What I wish my parents knew about eating disorders, by Gillian Elizabeth

This article is part of our “My Story” series written by people who have experienced eating disorders.

I wish we could talk about it

When I was struggling with an eating disorder my parents seemed to avoid the subject. My dad responded to people that asked about my sudden and dramatic weight loss by saying that I was on a “special diet.”

I realize this can be a tricky subject. Some parents become over-involved and obsessed about “fixing” the eating disorder. This means they talk about the eating disorder all the time, which isn’t necessarily helpful, either. I felt as if I was unseen and unheard much of the time. This is part of what fed my eating disorder.

It’s not really surprising that this environment that led me to feel unseen and unheard couldn’t change overnight when I developed an eating disorder. Of course, it takes time. But this is what I wished at the deepest level – that my parents would become intimately involved with me, and truly see what was going on and understand that I was in pain.

I was so lonely

I wish my parents could have seen my loneliness. I deeply wanted to be hugged and encouraged. In our family, physical affection and emotional intimacy weren’t natural but they were exactly what I wanted.

When I look back at my childhood, I remember constantly saying the words “play with me,” “spend time with me,” and “read to me.” I remember sitting close to people and desperately trying to get the physical affection I craved.

I understand how busy my parents were, but at the same time, I think it was more about them not noticing how lonely I was. I don’t think the time I would have taken to feel known and loved would have been that much, but it would have made all the difference in my life.

What I want parents to know

If you are a parent reading this looking for help for your child, try asking, “What do you want?” Tell your child “I recognize and accept your individuality and sense of self.” Allow your child to express who they really are and watch them blossom into the amazing human being they are.


Gillian ElizabethGillian Elizabeth struggled with an eating disorder in High School. She learned how to truly nourish her body through intuitive eating, mindfulness, and self-love, which inspired her to become a wellness coach. In addition to her online phone and video one-on-one coaching for people who have eating disorders, Gillian is the author of Break Up With Your Diet: A 21-Day Workbook & Journal for Intuitive Eating. Visit her website here.

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