Rethinking eating disorders as misguided life savers trying to help us, not beasts trying to attack us

It’s completely normal for a parent to view an eating disorder in their child as a terrible beast that must be overcome. We gather our weapons and seek to control the eating disorder and drive it from our child’s body. “Just fix it!” we tell the professionals who are trying to help our child. “Just make it go away!”

But there are alternative approaches to fighting. As surprising as it may seem, there is also the option to understand the eating disorder’s purpose and teach your child new skills for managing life without using food or restriction.

With the proper professional guidance and loving parental support, an eating disorder can be reimagined. Check out this original video we created to illustrate this concept.

The River Story

It’s quite normal when you find out that your child has an eating disorder to want to wage battle against the evil monster that has taken over. But that might not be the best approach. Here is an alternative way of thinking, using a metaphorical story, from Dr. Anita Johnston.

Imagine that your child is standing on the edge of a fast-flowing river. Suddenly, she has fallen in! She’s drowning! A log passes her by, and she grabs on. The log saves her life.

But she realizes that now the log is between her and where she wants to go. As long as she holds on to the log, she can’t get to shore. The people who love her call out from the shore, telling her to “just let go!” But when she lets go, she is not strong enough to cross the river, and she begins to drown again.

Terrified, she grabs hold of the log again. She wants to let go, but she’s not ready yet. She starts thinking about how she can get strong enough to make it to shore. She can see her loved ones there, waiting for her.

Slowly, she starts practicing letting go of the log. She sees the people who love her encouraging her slow, steady practice. As she gains confidence and skills, she begins letting go of the log. And then, she is able to let it go, and she is able to make it to shore safely, all by herself.

Once there, her loved ones realize that the log wasn’t an evil monster – it kept her safe when she didn’t know what else to do. But now she has the skills she needs to swim without the log.


216dba42-2409-4ca6-8f31-234ef849b5a7img400This metaphor of the life-saving log is just one of many thoughtful stories presented in Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling. If you enjoyed this video, please read the book!

Leave a Reply