The seven hurtful things people say about my child with an eating disorder

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My beautiful blue eyed daughter has recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder at the tender age of seven. While some people have been very supportive others have said some things that really hurt. Here are the most hurtful things I have been told so far:

1. She will eat when she is hungry!
No she will not. If she did she would not have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. She doesn’t ask for food or drink and is not aware when she is hungry. She would go all day without drinking or eating and not even realise.

2. That is what happens when you give in to fussy children!
So is giving my daughter the food she will actually eat and keeping her alive giving in to her? So the fact she would starve herself to the point of requiring medical attention should be ignored just so that I don’t ‘give in’ to her? In that case when you next go to a restaurant or take away don’t bother looking through the menu at what you would like just take whatever they give you and eat it! There is a clear distinction between a child with fussy eating, a child with major sensory issues and a child with a complex eating disorder.

3. Maybe if you let her make it she would eat it.
My daughter enjoys making cakes and dinners and puddings. She enjoys shopping for ingredients and following recipes. But she still refuses to eat it. There is a big difference between cooking and eating. While some children’s issues include handling, mixing and cooking food, my daughter will happily participate in these activities until you ask anything to pass her mouth. I wish I could explain why that is, but I can’t.

4. Can’t you just force feed her?
That seems like abuse to me. Yes there have been times where I have had to almost force vital medications into her and spoon feed her yoghurt or pureed fruit just to get something inside her. But force feeding her would not only have a huge phycological impact on her metal wellbeing but it would also send her the message that she has no control or choice. When I tried feeding her before she would simply vomit it back up. She needs to be able to control what goes inside her mouth and learn that food is good. I need to teach her that eating is positive and not a forced issue that creates distrust and upset.

5. You should try taking cookery classes. Maybe she just doesn’t like your cooking?
This is implying that I am the cause of my child’s mental disorder. Thank you for that! Are you aware I have another child who not only loves my cooking but often wants more and eats vegetables, fruit, salad and a good range of meats and carbohydrates? Have you seen the meals I make for my children? I don’t need guilt heaped on me on top of the stress I already have. That only makes things worse.

6. They never had such rubbish in my days. You just ate what was put in front of you when I was young.
I am so glad you were able to eat the food you were given. I am very confident there would have been children and adults around in ‘your day’ who also had eating disorders you just may not have been aware of them. As awareness grows and more people are willing to talk about these things the more it may ‘appear’ to increase, though I believe it has always been there.

7. Let me have her for a week and I will cure her.
Thank you once again for making me feel inferior and inadequate. What you may not realise is that I would never put my daughter through the stress and anxiety of living with anyone else for a week. Her issues run deep and she requires patience, understanding and love. I would love one day for her to be ‘cured’ but until then we work daily with psychologists, her school, paediatricians and a dietician to monitor her mental well being and physical health. Would you manage to juggle all of that?

Eating disorders and mental health in young children are so often misunderstood. Every single day is hard to watch my beautiful baby struggle with something as basic as eating. It is heartbreaking to watch her lose weight. It is scary thinking of the future. She needs support and understanding, not judgement or pressure.

So what could you say to me instead?

How about ‘do you fancy a coffee and a chat?’ Or simply celebrate the good days with me when she perhaps manages her first ever packet of crisps or half of a banana?
We are not going anywhere. And sadly neither is her eating disorder.
Whatever the future holds I will be right there holding my daughters hand. We will get through this together.

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20 thoughts on “The seven hurtful things people say about my child with an eating disorder

  1. Pingback: The seven hurtful things people say about my child with an eating disorder | faithmummy

  2. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. As a therapist who has treated young women with eating disorders, I know how complex the illness can be. Sending love and support.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I found this post today just as I was finishing a post myself about the process we have gone through with our blue-eyed gorgeous daughter to find support with her struggles with eating. I have been at the receiving end of every single one of these comments like you, I can’t tell you how it spoke to me and encouraged me simply to know its not just us!! Thank you for writing so honestly. I look forward to reading more x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this post. I have had all the comments too. I have to remind myself that most people mean well but some are just plain judgemental. Thankfully now both my girls will eat, extremely limited but they will but we have been to hospital numerous times for dehydration as my youngest wouldnt drink. I know you dont know me but if you ever need a chat please contact me xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. People should really just refrain from commenting on things they know nothing about or don’t understand. What a stressful thing to go through. I hope you and your daughter find a way through this soon. It must be tough.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. My son struggles with eating in a similar way. It’s about textures and a sensory thing. He has a very limited diet and will only eat foods that are already familiar to him. He is scared of new tastes and textures. I try not to let it get to me, but it does hurt when I see other mums crediting themselves and their actions for the fact that their children aren’t “picky” eaters, or when someone asks “do you involve him in the cooking at home?”, again, assuming the blame lies in something I’M not doing, rather than just accepting that it’s just who he is. (Like your daughter, he loves cooking, especially baking cakes, although he will never eat the end result!)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Massive hugs – this must be so hard. I suffered for years – decades with an eating disorder. One thing I DO know is that when in starvation mode the brain cannot function normally. Waiting for the person suffering to think themselves out won’t, and can’t happen. You do actually have to force the issue a bit. A friend of mine died because no one was prepared to do that until too late 😦 The longer the brain is in starvation mode the higher the chance of long term thought processes setting in – if this is anorexia. Anorexia is also often part of the female manifestation of Asperger’s Syndrome but I’m sure you have explored that as it’s not a new view. The control taking can be offered in other ways and sensory needs met differently to help. I have children with gastro issues – of the irony!! – and two have had feeding issues because of this. It’s not easily fixable and takes time and patience as you so rightly say – and my heart goes out to you. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi, I’m so sorry to hear your both going through this without much understanding or support from the outside world. I am a mother to a 5 year old boy who is autistic and find similar attitudes and unhelpful comments about the things he does/doesn’t do. The most frustrating this is that people seem to think your child can just ‘decide’ to stop behaving that way one day, as though these problems are choices they’ve deliberately made. If only it were that simple! My thought are with you and your daughter and I hope you continue to have more good days worth celebrating x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is going to sound awful but i am glad i am not alone. My 3 year old is showing signs of an eating disorder. She has always had a small appetite and has never once eaten a full meal, even as a baby she was prescribed high calorie milk as she drank so little. She has never asked for food, and rarely asks for a drink. I have been told i let her eat too much “junk” but in reality that “junk” is sometimes all she has for the day. If i was to keep a food diary i am pretty sure health professionals would think i was starving her. My own parents have muttered the words “give her to me and she’ll be eating in a week”. I pray for the day she eats a meal i have made from scratch (all our evening meals) and asks for more. If we eat out i have my excuses ready for when the waiter asks if she is finished when its evident she has maybe eaten 3 chips or the equivalent. I whole heartedly sympathise with you. Its not easy but you are clearly doing the best you can in an unusual situation, by that i mean a situation you can’t ever think you will be going through.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I went through the same my daughter was 2yrs old with her eating disorder. At the age of 5 I sat her down and asked her what funeral she wanted. I had people talking about me who didn’t even no me and was saying I’m starving my child, who was going to report me to social worker but other people who new me told people she had a eating disorder so they backed off. She isn’t a great eater now at the age of 8 and fussy but I don’t care she is eating and a live. You no what’s best for yr child and I’m sure your doing a good job. Sending love. Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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