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How to talk about your daughter’s body

How to talk about your daughter’s body

Many parents wonder how they can talk about their daughter’s body without hurting her body image. I’ve come up with some guidelines for what to say and what not to say when you talk about your daughter’s body. I’ve also included the three things you should also be talking about that will impact your daughter’s body image and mental health. Combined, this advice will have a significant impact on how she feels about herself. 

What you can say about your daughter’s body

There are a lot of wonderful things you can say that will increase your daughter’s sense of worth and strength. But the fact is that female bodies are under tremendous pressure in our society. This means that when you talk about your daughter’s body you need to be aware of the social pressures on her body and adjust your comments accordingly. This will help her grow into a strong, resilient, and self-aware person.

Talk about what her body does

The majority of your comments about your daughter’s body should be related to what her body can do instead of what it looks like. For example, talk about how she uses her body to have fun, like turning cartwheels or running down a hill. Or you can talk about how she uses her body to get places and do things like walk to school, eat delicious food, and laugh with her friends. Her body is involved in all of those activities, and they have nothing to do with what her body looks like. When you talk about your daughter’s body you should spend most of your time focusing on her body’s incredible functionality. For example*:

  • Your legs were flying when you ran down that hill!
  • I’m really glad that you’re able to walk to school every day and that your body is able to get you where you want to go.
  • Aren’t you glad you have a tongue to taste this delicious ice cream?
  • Do your eyes see how delicious that pizza looks? I wonder if it tastes as good as it looks?

*My examples assume ability. Of course, not all bodies can do all things, and I acknowledge that.

Talk about how her body feels

It is a key skill for a woman to tune into whether she feels comfortable or uncomfortable, pleasure or discomfort. This is a skill that will keep her safe, healthy, and happy for life. You want her to be able to tune into her body’s signals and trust herself to make good choices. 

Therefore, try to avoid telling her what her body should feel and whether she is comfortable or uncomfortable. Instead, be curious about her experiences of comfort and discomfort. Here are some ways you can talk about her body’s comfort level and raise her self-awareness:

  • It looks like you feel uncomfortable in that shirt, is it itchy or scratchy?
  • Grandma’s hugs feel warm and cozy to me, how do they feel to you?
  • I’m sensing you might be cold, is that true?
  • Your body looks angry right now because your fists are clenched, is that true?
  • It seems like you’re feeling worried because you’re pacing around the room.
  • Would you like to hug Uncle Jeremy goodbye today?
  • You’re telling me your tummy is very full, which is uncomfortable. Let’s just rest here together for the next 20 minutes and see how you feel.

Talk about how she looks

There will be (hopefully many) moments when your daughter seems like she is the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s OK to think your daughter is beautiful! Beauty is something we find in nature every day. The important thing to notice is that natural beauty is never perfect. It also isn’t being marketed and sold to us. Unlike the beauty industry, which enforces harmful standards and extracts a hefty price, we don’t have to pay for nature, and it’s not selling us a solution to a manufactured problem. 

Look at your beautiful daughter as a part of nature. When you talk about your daughter’s beauty, you should feel deeply that she is 

beautiful inside and out …

with, not in spite of her flaws …

and she does not need* to do anything to make herself more beautiful.

*she may choose to do things like dress up, use makeup, etc., but those should be choices she’s making, not compulsions she’s performing to seek worthiness.

But sometimes it’s not a deep existential experience. You just want to give her a quick compliment and tell her she’s cute, adorable, or gorgeous. Maybe she looks great in that color, or her eyes are sparkling today. That’s OK, too! Just keep these compliments short and sweet. Avoid making them the main way you share your admiration of who she is.

What you should not say about your daughter’s body

Unfortunately there are some major landmines when it comes to talking about your daughter’s body. You should avoid talking about the following things:

Don’t talk about what she weighs

Body weight should be a neutral number, like height or shoe size. But of course that’s not the case. Decades of intense marketing and advertising have taught us that the higher a woman’s weight, the less attractive and worthy she is. This is appalling, but it’s the society we live in. 

Therefore, I typically advise parents to not talk about weight in any way unless they have been specifically coached in anti-diet, weight-neutral practices. This is because all of us need significant un-training in order to talk about her weight without stigma and shame.

Read more: Weight Stigma and Your Child: What Parents Need to Know

Don’t talk about how she compares

Women are taught to compare body parts, outfits, and all aspects of their appearance to other women. They are taught there is a scarcity of love and worthiness that can only be attained through “winning” at beauty standards. Your daughter deserves to grow up knowing that she is worthy exactly as she is, and that she does not need to compete against others to earn your (or anyone’s) love.

Don’t compare your daughter’s body, beauty, weight, or appearance (positive or negative), to anyone else. Show your daughter that her body’s weight and appearance have nothing to do with her value by never comparing her body to another’s body.

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Don’t talk about what she’s wearing

Your daughter will wear clothes that you don’t like. Think very, very carefully about what you say about those clothes. Because her body should, first and foremost, belong to her (not you or anyone else). That means that what she puts on her body should almost always be up to her.

If you feel compelled to comment on what she’s wearing, take a breath. Think deeply about whether your comments about what she is wearing are necessary or helpful. Are they kind? Do they respect her as the sovereign ruler of her own body?

If you truly believe her clothes are “inappropriate” (look out for fatphobia and rigid gender norms here), you can make a simple statement. Say something like “I’m sorry, but I’m having a hard time with that outfit. I need to think about why it’s hard for me in order to give you a good explanation, but right now I’m not comfortable with you wearing that to school.” 

Only use this statement rarely. Trust that she will find her own path. Support her in wearing clothes that feel authentic to her unique self, not your vision of what you wish she would look like. Remember that fashion crimes are not criminal, and bodily autonomy is a basic human right.

Read more: You’re Wearing That?

The foundation of self-acceptance

The dos and don’ts of body talk are important. But it’s also important to build a foundation of body acceptance. Here are three essential steps to raising a daughter who doesn’t hate her body:

1. Watch how you talk about your body and other bodies 

Think carefully about how you talk about your own body and other people’s bodies. Our kids learn from what we do more than what we say. So if you are criticizing your own body or talking negatively about other people’s bodies, that’s a problem. 

Rigid and ridiculous beauty standards are fatphobic, sexist, and damaging to mental health. Eating disorders are skyrocketing, and anxiety and depression about weight and appearance are a major problem. Girls and women experience both at much higher rates than boys and men, making this an important thing to think about if you have a daughter.

Here are common things you might be tempted to say about your body that you should stop saying:

  • I can’t wear that (subtext: it’s not flattering/I’m too fat)
  • No way could I eat that (subtext: it will make me gain weight)
  • I can’t leave the house without makeup (subtext: my natural face is unacceptable)
  • If I eat that I would have to spend the rest of the day in the gym (subtext: eating food requires compensatory behavior)

Here are common things you may be saying about other people’s bodies that you should stop saying:

  • She looks amazing now! (subtext: because she lost weight/is thin)
  • That person just doesn’t look healthy (subtext: they are fat and fat is bad)
  • She’s let herself go (subtext: she’s gained weight and that’s bad)
  • How can she leave the house like that? (subtext: she’s not meeting societal beauty standards and she should)

Remember that even very young children (toddlers!) will pick up the subtext. It’s impossible to live in our society and not translate technically benign statements into fat-shaming and body-shaming. Your daughter is watching and listening to you all the time. For the sake of her long-term health, work on your own body image and weight stigma, and release outdated gender norms.

2. Build media literacy

Our society is cruel to bodies. Parents need to counterbalance this cruelty by teaching media literacy. These conversations need to happen early and often.

Sexism, fatphobia, and objectification are a significant part of our media landscape, and if you aren’t talking about this, your child is picking up messages about beauty and how women are valued without your consent or input. You don’t need to raise your child in a bubble, but you do need to actively counter-educate her about how the media influences what we think and believe.

At a minimum, you should talk to your daughter often about these concepts: 

  • Almost all advertisements, TV shows, movies, and social media posts involve heavy editing and filters. Even if they don’t use filters, the person has likely spent hours perfecting their hair, makeup, and outfit, getting the right pose, and setting up professional lighting, etc. What you see on the screen almost never represents what a person looks like in real life.
  • Bodies, particularly women’s bodies are often used as sales tools. For example, an apartment building may use a photo of a woman in a bikini to advertise their apartments. This advertisement may appear next to another one featuring a man who is wearing a suit and tie. We need to ask questions about this. For example: why is the man wearing clothing but the woman is wearing almost none? Also notice that many times women’s bodies appear without their heads or even as individual body parts in order to sell products. This depersonalizes the female body and treats it as an object and a sales tool.
  • Just because someone on social media or TV says something is true does not mean it is true. Many times the person is speaking from personal experience, but that experience cannot be extended to you. Additionally, a lot of times the person is being paid or is hoping to be compensated when they promote products or services.
  • If something on social media or TV sounds too good to be true or promises a quick, easy fix, then it’s probably not true. Most things in life are full of nuance and complexity.
  • Pay attention to diversity – or lack thereof. If everyone you see in the media is white, thin, heterosexual and cisgender, then adjust your media consumption, or at least talk about the problem.
  • Advertisements are successful when they create a problem that the product can solve. Therefore, media messages about “problems” are made up by advertising agencies. For example, wrinkles, weight, cellulite, and skin color are largely genetically predetermined. We have very little control over these features. The products designed to “solve” the so-called problems are neither necessary nor do they work as promised.

3. Talk about her other qualities 

Spend the bulk of your time talking about your daughter’s non-body qualities. This is really important, because the problem is not talking about your daughter’s body, but rather talking about her body at the exclusion of her other qualities. Her body is a part of her, but she should not believe that her value and worth are based on her appearance.

In general, you should spend the majority of your time focusing on her non-body-based qualities. Body and appearance comments should be the small minority of what you talk to your daughter about.

Instead of focusing on your daughter’s body, talk about her:

  • Creativity
  • Sense of humor
  • Kindness
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Attention to detail
  • Mental flexibility
  • Courage
  • Friendliness
  • Trustworthiness
  • Dependability
  • Grit
  • Passion
  • Purpose
  • Curiosity
  • Dedication
  • Adventurousness
  • Daring
  • Warmth
  • Loyalty
  • Open-mindedness

When you talk about these qualities, praise her for her behaviors, not the outcomes. This has been demonstrated in the research around the “Growth Mindset,” which is that focusing on outcomes can raise a perfectionistic, rigid mentality. Outcome-based praise can also be de-motivating and spoil the joy of trying new things. Here are a few examples:

BehaviorOutcome
It’s really great that you put so much effort into your school project.I’m proud of you for getting good grades.
I love that you’re putting so much creativity into your role in the play.You’re the star of the show!
You were very brave to try out for the softball team.You making the softball team is very important to me.

As with appearance, of course you can sometimes mention outcomes, but be sure that the majority of your praise is about the behaviors you admire. 

Finally, if your daughter is calling herself names or being cruel to her body, here’s an article to help: What to do when your tween says they’re “fat” and other tricky situations.

Navigating body image is difficult, but following these steps should help you raise a strong, confident person!


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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When your child gets violent during eating disorder recovery

When your child uses violence during eating disorder recovery

Sometimes when a child has an eating disorder they may get aggressive and even violent with family members. This is a deeply upsetting situation for parents. It’s especially hard when parents are already worn out from months or even years of caring for a child who has an eating disorder.

The first thing to know is that getting angry, aggressive, and even physically violent are known symptoms that can accompany an eating disorder. They have been studied and observed in anorexia and bulimia. The most common symptoms are verbal and physical aggression against relatives and others who are close.

The most likely reason for the aggression is that it is a natural response to fear and anxiety. The two most common responses to fear are fight and flight. Fight typically looks like aggression and violence. It is often a signal that a person is experiencing extreme fear and anxiety.

Getting violent during eating disorder recovery can make sense through this lens. Anxiety often underlies and drives maladaptive coping behaviors. It makes sense, and it needs to stop. 

emotional regulation

What it feels like

When a child gets physically violent during eating disorder recovery, parents can feel shocked, overwhelmed, and afraid. There’s so much shame and stigma around kids hurting their parents, and it’s rarely spoken about. 

Violent behavior can happen during eating disorder recovery, but it’s also not acceptable. And there are no conditions under which a parent should accept violence. Additionally, your child’s violence is a symptom of extreme emotional distress. This means that ignoring it or pretending it’s not happening is dangerous for both your child and you.

Often it feels like the only possible responses to violence are to fight back, endure/ignore the violence, or call the police. Fighting back rarely ends well for anyone. And it can add to the shame involved for both parent and the child. And enduring or ignoring violence is unacceptable and, like fighting back, is dangerous for both the child and the parent.

The other response, calling the police, is something you may need to do at some point in the future. But most parents want to avoid that. And there are some steps between doing what you’re doing right now and calling the police.

How to prevent and handle violence

Here are some steps you can take to help prevent and respond to violent behavior during eating disorder recovery and keep yourself and your child safe:

1. How you respond

The most common response to violent outbursts is to fight back with some form of physical or verbal wrestling. However, this rarely defuses the emotional tension that drives a person to a violent outburst. Fighting back is ineffective and often makes the outburst worse.

Violent outbursts are usually the result of extreme emotional disruption. And while it may feel as if it comes out of nowhere, there are usually patterns and signs that a violent outburst is coming. 

Before a violent outburst, your child will show symptoms of emotional dysregulation. These may include shifty eyes, tense body posture, pacing, or loud voice. Some kids will signal their dysregulation by swearing or name-calling.

Parents should be aware of the signs of patterns that signal a violent outburst is building and take steps to try and soothe their child’s nervous system as soon as possible. Here are some ways to avoid and/or get through aggressive and violent behavior when your child has an eating disorder:

Manage your own emotional dysregulation

Possibly the hardest thing to do when your child is getting aggressive and violent is to maintain your own emotional regulation. But if you are not emotionally regulated then your child will have a very hard time becoming regulated in your presence.

Work with a professional coach, therapist, or guide who can help you identify your common forms of emotional dysregulation and learn to regulate yourself with self-compassion and mindfulness.

If at any point during an aggressive confrontation you notice yourself becoming dysregulated, try to calm yourself. But if you can’t, take a break. Don’t blame your child for this by saying something like “You’re out of control so I’m leaving!” Instead, tell your child “I’m very upset right now so I’m going to take a break.” Then leave. Give yourself at least 20 minutes, which is how long it typically takes to soothe your nervous system.

Always come back to your child and talk about what happened. Leaving is not a problem, but if you leave without talking about it later, that will put your relationship at risk.

Label and mirror their feelings

An essential emotional regulation skill is to label and mirror your child’s feelings. This is a way of soothing your child. This is because it shows that you are attuned to them and accept their feelings as valid and real. This step alone can transform your relationship with your child. This may not work if your child is already at the point of violence. But it can be used very effectively in the moments leading up to violence and may even prevent it.

