National Eating Disorders Association

On the Friday that I was officially diagnosed with an eating disorder, my mother had her first seizure. That weekend, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the following Monday she had brain surgery, and that night we were told that her cancer was terminal.  

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With Mother’s Day approaching, I began to think of the moms in my life as well as the moms I treat in my practice. A running theme for many of them is the struggle with balance, happiness, and the demands of motherhood. More often than not, self-care is the one area that moms tend to let fall by the wayside. One reason moms often give me for not taking better care of themselves is that they feel it’s selfish, in addition to being too busy, therefore, putting themselves last.

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I have been practicing psychotherapy for close to 18 years now. In this time, I’ve focused most of my work on the treatment of eating disorders. Having suffered with an eating disorder in high school, prevention, education, and treatment have become my passion. 

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Our family has a son with an eating disorder. He’s had it since the age of three, and his condition has not really changed. We found out by accident that he had a food allergy to peanuts (and tree nuts), which happened even earlier than the eating disorder. Certainly, having a food allergy makes the cautiousness around foods - especially "new foods" - even more present. 

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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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