Very few medical doctors are trained in eating disorder recovery, and it is unlikely that your child’s regular physician has specific training in eating disorder treatment beyond identifying the minimum weight threshold that indicates anorexia. This means that many doctors inadvertently trigger eating disorder behaviors due to a lack of knowledge about how to treat someone who is in recovery. This lack of knowledge is not from a lack of caring. It’s just that very few of us become well-versed in eating disorders unless we are specifically trained or love someone who suffers from an eating disorder.
We can’t protect our children from a world that triggers eating disorders, but we can do something to help prevent accidental triggering from people whom we trust to care for our kids. We created a letter for you to provide your child’s medical doctors to minimize triggers at the doctor’s office. It may surprise you to know that many of us in recovery find that a visit to our general practitioner, OBGYN, etc., can lead to relapse.
Of course, you should edit this letter to fit your circumstances. If your child is under the care of a physician for their eating disorder, definitely add that information. The goal is to provide reassurance to the doctor that your child’s eating disorder is being treated appropriately.
Please review this letter with your child’s treatment team to gain their feedback.
Dear Dr. _____________________,
My daughter/son, _______________, is coming in for an appointment with you on ___________. Before we come in, I wanted to let you know some important information regarding her/his care.
_______________ has been diagnosed with an eating disorder. We are working closely with a psychotherapist and nutritionist who are trained to work with children who have eating disorders. _______________ doesn’t physically look “sick,” or the way that most of us think someone who has an eating disorder looks, and she/he is not currently medically underweight.
We are working very closely with _______________’s treatment team and will alert you immediately if there is any reason for concern regarding her/his physical health as a result of her/his eating disorder.
Here are some requests we have before coming into your office. I would really appreciate it if you could share these requests with your staff to minimize any triggering events for _______________ during her/his visit.
Please do not weigh _______________. I would really appreciate it if your staff members do not even suggest stepping on the scale. You can probably guess that being weighed is a major trigger for _______________, and I need to assure her that you will not weigh her in order to get her to attend the office visit. If you feel that you cannot provide care without her/his body weight, please contact me immediately to discuss this further.
Please do not comment on _______________’s appearance – positive or negative. We were surprised to find out that one of the most triggering comments for someone in recovery for an eating disorder is “you look really healthy!” We have learned that all comments about physical appearance can be difficult to handle for someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder. We have been working on saying things like “it’s great to see you again,” or “I’m so happy to see you” to replace the common greeting of “you look great!”
Please do not make any diet or exercise recommendations on this visit. Both food and exercise are a part of _______________’s eating disorder and recovery. We are working hard to support her/him as she/he develops new, healthy habits around food and exercise. It’s a sensitive area right now, so it would be very helpful if we leave details about both to her/his nutritionist at this point in recovery.
If you have any concerns about _______________’s physical health as it relates to her eating disorder, food behaviors or weight, please discuss them with me privately either before or after the office meeting so that we can work with her therapist to address them in a safe environment that will best benefit _______________’s healthy recovery from her/his eating disorder.
I deeply appreciate your understanding in this difficult matter. I know you have a lot on your plate, and I can’t tell you how much it means to have your support!
Ginny Jones is the editor of More-Love.org. She writes about parenting, body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders. Ginny is also a Parent Coach who helps parents handle their kids’ food and body issues.