Labeling is when you name your child’s feelings. You could say something like “I can see how angry you feel right now. You’re pacing and look agitated.” This video about the concept “name it to tame it” might be helpful:

Mirroring is when you repeat about three of your child’s words back to them. For example, if your child says “you never listen to me and you’re always telling me what to do!” You could mirror back something like “it feels like I don’t listen to you.” If your child says “you can’t make me do it if I don’t want to!” You could mirror back “you don’t want to.”

When mirroring your tone of voice matters just as much, and maybe more, than the words you say. Use what Chris Voss in his book Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It calls the “late-night DJ voice.” Imitate the voice of a late-night DJ: slow, steady, and soothing. With this voice, you comfort both your child’s and your own nervous system. It taps into your shared neurobiology to soothe and reassure. It communicates: we can handle this.

Narrate

If your child does not calm down and moves aggressively towards you, calmly narrate what is happening in a supportive and non-judgmental manner. You could say things like:

  • I sense how furious you feel, but it’s not OK to push me. I’m confident we can get through this without pushing.
  • I can see that you are very angry, but I will not allow you to hit me, so I’m going to leave now. I’ll come back in about 20 minutes and we can try again.
  • I understand that this is making you feel very upset, and you get to feel that way, but I’m not OK with you threatening me. Let’s sit here together and I know we can get through it.

These statements do the same thing:

  • Label the child’s feelings and name the inappropriate behavior
  • Set a clear boundary
  • Show confidence that you can handle it

Your child may not like it when you do this, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

Keep your narration short, simple, and factual. Don’t editorialize or debate what you’re saying with your child. Use the “late-night DJ voice” and keep your voice calm and regulated.

Don’t debate

One key in responding to anger is to not engage in debates with it. You will never win a debate when a person is in extreme emotional dysregulation. Most parents believe there must be a perfect verbal response to violence that will stop it. They think that other parents have figured it out and are doing better than them. But that’s simply not the case. 

Eli Lebowitz, author of Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety suggests you focus not on debating but on simply getting through or getting out of the moment.

“Parents are not expected to be able to manage the disruptive situation, and instead focus on getting through it. Their only role while the child is acting in the disruptive manner is to ensure physical safety and resist being drawn into the interaction.”  – Eli Lebowitz & Haim Ober, Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety

The passage continues with this advice: “remain silent, or state in a quiet way that the behavior is unacceptable. If necessary, parents should attempt to distance themselves from the child in order to minimize the potential for escalation.”

Follow up

Once everyone has calmed down, talk about what happened. Begin by telling your child that you know they are a good kid who was having a hard time. Tell them you are going to work with them on this because even though you know how angry they get, you know that they can handle their anger without getting violent.

Violence must be named clearly and in a detailed but non-emotional manner. Avoid pointing fingers, blaming, or criticizing. Think of yourself as a dispassionate reporter. State what you observed during the violent episode. 

Don’t ask questions like “What were you thinking?” or say things like “How dare you!” Because these will shut the conversation down or escalate another outburst. They will not be useful in preventing future violence. Maintain your own emotional regulation.

Talk through what you did in response to their outburst, and why. For example, if you narrated what was going on, tell them you did that because it’s important to name feelings and behaviors. If you left the room, tell them you needed to do that because violence is not acceptable.

If you did something that you regret, like wrestle with them verbally or physically, take responsibility for that and apologize for it without defending yourself. “When you approached me with your fist raised, I pushed you away. I’m sorry for doing that, as I have no intention of wrestling with you.” Or “When you called me that name, I cursed at you. I’m sorry for doing that, as I have no intention of swearing at you.”

You will likely need to follow all of these steps consistently a few times before you see a change in behavior.  

2. Write a letter

A written letter is a way to make clear your beliefs and what you intend to do in response to violence. It is a way to formally escalate your attempt to solve this problem and make it clear to your child that you take it seriously.

The letter I’m describing here and the next section about calling in supporters is largely based on a treatment called SPACE developed and scientifically tested by Eli Lebowitz and his colleagues. The process is much more extensive than what I’ve written in this article. If this sounds like something that may help you, please consider reading his books, Breaking Free of Childhood Anxiety and Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety.

I have a treatment program for parents that teaches SPACE.

Lebowitz suggests printing this letter and giving it to your child, then reading it aloud. He also says that even if your child’s response is to put their fingers in their ears and rip the letter into pieces, it has still sent a meaningful signal to your child that you are serious about ending the violence. 

The goals of the letter are to clearly define the specific problem of physical violence and say exactly what will happen in response. This makes clear exactly what is happening and escalates the situation in your child’s mind.

One of the biggest problems with physical violence and intimidation is that families don’t talk about it. This letter states clearly what the behavior is and how the parents are going to respond from now on. 

There is a very important thing that the letter does not do. It does not tell the child what they need to do differently. This is strategic and by design. Lebowitz says that the parents need to take responsibility for what the parent will do and how they will respond, but they should not tell the child what they should do, as this will be perceived as criticism and blaming, no matter how carefully done.

Here is a sample letter: 

August, we love you very much and know how hard you have been working over the past year. We know you have been struggling to control your anger, and we’ve also noticed that lately, you have become violent with Mom. For example, on Friday when she asked you to take out the trash you called her names, cursed, pushed her, and scratched her face with your fingernails.

This has been really scary for all of us, and we know it’s a sign that you’re really struggling. We also know that you are a strong person and that you can manage your anger even when it feels so big and out of control.

We’ve been trying to ignore that this is happening and not talking about it with you, but we realize that by doing this, we’ve not actually been helping you to manage your anger. Now that we understand this, we’ve decided to make a change so that we can help you better.

We want you to know that we recognize that your behavior is because of how you’re feeling. It’s not a sign of a flaw in your character or personality. We believe in you, and we know that if we work on this together it will get better.

From now on, when your anger gets to the level of physical violence and intimidation (such as getting too close, waving your arms around, hitting, slapping, scratching, biting, or pinching), Mom is not going to argue with you, talk you down, or try to hold your arms at your sides. Instead, she’s going to tell you what she sees and what she’s going to do. Then she will walk into our bedroom and lock the door until she feels it is safe to come out.

We know that this will be hard for you, but we also know that you can handle it.

If this happens, the three of us will talk about exactly what violent behaviors Mom observed in detail. It is important to us that we specifically discuss violence and don’t keep any secrets about it even when we know that you are not intending to hurt your mom. 

We know you have been working really hard on your mental health, and we believe this is an important way that we can help you get better.

Love, Mom and Dad

3. Bring in supporters

If your child continues to physically threaten and attack you, then it’s time to enlist help from your community. This may feel like an extreme response, but it’s much less extreme and often more effective than calling the police. 

This is based on the strength of our social and community relationships. We are social beings, and the thought of someone outside the family witnessing the child’s violence can help end unacceptable patterns of violence. When done with support and love, bringing in supporters can make a huge difference.

“The role of supporters is not to shame children or embarrass them but rather to rally round the children, giving them the message ‘We all care about you, believe in you, and are going to help you.’” – Eli Lebowitz & Haim Ober, Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety

Make a list of people in your family and community who might be able to help you. You are looking for people who have high levels of compassion and a good relationship with your child. Possible options include grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends and family, sports coaches, teachers, school psychologists, guidance counselors, your child’s eating disorder treatment team, and others. 

Lebowitz suggests a list of 5-10 supporters, at least some of whom are in your physical community. Then reach out to them and explain the reason for your request.

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Your request:

August has been really struggling with anger, and sometimes he gets violent with me. We are working really hard on this, and we’re reaching out to see if you’d be willing to lend a hand sometimes. We’ve been told that violence thrives in secret, but that bringing in supportive others from our community can help end it. I guess this is what they mean when they say “it takes a village!”

The first thing I’m asking you to do is call, text, or talk to August and tell him that he is important to you, that you care about him, and you understand he is working hard. However, you are aware that he is sometimes getting violent with me. Say you feel strongly that violence is a problem, and you support us (his parents) in this issue. If you’d like, you may offer to help such as being available by text or phone to support him.

Next, I’d like to tell you each time there is an incidence of physical violence. This will be embarrassing for all of us, but it’s important that we stay honest about what is going on. If this happens, I would like you to contact August and tell him you are aware of the violence. As before, please begin by telling him you care about him and believe in him. However, you are aware of what happened and that his behavior is unacceptable. If you’d like, you may offer to help such as being available by text or phone to support him.

Finally, I’ll also let you know when things are going well. This part will be much more fun, as you could reach out to August and let him know you’re proud of him. If you’d like, you could offer to do something fun with him to celebrate.

Telling your child about supporters

Once you have contacted your supporters, tell your child what you have done. You can say something like “August, your violent behavior has been escalating, so we have decided to get some community support. We have contacted [list the names] and told them about what’s going on. They’re going to contact you in the next few days, and we will also tell them each time you get violent with us.”

Your child will not like that you have told outsiders about their violent behavior. Be unwavering in your belief that this is the best approach, as your next option is calling the police, which is really a last resort. Don’t debate why you did this, who you chose, or whether it’s a terrible idea. Stay firm in your conviction that this is the right thing to do.

“Any objection on the part of the child to this step should be met with a simple statement: ‘When you act in a violent way, we will not keep that a secret.’ Parents should adamantly avoid any further discussion of this point.” – Eli Lebowitz & Haim Ober, Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety

When things get violent during eating disorder recovery

This article is designed to give you ideas about how to handle violent and aggressive behavior during eating disorder recovery. As I mentioned, there are two excellent books that describe these concepts in much greater detail: Breaking Free of Childhood Anxiety and Treating Childhood and Adolescent Anxiety.

If your child is getting violent while they are in recovery from an eating disorder, then I encourage you to seek professional support for yourself as you navigate this difficult situation. You will likely need it, and you definitely deserve support. You will also be more effective if you have someone who can help you weather this storm.


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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When your child is dropped by their eating disorder dietitian

When your child is dropped by their eating disorder dietitian

Sometimes a person who has an eating disorder is dropped or discharged from the care of a Registered Dietitian (RD). Parents may wonder why this happens and whether such behavior is ethical given how fragile their child is.

It’s undoubtedly hard for parents to hear their child has been discharged. If your child is under 18, you may be the one who the dietitian informs that they are terminating treatment. In this case, you will likely get the reasoning directly from them. But if your child is over 18, there’s a good chance that you will get the news second-hand. Your child will tell you their version of why they’ve been dropped or discharged by their eating disorder dietitian.

In either case, the news can be shocking, bewildering, and painful.

Grace’s story

That’s what happened to Grace*, a client of mine whose daughter Casey* is 19 years old and has bulimia. “We’ve had a terrible week because on Monday Casey’s dietitian dropped her,” she said, shaking her head in dismay. “Why would a person do that? Casey is getting worse – she’s in terrible danger. So why would her dietitian, who has been working with her for over a year, drop her right now?”

Grace was in tremendous pain. Casey had spent the week raging against her dietitian and her whole care team. Casey’s eating disorder symptoms, which were already getting worse, ramped up to levels Grace hadn’t seen before. Her daughter was medically in danger, but because she is over 18, Grace had limited options. 

Things had been getting worse for Casey for a while. But knowing she was seeing a dietitian in person every week helped Grace feel a bit more secure. “I admit that those weekly sessions gave me hope,” she said. “At least I knew that Casey was being monitored and talking to someone who could help her.” 

“I don’t know what we’re going to do now,” she said. “I’m really at the end of my rope. And I’m so angry with the dietitian for putting us in this situation.” 

I completely understand Grace’s feelings. As we talked, we tried to understand what being dropped by the dietitian during eating disorder recovery meant for them.

Trying to find out what’s going on

I had a pretty good idea that what was going on is that Grace’s daughter’s dietitian had hit a point in treatment at which it felt medically and ethically unsafe to continue treating Grace in outpatient treatment. 

There had been months of weekly dietitian meetings and continued signs of medical instability. It sounded as if the dietitian had hit the point at which her training and expertise were at their limit. But it’s never simple, so I reached out to Leslie Schilling, MA, RDN, CEDS-S. Schilling runs a private nutrition therapy and wellness coaching business. She is also a supervisor for other dietitians working with eating disorders. 

“Ending treatment with a client is such a nuanced situation,” says Schilling. “I work really hard to avoid discharging a person from my care. Because I know how difficult it is, and it may feel like abandonment.”

“That said, there are times, particularly in a situation in which the person clearly needs a higher level of care, that I may have them sign a form or agreement acknowledging that I have recommended a higher level of care and they are choosing to continue working at this level of care instead,” she says.

“Many people don’t realize that dietitians provide a service called medical nutrition therapy. This includes some medical components like reviewing lab values, food-drug interactions, and systems assessments,” says Schilling. “And, if we see someone who is extremely medically compromised and needs to be in inpatient care, we could be at risk if we continue to treat them.”

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Why does it happen?

There can be many reasons a person may be dropped by their eating disorder dietitian. Here are the most common reasons: 

1. Lack of specialty

Sometimes a dietitian will start working with someone without realizing how serious their eating disorder is. Maybe when they started the eating disorder was not recognized or disclosed. But then the RD realizes the person has an eating disorder. If the RD is not an eating disorder specialist, then they would probably refer the client to someone who is qualified to treat them. 

2. No team

If a dietitian is working with someone who has an eating disorder alone, they may decide that they cannot continue without the addition of a team. This is typically a medical doctor, therapist, and possibly a psychiatrist. If a client refuses to work with a team, the dietitian may need to make some difficult decisions about the ethics of continuing care alone.

“In most cases when supporting someone with an eating disorder, I do not recommend that a dietitian work alone – you really need a complete care team,” says Schilling. “I am not a therapist, and I can’t work on certain aspects of the eating disorder the way a therapist can. I also can’t admit someone to a hospital with a low glucose level, although I can read that in their lab work. Working without a team is not a good idea when we’re dealing with an active eating disorder.”

3. Personal reasons

Sometimes a professional will begin working with someone and then need to disengage for personal reasons. This could be for family reasons like pregnancy or elder care, moving to a new practice or out of state, retiring, or a number of other situations. 

In these cases, the dietitian rarely leaves their client hanging and will typically give their client plenty of notice and provide them with referrals to other professionals. Sometimes emergencies or illnesses mean a dietitian must end treatment abruptly. While not ideal, these situations are sometimes unavoidable. This is one of the reasons why eating disorder dietitians prefer to work with a team.

4. Ethical issues

There are cases in which a dietitian must make an ethical determination about care. “At a certain point, a dietitian may need to evaluate whether their client needs a higher level of care, particularly if they are medically compromised,” says Schilling.

“Sometimes there are other things that take priority over seeing the dietitian, like acute mental health concerns or stabilizing someone medically. I’ve often stepped back while other members offer more support until the client becomes stable enough to resume nutrition therapy,” she says. 

Schilling says this situation usually begins with the dietitian exploring the issue with the patient’s treatment team, and then talking to the client about recommending a higher level of care. “If the client really wants to keep working with me, or doesn’t feel safe entering a higher level of care, then I’ll use a form or waiver that clearly states my recommendation and the client’s preference to continue working together despite my recommendation,” she says. 

