National Eating Disorders Association

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My 15 year old daughter has recently been diagnosed as Anorexic. I am completely lost as far as how to parent her through this. I admittedly have no understanding of this disease, and do not know how I am supposed to proceed. I am so scared of saying or doing something wrong, and making the situation worse, that I find myself not doing anything. I feel like a spectator. My wife is a bit of a control freak, and is uber involved in it, but her anxiety and emotion just causes tears and fights. I try and be the peacemaker, and end up in the middle of the 2 of them. My wife says I am not supporting her and I don't understand, my daughter tells me she is tired of talking about it when I try and have conversations about her thoughts and feelings, trying to understand how her brain is working.

Hi dumbdad!

Thank you for reaching out to the forums! Let me start by saying you most definitely are not a dumb dad; eating disorders are complex and there's so many factors involved that influence your daughter. Its so great of you to reach out and seek help. The world of ED is confusing and scary at times, but NEDA has a lot of great resources to help you. One thing that I love is the Parent Toolkit, available here: The toolkit has a ton of information, from facts about eating disorders, how to get support, and so much more. I highly recommend checking it out!

Additionally, NEDA has a Helpline available for users to call to seek support and locate resources in their area. The number is 1-800-931-2237 and is open M-Th 9-9 EST and F 9-5 EST.

Lastly, NEDA has a Parent, Family, and Friends network here: This is a community you can use that will provide personal connections and resources that fit your needs.

I hope this information helps! Remember that you're not alone with this and that NEDA is always here to support you and your family!

thanks for the info. I'll

thanks for the info. I'll check those resources out. My handle is more about how I feel with respect to her ED, and was meant to be a little self-deprecating.


I am so glad that you have posted. I know that this site has helped me a lot. To be able to share concerns thoughts, ideas, triumphs, and setbacks.
It is so hard to know how to help. I remember having the same feelings and concerns you expressed. What if I do it wrong, say the wrong thing don't do the right thing, get mad at her, someone else says the wrong thing. I was so worried that I would do something wrong and make her ED worst. I was so stressed, it was a heavy burden that I put on myself. I was doing everything I could and she crashed. It hit me that I can't make this go away, I cannot make it all better. I can support her, but it has to come from her. I saw a therapist for myself that helped a lot. He taught me this saying, and I have changed it a bit, to what I needed.
I did not cause it
I cannot control it
I cannot cure it
She can cope with it
I thought he was crazy at first. I decided to try it and it helped me a lot. So if my daughter hid food, I did not take it personally that I could have done more to stop her. I would say this quote to myself and then she would have the consequence .of hiding the food (that is the she can cope with it part. I would not get angry, we already had consequences set up}
.I also discovered that her choices did not make me a bad or failed parent. I would love , take care of her needs and I would find joy.
I have been taking a group class with my daughter and one of the points it made was what type of relationship do you want with ...(fill in the blank). That really hit me. What kind of relationship do I want with my daughter and what do I need to do to make it happen on my side. Are there things that you and your daughter like to do together, ways you can strengthen your relationship. Other parts of her life she wants to talk about and share with you. The eating disorder likes to destroy, especially relationships.
My daughter has a zone plan that my husband and I and her therapist and dietician came up with. We had it typed out and we could see it. That way we were all on the same page. I take care of most of the day in and day out stuff with my daughter. I am around her more. If I need to go somewhere and my husband is supervising eating, I will have the tell him in front of her exactly what is expected. I update my husband of how she was doing each day, and we make the decisions together of when to move her up or down the zone.
We have 6 children. My husband has spent more time with our other children, supporting them, which I appreciate because my daughter with ED needs more of my time and my other kids were not getting as much of my time as I would have liked to give. I remember one day just sitting in a chair in our room and just crying. He came up and gave me a big hug and just said "We are surviving just moment to moment.". That really stuck with me. I had always been so organized and my world around me was shattered. I use to plan things months in advance and now I couldn't keep up with the day to day, and now it wasn't even a whole day I could keep up with, just the moment. It actually helped me give myself a break. I could go from moment to moment. I also started to realize that I needed to do little things for myself each day. I was also neglecting the relationship with my husband and I needed to find little ways to strengthen our relationship. I am happy to report that our daughter is doing well. She has been out of the treatment center for her ED for 16 months. She still struggles, and she has made so much progress. My relationships with my husband and all my kids are strong. I can organize in advance again, and I take a lot more time to just enjoy little moments as they come.
Take care of yourself, it is so important.

thanks, that is really

thanks, that is really helpful. Can you expound a little on the "zone plan". I'm not familiar with that concept. I'm glad I decided to reach out. When my daughter got up on Friday morning, it was the 1st time since this began that her appearance actually scared me. She actually looked sick to me instead of someone who has just lost a little too much weight, and the fear and helplessness sort of overwhelmed me.




