National Eating Disorders Association

There is a tendency for the media to portray eating disorders as superficial illnesses of female adolescence. The limited scope of these stories mitigates both the severe emotional and physical consequences inherent to eating disorders, as well as their prevalence across other genders and age groups. 

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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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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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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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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.

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One of the things I found most difficult during my daughter’s struggle with an eating disorder was how to fulfill my role as a parent even when the experts’ advice ran completely counter to my instincts. I would feel like some of my daughter’s behavior demanded consequences, yet her therapist would tell me to let him handle it, and/or to remember that she was punishing herself in so many ways and didn’t need more punishment. I felt at odds letting her get away with behaviors that I wouldn’t let my other children do without consequences.

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Dr. Lesley Williams is a certified eating disorder specialist, family medicine physician and positive body image advocate. She co-owns Liberation Center, an eating disorder treatment facility, in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Williams is dedicated to ensuring that all women and men that struggle with eating and body image issues receive the help that they need to overcome and live happy, healthy lives. Dr. Williams regularly educates other healthcare professionals about the diversity and dangers of eating disorders.

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As my college-aged daughter was landing on the tarmac after ED treatment away from home, I stood at the stove feeling apprehensive about the sour cream I was stirring into the chicken paprikash and the homemade macaroni and cheese that was baking in the oven.  My mind buzzed with all the concerns she could potentially raise, and I felt keenly aware of the return of mealtime anxiety.

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