She says this is important since dietitians provide medical nutrition therapy and may be at risk of liability. “If we recommend a higher level of care and the client refuses to sign the waiver, then we will still give options and referrals. This is a tricky situation that would need to be discussed with the dietitian’s professional supervisor if they have one and the patient’s treatment before discharging from care. This isn’t a decision a dietitian would make hastily.”

Thinking it through

Schilling, who supervises eating disorder dietitians in addition to treating eating disorder clients in her practice, says that it’s rare that a client would be let go without extensive conversations, attempts to make progress, and referrals to other professionals or a higher level of care.

When Grace started to think about it, we were able to deduce that this is likely what happened with her daughter Casey. Casey’s entire team has been recommending a higher level of care for months, in fact almost since they started working together. Casey’s dietitian introduced a treatment contract over six months ago, which is a way that a dietitian tries to establish treatment milestones and move a client forward in their recovery.

Grace told me that Casey complained bitterly about the contract. And while we don’t know if Casey was offered a waiver to continue care under the dietitian, it’s very likely that the dietitian hit an ethical issue in treating Casey.

Grace says Casey complains that her team is pressuring her into a higher level of care, and Grace herself has been desperately trying to get Casey to enter inpatient treatment.

In fact, that’s a big part of the work we’re doing together. I’ve been coaching Grace to build influence in their relationship and have more effective conversations about Casey’s eating disorder and treatment.

Next steps

With a bit of clarity, Grace understands the dietitian’s choice. “I still hate it,” Grace says. “It puts me in a really bad place.” 

Grace is going to have some tough conversations with Casey. Based on our understanding of why the RD released Casey from her care, we can guess that Casey is severely medically compromised. 

Grace needs to get really clear with Casey about how treatment needs to proceed. There is no easy solution here because of Casey’s age. But Grace is not willing to give up. “I’m fighting for my daughter’s life right now,” she says courageously. “I’m going to figure out how to get her the help she needs.”

*Names have been changed to protect privacy


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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Affirmations for eating with an eating disorder

Affirmations for eating with an eating disorder

Eating can be really hard when you have an eating disorder, but affirmations can help. Eating disorders are mental illnesses, which means that we need to change our thoughts and beliefs in order to recover. This is where affirmations come in. Affirmations can help us replace our disordered thoughts with healthy thoughts. Over time, this can change the pattern of our thinking and support recovery.

Common thoughts and beliefs that drive eating disorders are:

  • If I eat too much I’ll feel sick and/or gain weight
  • I can’t eat food/carbs/sugar etc.
  • Exercise is required to “burn off” food calories
  • There are some foods that are good and some that are bad
  • I can’t trust my body to make healthy choices for me
  • I’m not hungry
  • That’s too much food for me right now

These thoughts all make sense because we live in diet culture, which perpetuates them all the time. But we can overcome these false beliefs and thoughts with affirmations that counteract the eating disorder thoughts and lead us towards health and recovery.

Having an eating disorder can make it really hard to eat regularly and trust your body to be healthy. Recovery doesn’t happen with affirmations alone, but parents can support recovery by teaching their kids eating disorder recovery affirmations. Here are nine affirmations you can teach your child who has an eating disorder:

1. My body needs food every day no matter what I do

My body needs food. And it’s not just that I need food when I exercise. I need food even if all I do all day is sit on the couch. My brain, lungs, heart, and every organ in my body need food every single day just to exist. My body needs me to eat food every day. Food is the best, most essential, and healthy thing my body needs.

2. All foods are good foods

Even though there is a lot of misleading information about food out there, I know that all foods are good foods. Unless it’s moldy or expired, all food is clean. It’s not better to eat a salad instead of a burger if what I really want is a burger. What I eat should be based on what my body wants and needs, not what someone else has told me is “healthy” or “good.” Right now I need to trust my dietitian and my parents to help me make the right choices for my body. Over time, I’ll learn to listen to my body, which will guide me to eat exactly what I need every day. 

3. I can be afraid to eat and choose to eat anyway

Eating is scary for me right now. It makes sense – I mean, I have an eating disorder! But just because I’m afraid to eat doesn’t mean that I won’t eat. From now on I’m going to feel my fear and eat anyway. Trying to get rid of my fear will never work, but showing my fear that I can eat even when I’m afraid of it will help me feel stronger every day. Fear gets to exist in my mind, but I will not allow it to drive my decisions or put my health at risk.

4. I never need to burn off my food with exercise

My mind thinks that every time I eat, I need to work it off with exercise. And that thought keeps coming up for me, but I know it’s not true. Exercise is healthy as long as it’s not being used as a punishment or way to purge what I’ve eaten. Right now I need to take a break from exercising while I recover, but that doesn’t mean I need to eat less because I’m not exercising. I can’t wait until I’m exercising before I eat more food. That’s just not how bodies work. Exercise is not the price we pay for eating.

5. My body is perfectly capable of digesting food

A lot of times I feel as if I won’t be able to handle the food I eat. I worry that I’ll gain weight, that I’ll vomit, that I’ll feel nauseous, and that I’ve eaten the wrong thing or too much. All of these worries show up in my head, but that’s OK. I’m still going to eat with the knowledge that my body can digest so many things. Sure, if my doctor has diagnosed an allergy I won’t eat those things, but otherwise, I’m going to follow my dietitian’s and parents’ advice about what to eat and how much.

6. I can’t really trust my hunger and fullness cues right now, but I will if I keep eating

Right now my hunger and fullness cues are all over the place. With my eating disorder, I put my mind in charge of my body, and it’s kind of messed with my body’s natural signals. But that’s OK. I know that if I keep practicing and eating what my dietitian and parents tell me is good for me then I will slowly rebuild my brain-body connection. Over time, I’ll relearn how to listen to my body and will be able to eat intuitively, without fear, and according to my appetite.

7. My body does not need to be oppressed to be good enough

For whatever reason, I decided that my mind needs to take control of what my body needed. I’ve been treating my body’s signals like they’re naughty children who need to be dominated and controlled. But I don’t want to do that anymore. I’ve become a dictator, an oppressor! I want to treat my body with the respect and dignity it deserves. My body is strong and wants me to be healthy. My body doesn’t need to be a certain weight or shape to be good enough. It’s already good enough. Over time I will learn to listen to my body, but right now I’m going to stop oppressing it with food rules.

8. Counting calories may feel safe to me right now, but it’s not a healthy way to live

I’ve become a master of calorie counting. It happens automatically for me every time I eat or think about food. But this catalog of calorie counts is not making me healthier. It’s part of my eating disorder. Every time I start to count calories I’m going to ask my brain to stop doing that. I mean, I understand that my brain thinks counting calories will keep me safe, but I’m not buying it anymore.

9. Just because I don’t want to eat doesn’t mean I shouldn’t eat

Right now it makes sense that I don’t want to eat most of the time – I have an eating disorder! And eating has become a huge hassle and drama in my life. But I know that if I eat what and when I’m supposed to, I’ll recover from this eating disorder and won’t need to force myself anymore. So I’m going to keep remembering that even though I don’t want to eat most of the time, I’m going to do it anyway. My body really needs food, and I’m tired of my eating disorder hurting my health and controlling my life.

These affirmations should help your child gain confidence in eating disorder recovery. Recovery takes time, but repeating these affirmations supports the process of building new beliefs and thoughts. 


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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What to do when your tween says they’re “fat” and other tricky situations

What to do when your tween says they’re “fat” and other tricky situations

It’s not uncommon for a tween to say they’re “fat” or otherwise struggle with their body image.

This is an understandable but devastating side effect of living in our culture. One study found that nearly half of girls aged 3-6 years old are afraid of being fat. It only gets worse as they get older unless parents actively intervene.

Our society is deeply fatphobic. Our kids are not immune.

Parents need to help kids, particularly those who are larger, live in their bodies safely and without shame. Here are my eight tips for parents facing tricky body image situations. 

This advice helps when treating eating disorders, preventing eating disorders, and preventing a broad array of mental health issues.

1. Don’t tell them it’s just baby fat/they’re not fat, etc.

When your tween says they’re “fat,” your first response may be to try and convince them they are not. But that’s not the best approach.

Don’t say that they will grow out of it. And don’t insist that they are not fat, they are beautiful.

These statements can make a child feel even more ashamed of their body. And it also opens the door for your child to perpetuate anti-fat bias in the world.

Teach them to be a good friend to themselves and a good citizen at the same time by acknowledging anti-fat bias and teaching them how to talk about bodies with dignity and respect. 

Don’t say anything that suggests that fat is bad and something to get over and/or be ashamed of. 

Instead, talk about what it means to live in a larger body in our society. Help them understand that we are more than bodies. Give them the tools to live in the body they have.

Read more: How to protect your daughter from diet culture and fatphobia

2. Find out the feelings behind the word “fat”

Fat can be a neutral descriptor, but it can also be a way to be cruel to ourselves.

Teach kids that it’s not OK for them to be rude to themselves or use the word “fat” as a stand-in for negative feelings. 

Often when kids call themselves “fat” in a negative way, it means they are struggling with negative feelings. Ask questions.

Find out what “fat” means to them. Help them find the feeling words that fit.

In our society a tween who calls themself “fat” often means they feel sad, lonely, or rejected. 

Seek to understand and validate the feelings without trying to convince your child that they are already thin enough. The more we deny their experience, the deeper it will dig into their psyche. 

Read more: What to do when your tween daughter calls herself fat

3. Teach them about weight stigma and fatphobia

Bodies are a social justice issue. Body politics are filled with racism, sexism, and sizeism. Parents need to recognize that weight discrimination is harmful just like other forms of discrimination. Parents need to become social justice warriors who are willing to fight back against our culture of body hate.

We can build a kinder world for our children (and everyone), but it’s not going to happen without effort. 

Teaching kids about weight stigma and fatphobia is protective and will help you raise a kinder human. Bodies are beautiful, unique, and healthiest when treated with dignity.

We need our kids to recognize that trying to control bodies or judging people for their bodies is harmful and unacceptable.

All bodies deserve dignity. Help your child know this deep in their bones.

Read more: Weight stigma and your child

4. Work on your own food and body issues

Your own body and food issues will trickle down to your child. Our kids are finely attuned to how we feel, so we have to work on ourselves to help them grow up strong and healthy.

I’m not blaming you here. We have all grown up in a toxic culture that treats bodies as objects to be controlled and criticized. But when you have a child, it’s time to dig deeper and uncover your own food and body issues.

If you are dieting or otherwise controlling your weight, it’s time to stop. I know this is revolutionary, but we need to heal ourselves so we can help our kids thrive.

Please get support if you don’t know how to live without your bathroom scale and food plans. A therapist, dietitian, or coach can help you learn to practice Intuitive Eating and find peace with your body.

Read more: Get off the diet cycle and raise healthier kids

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5. Teach them to accept their bodies (and never diet)

Trying to change our body size and shape doesn’t work, and dieting increases the risk of an eating disorder by up to 15x. 

To prevent eating disorders and other serious mental health issues, I encourage parents to commit to the goal of helping kids never, ever, diet. 

This means we need to help them accept their weight, whatever it is. This is counter-culture, so we need to constantly remind our kids that body acceptance is the best path to health.

You may feel proud of a child who says they want to “eat healthier,” but this is the modern-day code for dieting. Instead, teach your child to listen to and trust their body instead of following external rules and goals. 

Of course, you can stock and serve fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. But serve them alongside carbs, fats, cookies, chips, and other great foods. 

All foods fit in a healthy lifestyle. And the more you support a nuanced, gentle approach to bodies, the healthier your child will be.

Read more: The science to support a non-diet, weight-neutral approach

6. Help them manage peer teasing (and bullying)

It sucks, but kids are cruel to other kids’ bodies. If you have a child who is larger, they will likely experience discrimination and teasing. But even smaller kids may experience cruel body-based taunting and jeers. 

It’s not fair, but don’t make it worse by ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t happen.

Teach your child to be confident and assertive about their body. Give your child some possible responses to fatphobic jokes, and support them in standing up for themselves and others. 

This is not unlike anti-racism work, where it’s very important to prepare kids to not be passive bystanders when they witness body-based teasing and bullying. All kids should be given the tools to be “upstanders” when it comes to body-based teasing and bullying.

Make it easy for your child to report body-based teasing and bullying to you. And be prepared to speak with your school’s administration when it inevitably happens. This is an under-reported aspect of bullying, so don’t hesitate to say something!

Read more: Help your child deal with body shaming

7. Teach them to respond to adults who say “watch your weight” and “eat healthy”

Kids know that “watch your weight” and “eat healthy” is code for “your body and appetite are unacceptable.” Teach them that these comments are common, but they may hurt your child’s feelings, and you understand why.

Empower your child to politely but assertively respond to these adults. A simple “I’m good, thanks,” can work well. They can also say “please don’t talk about my body/weight/food.” 

Some adults may become offended, but that’s just because they haven’t thought about how harmful their comments about weight and food can be. There’s nothing inappropriate about your child setting boundaries about what adults say to them about their body and food.

Read more: Don’t talk about my child’s weight

Read more: Opt-out of school weight programs

8. Work harder to find age-appropriate, comfortable clothing

If you have a child in a larger body, you’ll need to work a little harder to help them have fun with fashion. Larger kids need a little extra effort and attention because the clothing industry does not recognize size diversity. 

Do your research and make sure that stores carry their size before you take them shopping. 

Remind them that the problem is never their body, it’s the sizeist fashion industry. And when things don’t fit, teach them to blame the clothes, not their body. 

Read more: How to shop for clothes when your daughter wears plus size

It’s sadly normal

It’s sadly normal for kids to feel bad about their bodies in our culture. It’s not uncommon for a tween to say they’re “fat” or otherwise struggle with their body image.

The best thing parents can do is be prepared and proactive rather than reactive when it comes to body image issues.

And if your tween does say they’re “fat” or are otherwise distressed about their body, respond with compassion and understanding rather than trying to dismiss their feelings.


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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Talking to your child with an eating disorder without yelling & screaming

Talking to your child with an eating disorder without yelling & screaming

Many parents who have kids with an eating disorder tiptoe around difficult conversations because so many of them turn into screaming or yelling matches. 

Parents who are facing an eating disorder naturally want to create a healing environment and try to avoid screaming and yelling. But an unfortunate side effect is that parents often feel they are constantly walking on eggshells. They avoid difficult conversations because they are afraid of triggering eating disorder behaviors. This makes perfect sense. But when we avoid difficult conversations we almost always make the situation worse, not better

Because avoiding hard conversations separates us from the people we love. Also, avoiding tough conversations makes screaming and yelling more likely (not less) because complaints and disagreements get pent up and then inevitably erupt in unhelpful ways. This is a very common pattern that we frequently see in families with eating disorders.

The solution to avoiding yelling and screaming during eating disorder recovery is not to avoid difficult conversations, but to have difficult conversations more often, in a better way.

The cycle of repression 

If you’re like most parents, then your child does stuff that drives you crazy, and you want to avoid yelling and screaming. So you find yourself avoiding conversations. 