I am glad you wrote back. When my daughter was in the treatment center they had us make a zone plan before they would let her come home. It was confusing at first, as time goes on I have gone back and tweaked her zone plan because I know now how it works and what will be best for me daughter. There are 4 levels. Red, yellow, green and blue. The zones lay out what is expected for my daughter to do and the privileges she has earned. Usually she stayed on red zone for a few days or week, yellow zone maybe a bit longer my daughter was on green zone for about 10 months. She was not ready to move to blue zone. We would drop her from say green zone to red zone for a few days if she hid food, did not maintain her weight cut herself (my daughter self harms), ect. When she gained her weight back she would then go back to the zone she was on before we dropped her down to red zone. She is now on blue zone, so when she gets dropped we put her to yellow zone. Here is what her yellow zone looks like. I am not saying that anyone else needs to do this or of they do that it should be exactly what hers is. It will just explain a bit better what one looks like.
Yellow zone

Parents will plate all meals, eat 100%
No exercise
Short walks with mom (according to mom's health availability)
Walking allowed with family outings
Correct each incident of non-approved exercise with nutritional supplement
Restroom: use with supervision only* she would tell me when she was going to the bathroom and I would stand outside the closed door, I would then check the toilet and then she could flush it.
May not use bathroom for ½ hour after each meal or snack

No kitchen chores.- not allowed in kitchen
Follow chore schedule
Follow outlined family schedule for getting up, going to bed, etc.

1 Shower per day in the morning before breakfast

Daily personal hygiene
Attend church and YW activities except for overnight activities
No visits to friends houses.

Friends may visit 2 hours each week on main floor, may be 1 or 2 different visits.

May not have same friend over again until 2 other friends have visited (must rotate a minimum of 3 friends)

Must go to family activities

Work to have visits weekly
-30 minutes internet- no you tube, no pintrest. Monitored by parents
-allowed use of phone 30 minutes a day with parent supervision
Can pick one ½ hr. show with parents approval no food or fashion shows
Room- 1 hour a day after connecting with family
-Not allowed to go shopping
no electric razor in your bathroom
No tweezers, sharp objects, pens pencils, ect in your bathroom
Not left home without mom or dad

When she was ready to get off of green zone, she was not all the way ready for the things we had written in over a year early on what that blue zone would look like, so we came up with three tiers. My daughter loved to move up the zones but she would usually have a really hard week that first week of a new zone, so we decided to do more baby steps. She is now on the highest level of blue zone. This is what it looks like
Tier 3

can get a job and work 3-4 hours a week

cook without supervision(let mom know first)- once a day. Eat at least one serving of it

friends- a day of fun with friends- one meal and one snack away from home, once a month- doing friend thing weekly. Go between houses

willing to look at time increase with friends, depending how it went in tier 2

Movie 4 hours in all. From our house back

can eat snack in class

Can drive your friends around in the car
Friends- can get together 3 hours a time

do not need to say when going to the bathroom

Picking one full meal and cooking it- with mom in room (once a week)

having 3 options for sides, and picking 2 of them
can have 2 showers or baths a day- tell mom, has to be at least 30 minutes after eating

can have a 4 hour party- get together with more than one friend present , once a month- switch between our house and friends house (also switch between friends houses). To get this you must be getting together with friends on weekly basis- hopefully twice a week

Outings with friends, haunted house, ect

For her to move zones she has to maintain weight, do what is in the zone she is now in, and treat people with respect. To move from green zone to blue zone I had her show me that she was going to be more involved in her doctor's appointments and doing the homework they wanted her to complete. There was such a change in her. She really wants to be healthier. Plus the biggest thing for her now is to get to drive her friends places.
I hope this explains zone plans so you can see how it works.

so do I understand it

so do I understand it correctly that blue is no restrictions- other than maybe weight monitoring, and green is somewhere in between?
Thanks so much for all the great info, sorry if I'm being a pest, please reply at your leisure


