SMom82. Sounds

Hey Stressed_SMom82. Sounds like there's a lot on your plate.
I'm sorry to hear you and your step daughter are having such a rough time of it. You're right, eating disorders are serious and complex illnesses. I just wanted to start by giving you props for being there for your step daughter. Girls who have eating disorders have a much better chance of recovering when they have a robust support network. You may very well be integral to that.

Its good to hear that she is seeing a therapist. May I ask if you've considered getting her a nutritionist or dietician? I know that may sound expensive, but there may be a way for your health insurance to cover it. Speaking of which, is her doctor aware of her disorder? I think that would be imperative to her support network.

NEDA has a helpline manned by trained volunteers who may be able to point you in the direction of resources in your area. They're available Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am - 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (EST) and that number is 1-800-931-2237.

I did a bit of searching on the greater NEDA website and found a few links that I think might be useful to you:

I hope that helps a bit. Keep us updated if you please.

- Adage



I'm sorry to hear what all of you are going through. There is a forum for parents that maybe has more support for you, with specific tips for your situation.

I wish your husband was involved, it sucks that you have to face both of them regarding this. But I've seen everyone copes with this on their own way, sometimes denial.

The great problem I see with this illness is that all the good you can make leads to very small victories and progress. But there are a ton of things that we do wrong when we don't know better, that make it all worse. Sometimes with the best intentions and sometimes even when we know a lot, things go sideways. So it needs for us to take a step back and constantly evaluate what works and what doesn't.

We need to build up, whatever way we can, some tolerance to our frustration. Because it is a long journey. And because if we surrender to it, we're gonna walk backwards in the road to recovery. We can't forget about ourselves, not at all, but we need another place to take our frustrations, and be sure we don't put them in the back of the sick person. No fair, and many times not doable, but I don't see another way.

This is an illness. You wouldn't try to talk someone out of an infection. Much less punishing them for having it. But many people inside and outside the family will do just that: blaming, shaming, pressuring...This is something common believe, even untrained doctors and therapist, made difficult to understand. You have to internalize that, and you have to make sure she knows you believe it. "You are sick, this is not your fault, you didn't ask for this". She will have plenty of people doing what I told you, make sure she knows you know better.

2nd, she has to know you know it is serious, and you know her life is hell, and you know this is the only way she thinks she has to cope with life. Is she thinks people believe she's not seriously ill, she'll keep up until it shows without doubt. Not to call your attention, but to feel she's somewhat understood. It is not her behavior what is extreme, it is her suffering.

There are many triggers, but it usually is nobody's fault, no one can avoid her brain reacting like this, and she just had bad luck. This is usually related to some other suffering in her life, and she escaped into this illness to have a sense of control and purpose. But not because she chose to, just some switch changed in her brain.

All we can do most of the time is try to lower their anxiety levels. Ask yourself in any plan, if it is aimed to that. In the long run, she'll need to take care of what is making her need to escape from herself or her life. So she won't need an ED to cope.

If she is comfortable and she knows you take her seriously, she'll open up.If she talks and you listen, you'll learn many more strategies to deal with this that are exclusive to her case. This might take time because of her age, that is a rebellious age, and she lacks maturity and sense of responsibility. But at the same time, the younger you start to support her, the more possibilities of recovery.

That's another thing, don't talk about recovery, talk about feeling better, less stressed, more in control...

If she feels the responsibility of wasting $50 on food, that only makes her more ashamed of herself, but it doesn't give her any help to stop it. More ashamed - more anxiety - more disordered behavior.

Binging is the most shameful thing for her, she feels she is unworthy, and weak for doing that. But if you felt like that before, try multiplying for 1000, they want to die for this. When it is simple, it's called reactive eating, it's just her body overpowering her will, in order to survive. Some people eat while they sleep, because the body is wise.

If you get her to understand this, you can work in the line of eating just a bit more, when she is in control, so her body won't need to punish her with a binge. And she'll feel better while still controlling her intake. It's not a solution, but it's a step. I feel.

I get that many people with EDs have their own "safe foods", but you hinted that you have yourself separate food? I sense there is a continuum about how we react towards food, there are sick people with a pathological relationship with food, but most of us don't have a 100% healthy relationship either (even being obsessed about being healthy is another pathology).I, myself, use food as emotional comfort, and I place a lot of importance on food, I did since I was little. I now have to become aware of that, and not put myself as a model to my kids or my sick partner, to admit I am not right. If she thinks I lie to myself about this, she wouldn't trust me and wouldn't listen to me. At the very least we have to take a hard look at ourselves and find out which of our behaviors make them anxious and compel them to push us away.

I'm sorry if I was too hard on you. I feel guilty myself for not taking this as seriously as it deserves before, and I feel I should have made this a priority a long time ago, but I didn't know better. We are all lost on this, it's not your fault, and it is a very hard job with a lot of opposing forces. It shows that you care, and that is a victory in itself, she's lucky to have you.

Best of luck.