Here’s how it typically goes. You feel angry and you want them to stop whatever they’re doing or start doing something else. But you hold your tongue because you don’t want to risk triggering the eating disorder. 

Everything feels so charged, and your child seems too fragile. So instead of talking about it you may raise your eyebrows or make a big huffing sound, but you don’t actually address the negative behavior.

The next day, your child does it again … or does something else that drives you crazy. Again, you hold your tongue, but you start having angry conversations with them in your head. 

They are so irresponsible! They are so selfish! Just because they have an eating disorder doesn’t mean they get to treat you this way!

And then it happens again.They do something irritating and you repress your irritation to “keep the peace.”  

The pressure builds

Your anger is growing, but you feel you can’t express it. You repress your feelings. But inside you’re boiling. You blame your child for the fact that you can’t express yourself openly and honestly. You call your friend and tell her your child is “driving you crazy.” You say things like “the truth is that I’m afraid of my own kid. They’re like a ticking time bomb. I live in fear.”

And it’s true. You are living in fear. And you are getting angrier and angrier.

Every time your kid does something you don’t like, the pressure builds inside of you. Your eyebrow raises, snarky comments, and unpleasantness spread like a virus through your house. Everyone feels it. And you blame your child for the nastiness because you’re repressing your feelings to protect their feelings. To keep them safe from their eating disorder and avoid yelling and screaming.

This is a very unhealthy place to be in a relationship. You are repressing your feelings in an effort to protect your child’s feelings. But the impact is that your child feels worse, you feel worse, and everyone feels worse. Because feelings can’t be repressed forever. They inevitably leak out or, sometimes, explode into yelling and screaming. 

The good news is that there’s a very good solution to this problem. You just need to start having difficult conversations more frequently. And you need to learn how to have better difficult conversations.

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How to have difficult conversations

Difficult conversations take time, energy, and a lot of practice. When you first begin this practice, you may be exhausted by how often you need to have difficult conversations. And they may be very, very difficult. They may include yelling and screaming – the very thing you’re trying to avoid. You may worry that it’s not working, and you may slip back into avoiding difficult conversations.

But when you commit yourself to having difficult conversations frequently, you will notice a steady improvement over time. Soon, difficult conversations will be much less difficult for everyone. There will be less yelling and screaming. With practice and the right strategy, difficult conversations get much, much easier.

With practice you will reach a place in which you are respectful and honest about what you want and need. And your child will feel respected because you are not avoiding hard conversations to protect their feelings. Parents who commit to the practice of having difficult conversations can transform their relationship with their children.

Here’s how to handle difficult conversations: 

1. Identify how you feel

What do you notice inside of yourself? Sure, you may think your child is the problem, but look deeper. It’s OK to start at the point of blaming your child for your feelings, but don’t stay there. You need to keep digging. Identify what you are feeling, and claim your own feelings.

Feelings of anger and rage towards our children usually indicate that we are feeling insecure about something. Anger and rage frequently disguise feelings like fear, nervousness, disgust, discomfort, guilt, and shame. 

These are all serious and valid feelings that you can claim as your own. Your child may be the person who is triggering your feelings, but they are never responsible for your feelings. Your feelings are always are yours to handle.

Until you claim your own feelings, you risk blaming your child for how you feel, and that’s typically when difficult conversations go awry.

2. Make a simple and direct statement 

Often when we start a difficult conversation we overcomplicate things. We believe we have to get the other person to see things our way and agree with us. But this is not a useful way to begin a difficult conversation because the other person immediately feels manipulated and controlled. This is where yelling and screaming often begin.

Another mistake we make is criticizing or blaming the person for their behavior rather than making a direct request for what we want.

Start the conversation by making soft eye contact, using a gentle tone of voice, relaxed body language and voice, and make your intent crystal clear. Some examples: 

Old version: You never take the trash out, and I always have to ask you. It’s so disrespectful! I don’t understand why we have to go over this again and again. You say you’re going to do it and then you don’t, and it feels like you just don’t care about me or this family that has given you so much.

New version: I’d like you to take the trash out by 8 p.m. each night without me asking.

Old version: Partying won’t get you anywhere in life. Aren’t you interested in doing better? What even happens at those parties anyway? I bet there’s drinking, and you know that’s not OK with us! I mean, come on! I bet Sarah’s parents won’t even be there! And doesn’t her brother use drugs?

New version: I get it that you want to go to the party. But I’m not OK with you going.

When we claim our own feelings and make the conversation about what we want, not about their character or bad manners, we get off to a much better start.

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3. Listen

If you have already had this conversation in your head ten thousand times, you are going to need to work really hard not to assume your child’s answer. It’s critical to stop talking and really listen to their answers.

Hold this statement in your mind: I am a parent who loves my kid, and listening is loving. 

It’s true: a person who feels listened to feels respected and loved. They are much more likely to do what we’re asking when they feel heard, understood, and loved.

Sometimes yelling and screaming is for a good reason: the person doing the yelling and screaming is literally trying to make you hear them. You can bring the volume down by listening before it hits high volumes.

Listen with the intent to understand, not respond. And be careful not to respond with something about them, like “you always/never do this.” Remember to claim your own feelings in this situation rather than blaming your child for how you feel.

Be willing and confident to dive as deeply as you need to in order to uncover what’s really going on for your child. Don’t assume you already know why they’re doing the irritating thing. All negative behavior comes from some unmet emotional need. They are rarely intentional or designed to hurt us. When parents seek to identify and address the emotional need, kids’ negative behaviors typically recede and get much easier to handle.

4. Prepare to repeat yourself 

As the conversation progresses, simply share again how you would like things to be. Don’t try to convince them of your perspective. But do look for common ground, and build on areas of agreement. Then pause and listen.

Listening more than you speak is almost always the best advice when having a difficult conversation with your child. If you’re asking them to do something they don’t want to do, then just say what it is and then listen. Then say it again and listen some more. Keep it simple and direct.

You may have to say the thing you want many times. The key is to know that this is part of parenting. It doesn’t mean your child is bad or you are bad. It just means you’re two different people. You’re asking them to do something and they don’t want to. That’s OK. Ask again!

It’s deceptively simple. You don’t have to try and convince them or get them to agree with you. Your goal is to communicate your wishes clearly and directly and make your child feel respected and heard in the process. 

Your child does not need to agree with or like your boundaries in order for you to set them! 

More conversations, less yelling & screaming

The important takeaway here is that to avoid yelling and screaming when there’s an eating disorder we don’t want to avoid difficult conversations. Instead, we want to have more difficult conversations and do them better.


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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How to talk about body image with kids

How to talk about body image with kids

Sadly, negative body image is increasingly common in kids, and at younger ages, so we need to talk about it. We live in a body-conscious society that is cruel to bodies, especially if they don’t fit a rigid belief about what it means to be healthy. This of course has a terrible impact on kids in larger bodies. And a shocking number of kids of all sizes live in constant fear of “getting fat” and believe they are “bad” when they gain weight. 

Kids have immature reasoning skills, and the fear of getting fat (which in our culture equals being “bad”) can quickly snowball into dangerous dieting and eating disorder behaviors. 

While I don’t think our kids can avoid bad body thoughts entirely in our society, they can avoid developing a negative body image if we take careful steps to help them recognize that having worries, thoughts, and fears about their bodies and fat don’t mean they have to change their bodies and behaviors. Parents can help kids feel OK in a culture that constantly tells them they are not. 

What is unhealthy body image?

An unhealthy body image means that you feel bad about your body and the way it looks. Since bodies are such an important part of how others perceive us, most people who have negative body image also have a negative sense of self. Negative body image is associated with higher rates of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, all of which are associated with low self-worth.

Here are some heartbreaking facts about body image from a report published by the Common Sense Media Group:

  • More than half of girls and approximately a third of boys age 6-8 say their ideal body is smaller than their actual body.
  • Between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders among children under the age of 12 spiked 119%.
  • By age 6, children are aware of dieting and may have tried it.
  • 26% of 5-year-olds recommend dieting as a solution for a person who has gained weight.
  • By the time they’re 7 years old, 25% of children have engaged in some kind of dieting behavior.
  • 80% of teenage girls compare themselves to images they see of celebrities and, of that group, nearly half say the images make them feel dissatisfied with the way they look.

Why do kids develop body image issues?

There’s no single reason kids develop bad body image, but we don’t need to look far to see many influences, including:

  • Parents and other adult family members who talk about the virtues of being thin, attractive, and “healthy” which is often a code word for “not fat”
  • Siblings, cousins, and peers who tease and bully larger kids and/or diet and exercise to lose weight
  • Schools that weigh students and promote calorie counting programs
  • Coaches and sports programs that conduct weigh-ins and assign tight-fitting, body-conscious uniforms
  • Doctors who discuss weight as a problem in front of children during pediatric visits
  • Media, ranging from billboards and magazines at the supermarket checkout to movies and social media that objectify bodies and promote a narrow body ideal

The seeds of bad body image are literally everywhere in our culture. Sadly, we cannot protect our kids from many of the negative messages about bodies. But we can counteract them by talking about body image and upholding strong boundaries at home. 

How can I help my child with body image issues? 

Parents have a lot of influence over a child’s body image. We can’t protect them from the vast cultural forces of weight stigma and diet culture. But we can set boundaries and have difficult conversations in our own homes to reduce the chances of our kids developing poor body image. 

Here are 4 steps that will help your child’s body image:

1. Work on your own body image 

You do not need to have a perfect body image in order to raise a body-confident child. But you do need to be actively exploring your own body image and how you relate and respond to weight stigma and diet culture. Almost all adults have internalized fear of fat and assumptions about what makes a body “healthy.” We’ve also made assumptions about what we need to do to be “healthy.” Many of these assumptions are false. Make sure you are exploring your faulty beliefs and repairing your relationship with your own body throughout your parenting journey.

2. Talk about bodies with respect

One of the big issues we have is that bodies are treated disrespectfully. All human beings, and therefore all bodies, deserve dignity and respect no matter what they look like. This applies to fat bodies, thin bodies, and every shape and size body. Dignity and respect for our shared humanity must be a core value in your home if you want to protect your child from bad body image. Have a zero-tolerance policy for body-shaming, fat-shaming, and health-shaming. All bodies are good bodies, and all bodies deserve respect!

3. Talk about the objectification of bodies to sell things

Bodies, particularly women’s bodies, are frequently objectified and used to sell products. In my neighborhood, we have a billboard promoting condominiums that features a headless woman in a bikini. Her faceless body is being used to sell housing.

This is just one of the millions of examples of bodies being used to sell products. The endless objectification of bodies solidifies in our kids’ immature minds the idea that bodies are objects to be manipulated and controlled rather than part of who we are as human beings – unique and deserving of dignity.

Given the ubiquity of body objectification in advertising, marketing, and media, it’s critical that you have constant conversations about body objectification. You need to consciously point out that marketers use bodies, but you perceive them as living, breathing, and essential to our humanity.

4. Tell them that their bodies will constantly change and grow

Body types are often presented as an end-state, a goal, something to achieve. But bodies are never in a steady state. Girls’ bodies change dramatically, and puberty sometimes begins as young as 8-9 years old. At this age, girls are not able to process their complex feelings about their bodies without careful and thoughtful guidance from parents.

Growth requires weight gain, and a child spends their first 18 years undergoing dramatic changes and substantial weight gain. Bodies continue to change throughout our lives. This makes sense: bodies are supposed to change! I think we forget this because we see perfectly-preserved models in the media all the time, but the average body will go through many changes throughout life. Let your kids know that their bodies are not meant to stay the same – they will continuously change, and that is healthy! 

What do you say to a child with body image issues? 

First, please make sure that you are talking about body image regularly. Don’t wait for your child to bring it up. Instead, talk regularly about body respect and maintain high standards for treating and talking about bodies as worthy of dignity, no matter what they look like.

If your child says something that indicates they have a negative body image, the most important thing is to not dismiss their feelings or try to distract them from having them. When parents avoid kids’ difficult feelings, kids internalize shame and anxiety about what is being avoided. They believe that there is something terribly wrong with them even though that’s not what parents intended. 

Whatever you do, don’t avoid, dismiss, or distract your child from body image issues. 

Your child will probably at some point tell you they hate their body or want to change their body with dieting or exercise. Here’s a simple response that you can use in almost any situation: “It sounds like you’re having a hard time right now, and that makes sense to me. Can you tell me more about what’s going on?”

Now listen and seek to really understand your child’s fears and worries. Don’t tell them they’re wrong or that their body is perfect or beautiful. Let them explore their feelings in your loving empathy (not pity). 

Keep listening!

Keep listening until your child has expressed themself and you sense that they feel deeply understood by you. Then you may want to say something like this: 

“Honey, I know it’s so hard to live in a body in our culture. There’s a lot of pressure on bodies to look a certain way. I just want you to know that I really do understand that, but at the same time, I want you to remember that your body deserves respect and love. So when bad feelings, worries, and thoughts come up, that makes sense. But let’s never make decisions about how you treat your body based on those feelings and thoughts. Your body is good just as it is. You don’t need to mess with it or try to change it. You will have bad thoughts sometimes. Please remember this always: You’re wonderful just as you are.”

How to talk to your child about body image

Ignoring body size is like trying to avoid talking about race. Adults may pretend that it doesn’t matter, but children always sense the truth, which is that how we look influences how other people treat us.

It’s best to talk about body image regularly and without euphemism, because when we don’t talk about important things, kids assume there is something bad and shameful going on. Shame, more than anything else, is a fertile breeding ground for all sorts of mental disorders.

Talk about body image!

The bottom line is to talk about body image with your child regularly. You can do this by saying things like: 

  • Bodies are presented and used in the media to sell products, but bodies are not objects – they are a vital and unique part of each person.
  • I appreciate how my body functions for me and I respect my body by treating it well and speaking about it with kindness.
  • All bodies grow and change. And while it can be confusing, it’s all healthy and normal.
  • In our family we will always speak with dignity and respect about bodies. We will not allow body shaming, fat shaming, or bullying of anyone based on their body.
  • Having negative thoughts, feelings, and worries about your body is normal, but we shouldn’t make decisions about our health based on them. Bodies should always be treated with respect and dignity.
  • Each body is important and amazing, but also everyone is much more than a body.


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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Fear & worry in eating disorder recovery

Fear & worry in eating disorder recovery

If you have a child who has an eating disorder, then you should expect to see fear and worry. This is because eating disorders often show up with, and in response to, anxiety. Eating disorder behaviors can be an attempt to cope with anxious feelings and thoughts. And luckily, parents have a significant impact on kids’ anxiety.

But unfortunately, our instinctual responses to our kids’ anxiety can accidentally make it worse over time!

In fact, there are treatment programs in which parents of anxious kids are the only ones who are treated. That’s right: while it’s ideal if your child is also getting treatment for anxiety, it’s not a requirement for them to start feeling (and acting) better. You can do a lot to change the course of their anxiety. Anxiety is highly responsive to relationships. You will either see it grow or decrease depending on how you respond. 

What does anxiety look like in an eating disorder?