Blue zone has a lot less restrictions. There are a few restrictions still in place. She eats lunch with her councilor at school, her friends can go into the office and eat with her. For snacks at school, she eats them in front of a person who then signs it off so I know she had her snack. She can plate her own food at home, yet I have to pass off the portions. She eats most meals and snacks under supervision. She eats 3 snacks a day and three meals a day- with portions that have been designated by her dietician. She is still limited on how long she can stay with friends and how often she can go on outings. We also expect her go to all her doctor's appointments (4-5 a week). While there she needs to be involved, ask questions, bring up things that she needs or is struggling with. So on blue zone she can cook, not only can she cook, but we want her to cook. She is afraid that cooking will bring on her ED. The same with starting an exercise program. So now we are telling her she needs to find exercise she likes and to do it within the limits we give her. So the zones have restrictions but also privileges that she is suppose to be doing. Her dietician and therapist want to get her ready for college. They want her to go out with friends and spend her own money to eat out with them. We want her to be able to feel comfortable making food again and eating it. I let her do most of the talking at the doctor's now. Even the family doctor because I want her to ask for what she needs and also get prepared for taking more control of her health. She will be an adult in just over a year and we want her to feel more empowered and ready to be an adult. So she has earned a lot more privileges and she is using a lot of healthy skills. For her the zone plan really worked and is working. She still has urges to hide food and when I ask her why she doesn't she will tell me she does not want to go back to ED. plus she likes driving her friends around.
She gets weighed each week and every other week she is checked for self harm. She still needs to maintain her weight and not self harm to be on blue zone. She is working hard on her communication skills and talking a lot more about her feelings and using skills they have taught her. She has a lot more freedom now, but there are still restrictions and monitoring.
I hope this helps. If you have more questions, please let me know.


You are right that green zone is somewhere in between green and blue zones


I read my last post and I need to correct what I wrote. Green is in between yellow and blue zone

thanks, great info. Just had

thanks, great info. Just had a dr. appt. today, lost 2 pounds after what seemed to be a great week of eating. Dr. is now pushing for hospitalization, which seems really quick to me. My wife and I are lost and feel so helpless, and our daughter is feeling frustration. We know from others that she is not eating what she claims at lunch, which is disappointing because we have had long talks about honesty, but we can't confront her with it or she'll be angry at her friend for spying.

Sorry to welcome you to this world

So sorry to hear about your daughter's recent diagnosis. But at this point, there's really no way you can trust your daughter to do anything on her own. She can't even trust herself. She's in the throws of a disorder that is controlling her behavior. Sometimes it's helpful to separate the eating disorder from your daughter because it's controlling her and not the other way around. She is malnourished which makes her too weak to fight the illness right now. Food is her medicine and she'll need to be watched constantly to make sure she's not restricting her food or purging. Re-feeding and getting your daughter to an acceptable weight is the only priority right now that will have to take precedence over trust and independence. Once she's at a better weight, you can do the emotional work to find out what's at the core of the disorder.

My daughter almost needed hospitalization at the beginning, but we were very fortunate that we had a treatment center close by. They helped us come up with an intensive outpatient program that allowed us to keep our daughter in school, but still do intensive therapy. Our school helped us pare down her school schedule to the essentials and she was only in school part-time. The rest of the day, she was in therapy -- individual, group and family. All of her meals were made and plated by me or my husband. Sometimes that meant that I had to go to school at lunchtime and pull her out to watch her eat (she did not want to eat with a school counselor). Most days, her dinners were at the treatment center with a dinner group, where they discussed their anxiety around eating and the meal was supervised by a therapist. They were required to eat most of the meal.

You may have started to already experience this, but the close supervision is often one of the hardest parts about the disorder in the beginning. It's almost like having a small child again. Plus that child will not want to do the things that you're asking her to do and she will likely resist. Eating will be very hard for her at first and it will be hard to push her, but you'll have to push her until your gut says you can't push her anymore. It may be helpful to hospitalize her -- I don't know because we never had to do it. But if you don't, you and your wife will have to be prepared to watch her at all times to help her make progress.

You and your wife will need to be a team to help your daughter. If your wife is the one that is doing the most work to help your daughter, she will absolutely need your moral support. Your daughter will too. Be kind to them both. Understand you're not fighting your daughter, but an illness that has control of her. With love and patience, you will get to a much better place.

great stuff, thanks

great stuff, thanks

so hard

That is so hard to hear that her doctor thinks it is time to hospitalize her. I remember that day well when our daughter's doctor told me the same thing. It is heart wrenching, overwhelming, and scary. I do know that for my daughter there was concern for her heart. We were very blessed that our doctor knew a great place not too far away. My daughter was there for 2 months, it was so hard, but for her and for us it was a huge turning point. I cannot tell you what to do. abswyg was able to get her daughter into a great program and she could stay home. Reading her post brought back so many feelings, she explained things so well.
My thoughts are with you, your wife and daughter.


I am new to this as well, but have been furiously learning. It seems to be critical that you are on the same page. Discuss together how you need to deal with this. Read and learn all you can. Good luck!