Anxiety can be a bit tricky to see without some practice. Many people who develop eating disorders have learned to cloak their anxiety with anger, sadness, fighting, and withdrawal. Here are the top signals of anxiety, fear, and worry when there’s an eating disorder:

  1. Worry about weight
  2. Fear of food
  3. Anger about rules, restriction, and efforts to control eating disorder behaviors
  4. Sadness about perceived failure and disappointing their parents, friends, etc.
  5. Fighting and negotiating about recovery steps and expectations
  6. Withdrawal, shutdown, or a refusal to talk or engage in family activities

Anger, fighting, and sadness are the most distracting versions of anxiety. And parents typically respond to them with confusion and surprise. It seems like you’re asking your child to do something that makes perfect logical sense, so why are they so upset about it? 

The key is to know that they are upset about it because their anxiety has been triggered, and one of the ways anxiety maintains control is to put out distractions from the bigger issue, which is the fact that their anxiety response is over-reactive. 

The solution if your child has a lot of worry and fear, or if they are angry, sad, fighting you, or withdrawing when they have an eating disorder, is to learn how to respond to anxiety better. 

emotional regulation

How to deal with fear and worry in eating disorder recovery

First, let’s set the table. I want you to start talking about worry, fear, and other scary feelings regularly. Have regular conversations with your child about what anxiety is, how it shows up, and how you’re going to respond to it now that you know this. 

NOTE: lots of kids hate the word anxiety. I’m going to use it in this article so you know what I’m talking about, but you may do better if you use more kid-friendly words like worry, fear, stress, anger, etc.

The most important message I’m sharing today is that worry, fear, and other big feelings will show up, and that’s OK, but we’re not going to let them make important decisions about what we do and don’t do.

Demystify anxiety. It follows a predictable pattern. It’s rarely helpful to be surprised by it, try to ignore it or force it to go away. Instead, it’s best to talk about it, recognize it, and even welcome it into your life without letting it control your life.

Never threaten anxiety. Let it exist; just don’t let it run the show.

1. Expect anxiety to show up (it will!)

One of the most confusing things about having a child with an eating disorder is how resistant they can be to recovery. Even if they say they want to recover, it may seem to you as if they are not taking the action they need to recover. 

It’s important to think a bit differently. While it’s true that your child may not be taking the action they need to recover, it’s not because they don’t want to. It’s because anxiety keeps showing up and telling them it’s not safe to recover. 

Anxiety’s job is to warn us of danger and keep us from doing things that make us uncomfortable. 

But the only way to heal from an eating disorder is to feel things like fear and worry and do the thing you need to do anyway. 

The only way out is through!

So the first thing you need to do as a parent is to stop being surprised by anxiety. Start to expect it. Expect anxiety to show up every time you put food in front of your child, and lots of other times, too. 

A child who has an eating disorder typically has a hair-trigger response to even small threats. Their amygdala is highly-responsive right now. So you’re going to see anxiety a lot. Don’t be surprised; expect it.

2. Tell your child that it’s OK to feel afraid and worried sometimes (it makes sense!)

Most parents automatically respond to anxiety reactions like worry, fear, and anger by trying to shut it down or ignore it. This makes sense because your own anxiety senses danger and wants to keep you safe. I get it.

But instead, you need to face your own anxiety about your child’s anxiety head-on. Remember: the only way out is through!

When you try to debate, diminish, or ignore anxiety, it gets stronger, digging in deeper and justifying its existence as the savior.

Instead, when you see your child getting anxious, name it. Say something like “oh look, here’s some worry. It makes sense that you get worried sometimes. I get it.” 

You can replace the word “worry” with other words like sad, angry, frustrated, irritated, scared, etc. Try to find the word that makes your child feel seen, heard, and understood. This takes some practice, but you can do it!

This removes the need for the child to justify and defend their anxiety. When you remove the opportunity for debate, you take away an essential part of anxiety escalation. 

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3. Remind your child that the path to feeling better is not to avoid fear but to face fear (and do it anyway!)

Once you have acknowledged that anxiety is present in the form of worry, fear, anger, etc., take some time to let your child feel that you believe them when they say they feel however they feel. 

When you sense that they “feel felt,” then you can move on to the next stage. It’s OK if you need to try this a few times. This takes practice and is almost never perfect. That’s OK!

Now you want to remind your child that feeling worried and nervous is perfectly normal, but that we can’t live our lives according to anxiety’s demands. 

Of course, this means that you should have those pre-conversations with your child about what anxiety is, how it shows up, and how you’re going to respond to it now that you know this. 

Your response to anxiety is: worry, fear, and other big feelings will show up, and that’s OK, but we’re not going to let them make important decisions about what we do and don’t do.

4. Believe that your child can learn to tolerate their fear (they can!).

One of the biggest impediments to kids learning to tolerate anxiety is that parents worry it is not possible. Here again, we recognize that your worry as a parent can impact your child’s relationship with worry. 

So come up with a mantra for facing your fears and doing it anyway. The only proven way to reduce anxiety is to train the amygdala and your thoughts to face anxiety and build up the muscles of tolerance and acceptance.

Remember that trying to avoid anxiety will make it get stronger, but facing it and doing the scary thing anyway will build the muscles that are needed to respond to anxiety appropriately. With practice, your child will do this by themself over time. But it’s very hard to do this without help and support at home.

How this looks at the dinner table

Here’s a quick scenario about how worry and fear can show up at the dinner table with an eating disorder. 

Take 1: letting anxiety run the show

  • Child: I can’t eat. I’m full. You can’t make me!
  • Parent: You have to eat! It’s important! You promised! 
  • Child: I already ate enough. You know I can’t handle more. I’ll throw up! 
  • Parent: You have to eat this food. It’s good for you. Just eat it so we can get on with life, will you?
  • Child: You gave me too much! I can tell you added butter and oil – look! It’s just sitting on top. Gross!
  • Parent: No I didn’t! It’s the same thing I make every time. I didn’t change anything!

In this scenario, the parent is accidentally engaging in a debate with anxiety. This gives the anxiety a sense of power and control. And it usually makes the situation worse, not better.

Take 2: standing up to anxiety

  • Child: I can’t eat. I’m full. You can’t make me!
  • Parent: Yeah, you often feel this way at dinner. I get it. 
  • Child: No you don’t! You don’t understand anything!
  • Parent: It seems like you’re really upset.
  • Child: Yes I am! I hate this!
  • Parent: I get it. I really do. But remember that we talked about this, and we’re not letting worry run the show anymore. Let’s put worry aside for dinner tonight and we’ll talk to it some more after we eat if we need to.
  • Child: You’re just trying to control me!
  • Parent: Yeah, I know that’s what your worry says, and I understand that’s how it feels. Like I said, let’s get through dinner and then see what worry has to say to us later. 
  • Child: that’s stupid (they take a bite).

In this scenario, the parent is not fighting with or trying to make the anxiety go away. They’re acknowledging and validating the existence of anxiety and asking the child to do the hard thing even though they feel anxious.

Practice, not perfect

This is a practice, and it takes time for parents to learn a different way of responding to anxiety. If this sounds impossible right now, I get it. But trust the process. It works.

Anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders, and we have thousands and thousands of research papers examining what it is and how it works. There is a lot of data to support this treatment approach to a child with anxiety. 

One of the things we know is that for most parents, their instinctual response to anxiety will accidentally increase a child’s anxiety over time rather than decrease it. But at the same time, when parents learn and practice new skills for responding to anxiety, they will see a decrease in anxious outbursts and behaviors. 

Anxiety is the most treatable mental disorder, and since it underlies and drives so many other disorders, including eating disorders, it makes sense to learn some new skills for responding to anxiety differently. 

Book Recommendation

This book gives an excellent overview of what anxiety is and how parents can respond differently for better results.

Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children by Reid Wilson & Lynn Lyons


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

Posted on 2 Comments

How to handle doctor’s appointments with an eating disorder

How to handle doctor's appointments with an eating disorder

Often you need to make various types of doctor’s appointments during eating disorder recovery. Sometimes they are related to the eating disorder, sometimes not. Either way, doctor’s appointments can be very stressful when you have an eating disorder. So how do you handle it if you need to take your child who has an eating disorder to the doctor?

While doctors are driven to care for their patients, many are unfamiliar with the complexities of eating disorders. I don’t believe doctors mean harm to their patients. However, I do know doctors can accidentally cause harm by saying and doing things that encourage the eating disorder.

How doctors can go wrong with eating disorders

Here are some things that may accidentally happen during doctor’s appointments that can exacerbate an eating disorder: 

1. Automatic weigh-ins

Most doctor’s offices do an automatic weigh-in. However, this can be triggering for a person who is in eating disorder treatment and recovery. Seeing, hearing, or otherwise encountering weight gain can spark a desire to lose weight. Also, finding out about weight loss may provide a “rush” of success and entrench eating disorder behaviors even deeper. It’s common practice to avoid sharing weight information with a person who has an active eating disorder and/or is in recovery. Many people who have fully recovered from their eating disorder continue to avoid automatic weigh-ins due to their triggering nature. In a surprising number of cases, weight is not required to provide healthcare.

2. Talk about weight

Unless your child’s doctor is trained in eating disorders, they may accidentally make unhelpful comments about your child’s weight. In some cases, they may be dismissive of weight. Doctors may suggest that a child who is in weight recovery is “fine” and doesn’t need to gain more weight. Or they may become concerned if the weight recovery goal is higher than they think it should be. There are a lot of landmines when it comes to talking about weight with a person who has an eating disorder. Eating disorder recovery specialists are trained to handle the nuance of talking about weight, but most other people, including doctors, will, unfortunately, make mistakes.

✨Check out our “Don’t Talk About My Child’s Weight” cards✨

3. Talking about food as good/bad or suggesting more/less

Doctors often try to make helpful suggestions about eating. They may discuss food in terms of “healthy” and “unhealthy” choices. They may also ask about how many servings of dairy, vegetables, or other nutrients your child is consuming. While understandable, this sort of talk can be very triggering for a person in eating disorder recovery. Similarly, casual comments about eating more or less can be upsetting for a person in eating disorder recovery. Remember that while doctors are very knowledgeable about bodies and physiology, they have limited training in eating disorders and mental health. They really want their patients to be healthy. But the impact of uninformed food and diet talk can be disruptive to the process of eating disorder recovery.

4. Dismiss your concerns

Some parents bring their children to a doctor to help them diagnose and validate concerns about an eating disorder. But this can, unfortunately, backfire. Few doctors are qualified or comfortable enough to make a non-weight-based diagnosis. In other words, unless your child is at a level of medical underweight that they require hospitalization, a doctor may not recognize their eating disorder symptoms as serious. Except in specific cases, your child’s doctor may not be the best person to diagnose your child. But they can often participate in treatment in other ways. It’s just important to know what to expect. You want to avoid being in a situation in which your child’s doctor dismisses your belief that they have an eating disorder in front of your child. 

A note for parents who have an adult child: I recognize that much of this advice will not be applicable to your situation. Most adult children do not bring a parent to the doctor with them. Hopefully, this article will at least give you some ideas of things you can talk to your child about before and after they see a doctor so you can help them avoid dangerous situations and/or process them if they do occur.

How to prepare for a doctor’s appointment with an eating disorder

First, unless your doctor is specifically trained in eating disorders, you should expect to do some level of appointment preparation and management. While doctors want to care for their patients, they receive very little training about eating disorders and mental health in medical school. 

Any mistakes they make are most likely coming from the best intentions. But the outcome of any mistakes can nonetheless be serious. 

Here’s how to prepare for a doctors appointment if your child has an eating disorder:

1. Set realistic expectations

Recognize that without special training, your child’s doctor is not an expert in the treatment of eating disorders. This means that while you can of course consult the doctor for your child’s health, they may not be the best person to make a diagnosis and support you through recovery. Unless you are seeing a specialist, the best people to guide your child’s treatment will likely be a team of a psychologist and a dietitian, with possibly a psychiatrist and a parent coach. This team may ask you to get your doctor involved in checkups, but it’s unlikely that they will expect your doctor to provide guidance and care when it comes to actually treating and managing the eating disorder. 

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2. Know what you’re asking for

It’s best if you’re clear about your intention for the visit. Are you looking for a general checkup? Or maybe you’re going in for something unrelated to the eating disorder like a sprained ankle or sore throat. On the other hand, you may be taking your child in for blood work and weight to assist their treatment team. Know what you are looking for, and if it’s not an appointment that is specifically designed to support your child’s eating disorder treatment team, you can let the doctor do what they’re best at, like treat that sprained ankle or sore throat, without talking too much about the eating disorder. I’m not saying you can’t talk about it, but it’s best to be clear about the purpose of your visit. Remember that visits are typically 10-15 minutes long, so it’s helpful to have a clear purpose in mind before you begin. 

3. Ask for accommodations

If your doctor’s appointments are specifically about your child’s eating disorder, then ask your child’s treatment team to either contact the doctor directly or assist you in how best to approach the appointment. If the appointment is not about the eating disorder, then you can do the following:

  • Ask that your child not be weighed or, if it’s required, to be blind weighed, making sure the weight does not appear on post-visit paperwork
  • Ask the doctor not to talk about your child’s weight during the visit. If they have any questions, direct them to you or your child’s treatment team
  • Ask the doctor not to talk about food and eating during the visit. If they have any questions, direct them to you or your child’s treatment team 

4. Anticipate stress and discomfort

Going to the doctor when you have an eating disorder is typically an emotionally stressful experience. Most people who have eating disorders are highly concerned with their health and also suffer from anxiety. It’s best if you can anticipate their stress and spend time before the appointment helping them to feel safe and connected with you. This pre-work will go a long way to supporting your child’s experience at the doctor and avoiding major trigger events. If you need some help, check out this eBook on emotional regulation.

emotional regulation

During doctors appointments with an eating disorder

During doctor’s appointments, you can advocate for your child who has an eating disorder by making sure that if weight is taken, it is not shown, discussed, or printed on aftercare materials. Additionally, you can intervene if the doctor begins a discussion of weight or “healthy” food and eating. 

If your child’s doctor is doing an assessment for your treatment team, obviously the eating disorder will be a topic of discussion. Just keep a close eye on it and try to guide the doctor if you feel they are getting into dangerous territory. Remember that you know your child best right now, and it’s OK to intervene if necessary.

Additionally, if your visit is not related to the eating disorder, you can keep the visit on-topic. While your child’s doctor should know they have an eating disorder, as long as they are getting treatment, it’s OK for the visit to focus on the sprained ankle or whatever you came in for.

Most importantly, try to keep your own emotional state regulated during the appointment. Remember that your emotional state impacts how your child feels, so do some work in advance and during the appointment to stay as regulated as possible. If you or your child becomes emotionally dysregulated during the visit, be sure to do some after-care to get you both into balance. Seek to reconnect and coregulate as soon as you can.

You can do this!

Navigating the health system when there’s an eating disorder can be really challenging. Doctor’s visits should be safe and healthy, but it’s best to prepare and remain vigilant to optimize your child’s experience given where they are right now. 

We have been trained to defer to doctors at all times, and they certainly deserve our respect. However, your first priority is your child’s recovery. You know what your child can and can’t tolerate right now, and it’s OK to speak up and politely redirect a doctor if needed.


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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How to protect your daughter from diet culture and fatphobia

How to protect your daughter from diet culture and fatphobia

If you have a daughter, then you can and should protect her from fatphobia and diet culture. While this isn’t one of the things most of us think about when we have a child, it has become critically important as body hate, disordered eating, and eating disorders are on the rise. 

Women in our society are constantly told to control their hunger and weigh less. Diet culture indoctrination begins early in a girl’s life. As a result, most kindergarten girls will tell you they don’t want to be fat because being fat is bad. They already believe that the path to not being fat and bad is to eat less and exercise more. 

All of this pressure and noise about women’s bodies begins early in our daughters’ lives. Over time it flourishes and often blossoms into body hate, disordered eating, and, sometimes, eating disorders. 

But you can protect your daughter from diet culture and fatphobia. You can help her respect her body and live a healthy life. Here are five steps to doing it:

1. Educate yourself

Begin by learning about weight stigma and weight cycling. These are the major problems associated with diet culture and fatphobia and are therefore a key way to protect your daughter from them.

Weight stigma is discrimination against fat people and being fat. It’s closely aligned with racism, classism, and sexism. When internalized, it turns into body hate – the belief that your body (and by extension you yourself) is bad if you have fat.

Weight cycling is the only predictable outcome of intentional weight loss. While the $70 billion diet industry sells the promise of lasting weight loss, the truth is that while many people can lose weight initially when dieting, 95% gain it back (often more) 2-5 years later. This cycle of losing and gaining weight is predictive of two things: poor health and weight gain. 

That right: each time a person intentionally loses weight, we can reasonably predict they will end up weighing more 5 years later. And the act of intentionally losing weight puts additional stress hormones into the body and may permanently impact metabolism. This is just the beginning of the long-term health implications of weight cycling. 

The most surprising fact about dieting is that intentional weight loss is predictive of weight gain. And while I’m not anti-fat, if that knowledge helps you give up dieting for good, we can start there. 

Take some time to learn about the truth about intentional weight loss, and once you’re ready, start educating your kids. This is a great way to protect our daughters from diet culture. Teach them: 

  1. Diet culture is rooted in discrimination, racism, classism, and sexism
  1. Dieting is not actually healthy for our bodies, and in fact predicts weight gain
  1. The $70 billion diet industry creates and profits off body dissatisfaction and weight stigma

Our children deserve to know the truth about diet culture and weight stigma, and it’s unlikely they’ll learn it out in the wild. This is something that needs to come from you.

2. A body-positive household

Most households are living with some form of weight stigma and/or diet culture. Maybe you actively diet every January. Or maybe you are naturally thin but constantly talk about your aunt, who is naturally fat, as someone who needs to “take care of herself,” by which you mean “lose weight.” 

There are so many ways that we accidentally promote weight stigma and diet culture in our homes, and I’m not here to criticize you for doing any of these very normal things in the past. Truly. I get it. I lived it! 

But I am asking you to give it up now that you know better. Here are the beliefs that a body-positive household adheres to: 

1. Nobody should be criticized or shamed for their body at any weight.

2. You can take good care of your health without focusing on weight as an outcome or result.

3. Health includes physical, mental, social, and emotional factors. It cannot be determined or measured by weight.

4. There is no body size that deserves more or less respect. All bodies deserve respect at any weight.

A body-positive household will protect your daughter against diet culture because she will live in a pro-body environment rather than an environment that shames and criticizes bodies. At the heart of body positivity is dignity. All human beings deserve the dignity of living in their bodies without criticism or judgment.

3. An anti-diet approach

Once you know all of this, the next step is to institute an anti-diet policy at home. This means that barring any medical restrictions for medically-diagnosed allergies or diseases, nobody should be restricting food. This includes all forms of food restriction and banning foods for any reason other than that you don’t like them.

This is a revolutionary way to live and can be scary for anyone who has been following diet rules for most of their lives (e.g. most of us!). My greatest assurance for you is that following an anti-diet lifestyle will give you and your children greater freedom and better health – both physical and mental. 

An anti-diet lifestyle is also protective against eating disorders and disordered eating. One study found that girls are up to 18x more likely to develop an eating disorder if they diet. And girls are more likely to diet if they live in a home in which dieting is modeled and permitted. That fact alone should be enough to encourage you to implement a no-diet rule in your home. 

Hundreds of studies have found that Intuitive Eating, which is a way of eating that is responsive to hunger and appetite, is healthier than any type of diet. It may surprise you to know that weight-loss diets do not improve cardiovascular fitness long-term, but Intuitive Eating does.

The important thing is that nobody in the home should be actively trying to control, manage, or lose weight. It is important to get rid of household scales and any other tools that are used for the purpose of weight management. This can be a huge adjustment, so it may help to work with a Registered Dietitian to help you get started. 

4. Dealing with society: 

The previous three recommendations are things that you can control in your household. And they are a great place to start. But your daughter will go out in the world and encounter diet culture everywhere. Here are some common places she’ll see it and ways you can respond to protect her from negative consequences:

Social Media

Social media is filled with diet culture. While it’s often not possible to shield our daughters from diet culture on social media, we can minimize its harmful impacts by living a body-positive, anti-diet lifestyle at home. But to take it even further, make sure you talk openly about the issues with social media

In my experience, it’s best to try and take a balanced approach rather than criticize such an important aspect of her life. For example, you can say things like “I love that on TikTok you can learn so many dances, and I only wish we could see more body diversity in the dancers.” Then let her respond. She may point out that she follows several dancers who are in larger bodies. Or she may just huff and stomp away. But you can trust that just mentioning body diversity will remind her to actively seek body diversity on social media.

Criticizing social media rarely works well. It is a power move that can have negative consequences. Instead, try to open up conversations and put safety measures in place such as time limits on apps. But the best thing you can do is engage in ongoing discussions about the pros and cons of social media. 

Movies/TV/Radio

Movies, TV shows, and even random comments on the radio are often fatphobic. Once you start looking for fatphobia and diet culture, you’ll start to see it everywhere. My suggestion is to point out fatphobic comments as they happen. 

For example, if a TV show has a character that suggests someone “needs to eat fewer brownies” (because they’re fat), then I suggest you immediately say “Oh no, so fatphobic. Knock it off!” to the character on the screen. Your kids may look at you strangely, but that’s better than allowing fatphobia in your home without objection.

If a radio host mentions it’s time to get back to the gym and work off some extra pounds, you can say “that’s not how it works, buddy.” These light but direct comments help your daughter start to see the fatphobia that surrounds us and make sure that you are exposing it when it happens. The best response is when she asks for an explanation from you.

Magazine Covers/Billboards

While few teens get magazines delivered anymore, they will still see fatphobic magazine covers, particularly in the grocery store checkout line. There may also be billboard advertisements and bus stop ads for weight loss, fat-removal surgery, and more. These forms of constant exposure to fatphobia and diet culture are subtle but have a big impact.

I suggest you point them out as fatphobic and wrong. You rarely need to get into long discussions, but be ready to do so if you think your daughter wants to talk some more about a disturbing message or image she’s been exposed to. It’s best to keep the door open on these conversations so she feels safe coming to you with questions.

Remember that the thing you can control here is what you say and how you respond. Your daughter does not have to agree with you or discuss this deeply with you for your words to have an impact. Focus on your presentation more than her response to it.

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Dealing with school:

Whether it’s from a teacher, peer, or coach, fatphobia runs rampant in most schools. Your daughter will most likely encounter diet culture at school, and you want to protect her from that. Here are some common places she’ll experience it and ways you can respond to avoid negative consequences.

Health Class

I frequently hear from parents who believe that a health class was a trigger for their daughter’s eating disorder. This is deeply distressing but not surprising given that we live in a society that has mistakenly aligned low weight, food restriction, and over-exercise with health. 

It’s best to assume that any health classes provided at your daughter’s school will include some version of diet culture. The most common things I hear about are education about “good” and “bad” foods, introducing calorie counters, step counters, and other tools, and misinformation about fat being the “cause” of disease. 

I suggest you prepare your daughter for this misinformation in advance and talk about it at home often. Don’t allow health class to go unchallenged, no matter how well-meaning the teacher is. 

Additionally, if you feel up for it, talk to your school administration about the dangers of teaching children to diet, a known cause of weight cycling and a major factor in the development of eating disorders.

Peers

Because our culture is full of dieting and fatphobia, it’s likely that your daughter’s peers will be dieting and fatphobic. This is not about them being individually wrong or bad. Fatphobia and dieting make sense in our culture. Because of this, we never want to blame the individual, and instead recognize the societal forces at play.

I recommend talking to your daughter often about diet culture and fatphobia and helping her problem-solve and brainstorm ways to respond when they show up among peers. Your daughter does not have to be a social justice warrior who confronts diet culture and fatphobia at school. But it will help if she has some responses in her mind at least to keep herself safe and centered when it happens around her.

Conversations with peers about fatphobia and diet culture are nuanced and challenging. Support your daughter in finding her own path rather than telling her what she “should” do. It’s much more effective to guide her in finding her own response.

Coaches/Teachers

We know that coaches and teachers are part of our society and therefore often suffer from fatphobia and diet culture. This is understandable and makes sense. However, when fatphobia and diet culture is actively taught to our daughters, it may be necessary to speak up.

As always, your first line of defense is a good offense. Arm your daughter with the knowledge and strength to recognize diet culture and fatphobia and counteract it, at least in her own mind. Maintaining a body-positive, anti-diet household will go a long way to protecting her from the worst offenders. 

Approach conversations about teachers and coaches with an open mind and heart. You don’t want to condone fatphobic behavior, but be careful not to overreact when your daughter tells you about it. Because overreacting can lead your daughter to get defensive on behalf of a coach or teacher who she may respect and like. Let your daughter lead the conversation and do more listening than talking.

However, if you feel a coach or teacher is teaching dangerous concepts to students, you may want to speak with them directly or talk to the administration. For example, if a coach is doing weigh-ins and openly shaming girls who have gained weight, that’s something that should be addressed. Likewise, if a teacher begins a calorie-restriction project in class, you should speak up.


Living in a society that is cruel and dominating towards female bodies is hard. And it’s difficult to raise a body-confident girl in this culture. But it is possible. You can raise a daughter who is free from body hate, disordered eating, and eating disorders if you protect her from the worst impacts of diet culture and fatphobia. Good luck out there!


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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What are eating disorders anyway?

What are eating disorders anyway?

Eating disorder definitions are typically clinical and boring, but the truth is that eating disorders are complex and multi-layered. The people who develop eating disorders are worthy of so much compassion and love. I hope this article brings some color to the conversation and helps you understand eating disorders more clearly.

I’m sharing all my knowledge of decades living with an eating disorder and several years in full recovery. I’ve built on my own experience with many years spent researching and studying eating disorders. And I’ve also interviewed hundreds of professionals who treat eating disorders, people who have eating disorders, and parents who have kids with eating disorders.

From my perspective, the information currently available about eating disorders is clinical, dispassionate, and biased. These rigid clinical diagnoses and behavioral descriptions of eating disorders keep us locked in place. We miss the larger truth of why eating disorders occur and what comprehensive treatment looks like.

What follows is a wholehearted description of how I see eating disorders right now. This is personal but also factual. I’m not going to give you a boring, dispassionate account of the technicalities of eating disorders. Rather, this is an attempt to share the human reasons we suffer. And, hopefully, how we can find our way to recovery.

Remember that each eating disorder is unique. Therefore, this article is just one lens through which to view eating disorders.

What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is a set of beliefs and behaviors that disrupt a person’s relationship with food and their body. It is a mental disorder that includes obsessive and compulsive thoughts and behaviors, including*:

Body Thoughts:

  • I need to weigh less and eat less
  • If I control my weight/body I will be good
  • There are good and bad foods
  • People who eat/weigh too much are bad
  • If I don’t control my weight/body I’m bad

Eating Behaviors:

  • Eating too little/too much
  • Purging
  • Compulsive exercise
  • Measuring/counting food
  • Following a strict food plan
  • Banning major food staples (e.g. carbs, fat, meat)
  • Ignoring physical signs of hunger/fullness
  • Lying about and hiding disordered food behaviors

*These beliefs and behaviors apply to most eating disorders except ARFID

We live in a disordered eating culture. Therefore, sometimes I think the best way to define an eating disorder is to define the opposite. So here’s my definition of a non-disordered approach to eating and weight:

Someone who does not have an eating disorder believes their body is fine as it is. They trust their hunger and fullness cues. And they follow their appetite rather than a set of rules about what to eat, how much to eat, etc. While they don’t necessarily “love” their body, they accept it and treat it with respect. They pursue their own individual health holistically (body & mind) without weight goals or expectations.

Who gets eating disorders?

The common belief is that eating disorders impact white, wealthy teenage girls. However, we know that eating disorders impact people of all ages, genders, race, and socioeconomic status. Our stereotypes about what eating disorders look like make it harder for both professionals and parents to recognize an eating disorder. 

Eating disorders don’t have a single “look.” They may look like a: 

  • 45-year-old Asian mother who has a successful career and three children. She gains and loses weight each year with the enthusiastic support of everyone around her. Her eating disorder hides in plain sight.
  • 16-year old white girl who is a vegetarian, gets straight-A’s, does cross-country running, and is medically underweight. Her doctor has told her she can’t run with the team, so she runs in circles around her bedroom.
  • 28-year old Black mother who is food insecure. She struggles to feed her two young children and herself. She is plus-sized and feels constant pressure to lose weight. 
  • 34-year-old white man who can’t miss a single day of going to the gym. He rarely eats anything other than plain oatmeal, protein shakes, and steamed chicken with vegetables. His rigid lifestyle gives him little time to socialize, and he refuses to meet friends at restaurants.
  • 12-year-old Hispanic boy who has autism and has fallen off his growth curve for both height and weight. The list of foods he will eat keeps shrinking, and he’s currently only accepting chicken nuggets from McDonald’s and baby carrots.
  • 67-year old white grandmother who maintains her age-24 figure. Her email signature includes “I’m one stomach flu away from my goal weight.” She tells her granddaughters her diet secrets regularly.
  • 14-year-old Indian girl who has always been on the chubby side. She learned to purge last year and though it hasn’t helped her lose weight, she can’t stop.

Eating disorders vary, and there is no standard “look.” It’s important that we expand our understanding of eating disorders so we can adequately diagnose and treat everyone who is suffering.

Read more about racism and eating disorders.

What causes eating disorders?

A combination of biological, psychological, and social factors contribute to eating disorder development. 

Biological:

  • Genes appear to play a role in eating disorder development. There is not a single gene recognized as the cause of eating disorders. But there are numerous genes that researchers have identified as common among people who develop mental disorders. This may explain why eating disorders typically show up alongside other disorders like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, etc.
  • Epigenetics is a sort of code that triggers genetic activity. A person may have the genes that underlie mental disorders. But researchers agree that genes alone don’t cause mental disorders. Epigenetic triggers come from environmental conditions beginning in utero. They can even pass through generations in a family. It appears that epigenetics can be shaped by trauma, abuse, and neglect (physical and emotional).
  • Neuroception is a body-based sensation of being either safe or unsafe. Developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, neuroception means that neural circuits in the body distinguish safety or threat and cue the body to respond physiologically, emotionally, and cognitively. When neuroception senses emotional and physical threats, the body responds with a state of fight, flight, freeze, or shutdown. This impacts every aspect of the physical and emotional experience of being alive. A person who has an eating disorder is often living in a heightened state of threat, sensing danger in their body and mind and seeking comfort and safety in their eating disorder behaviors.

Psychological:

  • Anxiety is a common partner to eating disorders. Since it can be hard to spot, it may be helpful to know what anxiety looks like. In its more active form it looks like perfectionism, people-pleasing, and codependency. In its less active form it may look like procrastination, avoidance, and withdrawal. Other signs include chronic shame, stress, and worry.
  • Emotional regulation skills are likely protective against eating disorders. Emotional regulation is something children learn from parents beginning in infancy and extending through early adulthood. When adequately developed over time, a person becomes able to self-regulate. Sometimes we miss emotional developmental milestones. When this happens, a person will have trouble self-soothing and responding appropriately to everyday stress and disruption.
  • A person who has an eating disorder may believe that their identity – who they are – is based primarily on what they look like and what they do. This belief can lead a person to try and “perform goodness.” When this happens, a false self takes over and the true self is hidden in shame and unworthiness. This can happen when a family and/or society teaches a person that they need to change who they are and how they behave to be loved. Healing takes place when the true self is allowed to emerge and be loved as-is.
  • Mental disorders often appear in clusters, and eating disorders are part of a larger psychological ecosystem. Disorders that commonly show up with eating disorders are autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, suicidality, self-harm, substance abuse, and obsessive compulsive disorder. These disorders should be addressed holistically. Otherwise, an eating disorder may fail to recede, morph into something else, or return after treatment.

Social: 

  • Families are a child’s first social group. And family norms and structure shape how a child feels about themselves and the world. Families don’t cause eating disorders. However, family beliefs and behaviors about emotions and bodies can contribute to an eating disorder. For example, many parents are not aware of the role of emotional co-regulation. Therefore their kids may miss emotional developmental milestones. Additionally, many families accidentally enforce and encourage disordered eating. Therefore they may pass along harmful messages about food and bodies based on their own cultural training.
  • There is a strong connection between diet culture and weight stigma and eating disorders. These two conditions lay the groundwork for the thoughts and behaviors that comprise an eating disorder. Diet culture is founded in the belief that bodies can and should be weight-controlled using food restriction and exercise. Weight stigma is discriminatory acts and beliefs against people who live in larger bodies. Diet culture and weight stigma are pervasive in our culture. And they are likely the driver behind increasing rates of eating disorders in the United States. Since the BMI levels were arbitrarily lowered in 1998, the weight loss industry has grown dramatically. In 1985 the U.S. weight loss industry was valued at $10 billion in annual revenue, but today it is worth at least $72 billion.

As a culture we assume weight loss is a personal goal, but it is in fact a money-making industry.

Read about the non-diet approach to health.

  • Cultural group oppression:
    • There is evidence that people who are not heterosexual and/or cis-gender are at higher risk of eating disorders. LGBTQ+ people are chronically oppressed in our culture. And self-repression is often required to maintain physical and emotional safety in a hostile culture.
    • While eating disorders can impact anyone, females are at higher risk than males. The most likely reason for this is the cultural oppression of females in a patriarchal, male-dominated culture. The chronic objectification of the female body leads women to self-objectify. Then they naturally fall into unhealthy pursuit of the “thin ideal” or “wellness culture.”
    • People of color are much less likely to receive a diagnosis for an eating disorder. But they are at least as likely (if not more likely) to have symptoms. The trauma of living as a person of color in a white-dominant culture likely contributes to eating disorders.

Most eating disorder treatment fails to address the social aspects of the disorder. The focus is on eradicating the behaviors of the eating disorder and “fixing” the person with the disorder. But in fact we have social problems that drive and sustain eating disorders. I believe we must address the social aspects of eating disorders in order to reduce the number of eating disorders and improve treatment outcomes.

Why do people get eating disorders?

There are so many factors that contribute to eating disorders. One way to view them is as coping mechanisms. I believe eating disorders develop in response to unmanaged stress and emotional dysregulation. In our culture, stress is chronic, and many people are raised without adequate emotional regulation development. Thus, coping behaviors become essential to function within our high-pressure society. Eating disorders join shopping, gambling, gaming, sex, using drugs and alcohol, and other addictions, compulsions, and obsessions as a way to cope with life. 

An eating disorder is just another way to numb a person from the pain of being human in our society. Dieting* is constantly prescribed and weight loss is celebrated. Thus, an eating disorder often begins with a well-intentioned plan to feel better and meet societal goals. There are many false and misleading health claims associated with diet plans and weight loss. And these actively promote eating disorder beliefs and behaviors. 

While not everyone who diets will develop an eating disorder, almost all eating disorders** begin with a diet. 

*defined as any effort to lose/control weight using food and/or exercise 

**with the exception of ARFID 

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What are the most common types of eating disorders?

According to research published by Hay et. al. in 2017, the rates of eating disorders are as follows:

47% OSFED. The most common eating disorder is a catch-all category called other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED). This category includes a mix of eating disorder behaviors.

22% BED. The second most common eating disorder is binge eating disorder. This often involves a restrict-binge cycle in which a person restricts food and then binge eats. 

19% Bulimia. This often involves a restrict-binge-purge cycle. A person restricts consuming calories for an extended period of time. Next, they eat and then seek to purge the calories consumed with vomiting, laxative use, and/or over-exercise.

8% Anorexia. This is characterized primarily by restriction and being medically underweight. It is the only mental disorder that has a BMI requirement for diagnosis.

5% ARFID. The only eating disorder that is not technically associated with a desire to lose weight. ARFID typically involves restricting food and appears to be due to sensory and emotional drivers.

While these categories may be helpful, it’s important to remember that all eating disorders are mental disorders. This means that regardless of the specific behaviors, effective treatment must get beneath the behaviors to address the underlying thoughts, beliefs, and emotional dysregulation that drives them.

A path forward

This description of eating disorders hopefully adds some flavor and nuance to what you’ve seen elsewhere. But of course each eating disorder is unique. And I can’t possibly capture the vast nature of these complex mental disorders in a single article. I hope that if you have an eating disorder, you get help and find your path to healing.

And if you love someone who has an eating disorder, please remember that there is a lot you can do to help recovery. Eating disorders are so much more than a personal problem, which means loved ones can make a significant impact.


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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Changing family traditions when there’s an eating disorder

Changing family traditions when there’s an eating disorder

This is an interview in which Ginny Jones, founder of More-Love.org, shares her thoughts on how families can cope with family traditions when there’s an eating disorder in the family.

1. Why might the winter holidays be particularly difficult for individuals affected by eating disorders? What types of challenges might arise in the next few months?

I think the biggest issue is that many families focus on food-based activities for the holidays. And I get it: it makes sense to do things like sip hot cocoa, bake cookies, and gather around a meal. A lot of family traditions focus on food, but that can be hard when there’s an eating disorder in the family.

So I would look carefully at all the family traditions that we’re used to and consider whether there are ways we can make adjustments for the eating disorder. I like to focus on building connections and belonging without food being the central actor. 

When a person has an eating disorder, food-centered activities can be unpleasant. So rethink: can we switch things up? Maybe instead of making cookies, you can play a game. Instead of talking about food, you can talk about what you’re grateful for.

2. What are some factors that families should consider as they think about to what extent they should participate in different traditions and celebrations this year?

I think you really need to plan ahead and think carefully about what you usually do and the state of your family right now. If someone is facing an eating disorder, that means they are in a tough place. And you probably are, too. So I would ask: what are the essentials? What will bring us together? What will feel good? And I would be willing to let things go if they aren’t feeling right this year. 

Just because we’ve done something for a few years or even a few decades doesn’t mean we have to keep doing them. The only thing we really need to keep doing is finding ways to learn and grow together. And this often means trying new things and taking novel approaches to how we belong together.

One of the seldom-discussed but essential elements of recovery is belonging. And I can think of no greater place to belong but in our own families. Yet many people who have eating disorders don’t feel like they belong in their families. 

So this year is a great time to think carefully about that and make sure the priority is focused on belonging rather than food, presents, or other more superficial aspects of the holidays. When families learn to build belonging with a child who is struggling with an eating disorder, they can make a significant impact on that child’s recovery.

3. How can families address unsolicited comments and questions from extended family members? How can families set healthy boundaries?

My first advice is to sit down and devote some time thinking through what is most likely to happen. You’ve known your family a long time, so you probably don’t need to be surprised. Sometimes when we’re afraid of something, we avoid thinking about it, or we think about it unproductively. 

So take some time and actually write down the characters and situations in your family that could be triggering. 

Then think through whether and how you should approach them before the event to kindly let them know if you have any requests. I have some scripts for doing this, but basically, you’re keeping it very specific and short. And you’re usually going to want to sandwich it with comments like “I know how much you love us,” and “we can’t wait to see you.” 

This gives the person the reminder that you know them and love them. And it takes some of the sting out of any requests you’re making.

Remember that hard conversations are, of course, hard. But relationships are living, growing things. They become superficial when we avoid depth and meaning. They falter when we only talk about the good and easy things. Facing hard conversations with family members is challenging. But it’s a healthy challenge to take on, and you will find that even if your family responds poorly to your boundaries, you will still learn and grow and strengthen your own communication skills in the process of talking to them.

4. If someone does notice that a loved one may need a little extra support or is showing symptoms of an eating disorder/relapse, what should/can they do?

My main advice is to stay really tuned into your child’s emotional state at all times, but especially during the holidays. 

By the time you’re seeing behaviors, it may be a bit too late to head them off. So you’re going to want to try and sense how your child is feeling. Often we’ll sense stress, overwhelm, and flooding before, during, and after big family events. So I want parents to tap into those sensations and respond to their child by seeing what’s going on and soothing them before it gets too bad. 

But if you miss the early signs of distress – and of course that happens – just respond as quickly as you can. When we see symptoms of the eating disorder, we want to avoid shame or judgment and respond with compassion. I would say something like “I’m guessing that you feel a bit stressed with everything that’s going on. It makes sense to me that you’re having a hard time. I’m here for you.” 

If you sense your child is distressed during an event, I would immediately take some time away from the group to connect with them and help them feel soothed. The last thing I want a child who has an eating disorder to do is to push down or numb their discomfort, so I teach parents to attend to their kids’ discomfort and help them cope in the safety of their relationship.

Sometimes this makes parents very uncomfortable because it means, in some ways, that they must choose between the comfort of their own parents and their child’s comfort. I understand that it can be terrifying to overcome your own patterns of behavior in your family of origin. However, it’s best if you prioritize your role as a parent and care for your child’s needs. Your parents are grownups; your child is your child. This may feel uncomfortable, but I think when you sit back and think through your values, you’ll see that it makes sense to be the parent your child needs you to be.

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5. How might families adapt their existing traditions to be more recovery-friendly? Or how might families create completely new traditions? 

I think the main thing is to reimagine what the holidays would be like with more connection and belonging and less of an emphasis on food. It’s not that you can’t enjoy food, but I think it’s helpful to de-center it. 

This may be a big shift for some people. For some families, the only way they connect with each other is over food. But I think it’s OK to challenge that assumption – that the only way we connect is through food – and find new ways to connect. You may find that you open up new avenues for belonging and connection, and that is a beautiful thing.

Additionally, you may need to set some boundaries about diet talk and body bashing. If your family has been connecting over this for decades, it’s going to be a hard habit to change. But just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And you don’t have to do this perfectly to get started. 

Start having the tough conversations with your family of origin about how we talk about bodies. You can be the change-maker. You’re allowed to do this, and while it may be hard, it may ultimately open up new avenues for connection and belonging for you and your family members. 

When you have a child who has an eating disorder it can be an opportunity to review your values and determine what you want to continue doing, stop doing, and start doing. This is an amazing chance to see the world through new eyes and try new things. And the work you do on behalf of your child will positively impact you, too! Family traditions can continue with an eating disorder – it’s really just about being thoughtful and planning ahead.

Happy holidays, everyone! xoxo


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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A holiday letter to family about body positivity

A Christmas letter to family about body positivity

If you have adopted body positivity this year, it may help to send a letter to your family to share your new lifestyle in advance of any holiday gatherings. Many families participate in diet and fitness conversations and actively and passively promote the “ideal body.” They may perpetuate the myth that weight can and should be controlled through restrictive eating and over-exercise.

Getting out of the habit of talking about diets and weight can be hard for even the most enlightened family. This letter is designed to help you share your body positivity journey with your extended family during the holidays.

Letter to family about body positivity

Dear Family,

I’m looking forward to seeing you next week for Christmas! In the past year, our family has, for various reasons, embraced a body-positive approach to health. I wanted to tell you a little more about this in advance of the Christmas party so you’re aware of what’s going on with us. 

What is body positivity?

Body positivity has a lot of definitions, but our family defines it as having positive regard for all bodies. This means we respect bodies of all shapes, sizes, and weights. We embrace the truth that bodies come in all sizes and honor people for who they are, not for what they look like. Additionally, we don’t judge people negatively for having a larger body or positively for having a smaller body. We believe that all bodies deserve respect.

As a family, we also have learned about Intuitive Eating, which is a way of approaching health that has nothing to do with weight. With Intuitive Eating, we have learned to nourish our bodies, giving them what they need with joy and compassion. It’s been quite a change from our previous approach of dieting and exercising to meet specific weight goals. 

Why is body positivity important?

Body positivity is an anti-discrimination stance. It’s founded on the belief that all people deserve respect and dignity regardless of their body’s appearance, health status, or ability. For too long our society has ostracized, blamed, and criticized people who fall outside of very narrow body ideals, and adopting body positivity fits our social and political beliefs because it is inclusive and anti-discrimination. 

Aside from lofty ideals, body positivity is also protective against anxiety, depression, suicidality, eating disorders, and other mental and emotional disorders. And – get this – it’s also healthier! People who are body-positive have better health outcomes than people who pursue specific weight goals and body ideals. So in addition to our political beliefs, body positivity is also something we’re doing for the health of each individual in our family.

What does it mean to have a body-positive approach to health?

For us, a body-positive approach to health means that we care for our bodies. We move them, rest them, enjoy them, and feed them. We invest in a whole-body approach to health. The only thing we don’t do is try to contort our bodies into a different weight, size, or shape.

We have gotten rid of our scales and no longer use weight as a measure of health (because it’s not!). We’re not insisting on a sugar-free lifestyle or rigid exercise plans anymore. We’re all enjoying all foods and eating according to our hunger and appetite rather than diet programs. This is incredibly freeing and has positively impacted each of us. We all feel better than ever now that we approach our health from a place of love and acceptance rather than domination and control.

Why are we doing body positivity?

We discovered body positivity earlier this year and have been working on it as a family. Our main goals are twofold. First, body positivity matches our social justice goals as a family. Secondly, body positivity is great for our mental and physical health!

The truth is that all of us were suffering in different ways under our previous lifestyle. While everything we did looked and seemed like it was healthy, the dark truth is that we weren’t actually taking care of ourselves very well. We recognized that something had to change, and when we discovered body-positivity we recognized that it was a massive change in some ways, but ultimately it fits our values much better than the dieting and restricting we did before.

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How body positivity impacts our family

The main thing we’ve learned on this journey is to not judge anyone’s health based on their weight and to stop labeling food as good or bad. It’s all too common to carry unconscious biases about health in our culture. And we’re all influenced by the diet industry that tells us we need to weigh less and eat this/not that, etc. 

Freed from this restrictive view of bodies and health, we now find ourselves identifying how we each feel within our bodies. Now we treat them with the ultimate respect and love they deserve. 

We no longer judge food based on its caloric content or nutritional value. Instead, we seek a varied diet that tastes good and sustains us. Also, we got rid of our scale and have all discovered that not weighing ourselves has taken a huge weight (🤣 haha – couldn’t resist) off our shoulders. 

Of course, we still live in a culture that is critical of bodies, but we’re glad that in our home, bodies are respected and loved exactly as they are.

What this means for you

Of course, this doesn’t have to mean anything to you! But our family gatherings often involve some diet talk and discussion about other people’s and our own weight. So I wanted to give you a heads-up that we’re not going to be participating in those conversations anymore. I know this could be awkward at first. It’s always hard when families change. But please know that we love you very much. And we know that there is so much more we can talk about than weight and nutrition. 

I’m happy to talk to you some more about this if you want to learn more. I look forward to seeing you next week!

Love, me

xoxo


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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6 tips to handle holidays with an eating disorder

6 tips to handle holidays with an eating disorder

The holidays are typically a stressful time, and it can be even harder to handle with an eating disorder. It could seem like a total disaster, or you could look at this as an opportunity to do things differently.

Our kids thrive in a close and connected family. And isn’t that what the holidays are supposed to be about? These tips are designed to help you achieve closer family connections. So you’ll find that what I’m recommending will help everyone in the family – including you – have a more meaningful, less stressful holiday.

1. Focus on feeding and rest

The first and most important thing when your child has an eating disorder is that you need to manage feeding schedules as much as possible. While we would all like to relax during the holidays, when there’s an eating disorder to contend with, we really can’t let up on feeding regularly and adequately. 

You may have heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. All our best, most beautiful plans for the holidays will be derailed if our children’s basic needs are not being met. A child’s basic need for food and rest are both disrupted by an eating disorder, and the holidays will make them even harder to handle. So feeding and rest should be a top priority.

Plan ahead to make sure you have easy, low-stress meals and snacks on hand, and keep to a regular schedule of eating. If there’s a big event that you’re all attending, make sure you feed your child before and after the event.

Prioritize regular bedtimes and plenty of downtime and rest during the day. Our culture glorifies the idea of rushing around during the holidays, trying to cram in everything, and running ourselves ragged. But it’s far better to prioritize rest so you can truly enjoy the meaningful moments when they happen. Slow down and take a mindful approach to the holidays. Less is truly more.

2. Prioritize connection

Once you have figured out the basic needs, you can move up the scale a little bit and focus on belonging and love needs. These needs are met in moments of connection and intimacy with our families. This can take you from managing to “handle” the holidays with an eating disorder to actually enjoying them.

Most of the stress of the holiday season comes from misguided attempts at connection. Rigid traditions that everyone feels obligated to perform are meant to connect, but fail. True belonging comes from authentically enjoying yourself with others. So this year, focus on the things that build connection and let go of the things that don’t.

Traditions build belonging. But they should be regularly evaluated to make sure they’re still doing their job. Create two columns on a piece of paper and write down all the traditions that you typically follow during the holidays on the left side. Now on the right side write down whether these traditions build emotional connections and intimacy. 

It’s not enough to do something because you’ve always done it. Hold your traditions to higher standards and ask: will this build belonging?

If you have a great list of strong traditions that build connections, great! If not, that’s OK! You can try some new traditions this year. Here are some options for connecting that you can consider for your family:

Ways to connect with family

  • Walk: go for a casual walk outdoors and play a game like “I Spy.” 
  • Drive: travel to a beautiful spot in nature and bring a big blanket and hot drinks to share. 
  • Art: get a large piece of paper and different pens and pencils and co-create a “piece of art.”
  • Get Closer: play a game like  Where Should We Begin to learn about each other and build intimacy.
  • Listen: ask each person to suggest a song that represents the past year. Create a playlist and try to guess who chose which song. 
  • Dance: designate a DJ or just pick a playlist, clear out the furniture, and have a dance party.
  • Sit: light (or turn on) a fire, pile the blankets and pillows on the floor, and sit together reading, listening to music or an audiobook, or doing nothing.
  • Make: buy packaged gingerbread house kits and make bizarre gingerbread houses that you would never find in a magazine.

Tip #1: keep these activities short. To optimize the chances of everyone having fun, limit the time you plan for any activity. Let people drift away if they get bored and keep the fun going for the people who want to.

Tip #2: have low expectations. Don’t insist on any activity being magical. Stay loose and be flexible and open to failure. Rigidity isn’t fun.

To handle the holidays with an eating disorder, give yourself the space to reimagine them through an entirely new lens. Ask yourself: am I doing this because we’ve always done it, or am I doing this because it makes us feel connected to each other? Double down on the things that add connection, and drop the rest. You’ll have more time and space and reduce everyone’s stress levels.

3. Know the triggers

If you have large extended family gatherings, then you need to plan ahead. Many of us have magical thinking when it comes to holidays. Despite all evidence to the contrary, we build an image in our head of calm, cozy holidays spent in loving connection with our extended family. 

In this magical dreamland, we fail to prepare ourselves for the realities of our family dynamics.

The way to handle the holidays with an eating disorder is to make sure you have been ruthlessly honest about the most likely triggers your child will face during family events. 

Get a piece of paper and list all the inappropriate or uncomfortable statements and situations around food and body issues that you can think of.

Common family eating disorder triggers:

  • Aunt Bertha likes to talk about what she can and cannot eat on her current diet
  • Grandpa makes comments about what’s on other people’s plates
  • Uncle Jerome is a personal trainer and always talks about “personal goals” and “burn it to earn it.”
  • Grandma will pressure everyone to eat more
  • Cousin Pat will stare at your child and ask why they’re so _____________.

You need to know the potential triggers to have any hope of navigating them gracefully. Most of us don’t prepare and then react and don’t feel great about it. Then we may spend hours after family events reviewing what we said or didn’t say. Flip that around and invest the time up-front to think about what might go wrong so you’re not blindsided. 

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4. Set boundaries

Once you have your list of triggers, you can come up with boundaries and responses. Here are some boundaries I recommend every family sets during the holidays when dealing with an eating disorder (or actually anytime!): 

  1. No talking about weight or bodies (positively or negatively), like:
    • You have an amazing metabolism and can eat whatever you want
    • Have you gained weight?
    • My doctor says I need to lose weight for my health
    • You look so skinny!
    • She is always watching her figure – and it shows!
    • I’m concerned about your weight because I worry about your health
  1. No talking about what people are eating (positively or negatively), like:
    • Wow – that plate is really full!
    • I can’t eat that – I’m being good today
    • She eats like a horse and doesn’t gain an ounce
    • I’ve been eating keto and feel 100x better now
    • Have a piece of this – I made it just for you!
    • Are you sure you want seconds?

If you are faced with a boundary violation in real-time, it’s best if you say something at the moment to redirect the conversation and protect your child from additional triggers.

Good responses for boundary violations: 

  • I know you’re trying to help, but we’ve got this, thanks!
  • Let’s talk about something else now
  • I know how important this is to you, but we don’t talk about people’s weight
  • Did you know we’re going to Hawaii next week?
  • Can we talk about something else?
  • We don’t talk about what people weigh/eat
  • I’d rather you didn’t say things like that
  • Eyes on your own plate!
  • Did you see Aunt Lena’s new clogs? They’re wild! 

If boundaries are repeatedly violated and/or you can sense that your child is becoming distressed, it’s OK to take a break from the party or leave altogether. Your child’s emotional safety is your priority, so while it can be awkward, it is within your role as a parent to make that decision.

Remember that everyone has a right to do what they want to do. And there are often consequences. For example, Uncle Jim has a right to talk about his diet, and you have a right to ask him to stop and/or leave the conversation if you want to. The less you make it about controlling Uncle Jim and the more you make it about choosing your responses, the better it will feel for everyone.

5. Check in on your child

Once the holidays begin it can be hard to slow down. But remember that stress is like a snowball that rolls and grows if not interrupted. Check in with your child every day to gauge how things are going. What is their stress level? How are they feeling? Are their eating disorder behaviors getting worse?

If your child is becoming stressed, consider changing your plans for the day or even the whole week. Going back to Maslow’s hierarchy, your child’s physiological needs must be met for them to find any level of comfort and enjoyment this holiday. Are they getting enough sleep? Enough food? 

If stress is a problem, learn emotional co-regulation skills so you can help bring your child into an emotionally regulated spot before any holiday events. This is a skill every parent who has a child with an eating disorder should learn. Check out this eBook for help

6. Embrace the mess

Finally, embrace the mess of the holidays. You’re doing your best. Your best is enough. No holiday is perfect, and it doesn’t need to be perfect. When parents strive for perfection they usually add to the stress. So relax. Be kind to yourself. And remember that this is a short period of time in a lifetime of love and connection with your child. 


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.

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Why I think eating disorder treatment often doesn’t work

Why I think eating disorder treatment often doesn’t work

Many parents who have a child with an eating disorder face years of treatment that doesn’t seem to work. It’s frustrating to try so hard and spend so much money and energy working against an eating disorder that won’t budge. So what’s missing? Why is this so common?

First, of course, eating disorder treatment works for many people. But it’s also true that eating disorder treatment doesn’t work for other people.

I’m not criticizing any of the hard-working professionals in the eating disorder field. Nor do I suggest we throw out what’s already working, but I do wonder: what’s missing? What else could we be doing to make a greater impact on shortening the duration and reducing the severity of many eating disorders?

What’s missing?

A big part of the problem is that eating disorder research is chronically underfunded. So compared to almost any other serious condition, there is relatively little scientific data to work with. Most of what we know about treating eating disorders comes from small studies, trial and error, and is the result of tremendous effort by parents, professionals, and people who have/had eating disorders. 

My unique perspective on eating disorders comes from a combination of research and lived experience. I had an eating disorder for most of my life. Since recovering, I’ve been dedicated to understanding, decoding, and writing about eating disorders. 

My coaching work with parents who have kids with eating disorders has shown me just how frustrating traditional treatment can be. Meanwhile, my work with professionals shows me how much they care and how much they want to help. And in talking with people who have/had eating disorders, I know they’re frustrated, too. 

So what do I think is missing from most eating disorder treatments? Why does eating disorder treatment often have frustratingly elusive results?

Here are some of my current opinions and thoughts about why eating disorders remain so difficult.

emotional regulation

Why an eating disorder?

When working with a family that has an eating disorder the first thing I want to know is “What is driving this behavior?” When eating disorder treatment doesn’t work, I wonder whether we understand what’s driving it.

Eating disorders don’t come out of nowhere. They have a reason and a purpose. When we address the reason and purpose for the eating disorder we can treat it more effectively.

When a child rejects food, binge eats, or purges, I want to know what’s going on beneath the behavior. What’s driving it? 

The old way of thinking about negative behaviors was that the child was “abnormal,” “manipulative,” or “looking for attention.” But what we’ve learned from recent developments in neuroscience is that in fact, behavior is a way for a person to meet a primal need for emotional safety. 

💡 Emotional safety: when a person’s nervous system, beliefs, and thoughts are cohesive, calm, secure, engaged, relaxed, and open to other people.

Once we learn to address emotional safety, we can help the person feel better. And most of the time when a person feels better they will have less need for the behavior and be in a position to learn cognitive skills for managing the urge to perform the behavior. It is virtually impossible to utilize cognitive skills and knowledge when you lack emotional safety.

💡 Cognitive skills: using your prefrontal cortex to acquire knowledge, manipulate information, and reason.

Diving in with cognitive skills for managing eating disorder behaviors is where most treatment begins. But its effectiveness is limited because an eating disorder is not typically a cognitive, conscious process. It does not arise from conscious thought. Therefore it’s not a choice. It is in response to the need for emotional safety. 

A bottom-up behavior

Treatment often involves telling people that their eating disorder is dangerous, will hurt their health, etc., and provides strategies for overcoming urges. This may give us insight into why eating disorder treatment often doesn’t work. While these top-down approaches may be perfectly logical and technically useful, they are all cognitive. And since eating disorder behaviors are bottom-up vs. top-down behaviors, they often fail to make a difference. 

💡 Bottom-up: arising from the nervous system, primitive areas of the brain, embedded memories, etc

💡 Top-down: arising from conscious thought; using cognition and language

I believe that almost all eating disorders begin with bottom-up issues. Therefore to help a child recover from an eating disorder we need to address bottom-up processes. This is done using something called emotional regulation

💡 Emotional regulation: the act of noticing, accepting, and processing signals from the nervous system to achieve a calm, engaged emotional state.

Once they have learned emotional regulation, a person’s urges for eating disorder behaviors are greatly reduced. In this place, they are available to do cognitive work on the eating disorder. 

Bottom-up processes drive most compulsive behavior. Therefore until we address these processes, we will not be successful in our top-down treatments.

💡 Compulsive behavior: a behavior that is not driven by logical, conscious choices, including most eating disorder behaviors. The person feels “driven” to complete the behavior even if consciously they do not want to and/or are ashamed of the behavior.

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Why the eating disorder exists

Rushing into treatment strategies without understanding the “why” of the eating disorder is typically an exercise in frustration for everyone (the child, parents, siblings, treatment providers, etc.). 

You can tell your child that they need to eat or stop purging for months and years with very little impact. This isn’t because what you’re saying isn’t true. It’s also not because your child is hopeless or disrespectful. It’s because treatment is working on the wrong end of the equation

The more we push cognitive processes in eating disorder treatment, the deeper the eating disorder may dive. It can be incomprehensible that with all this knowledge and expensive treatment a child still doesn’t get better. Especially because many times the child is engaging in treatment and telling you they want to get better. But once you understand the role of top-down vs. bottom-up processes it makes a lot of sense.

Typically we focus on making them eat, stopping the binge or purge, etc. But without understanding and addressing the “why” or the driver of the eating disorder, which typically lives in the emotional (non-cognitive) system, we will likely see very little change. 

Seeking behavioral compliance without understanding why the behavior exists is a recipe for frustration and ineffective treatment.

Bottom-up treatment for eating disorders

I’m not suggesting that all eating disorder treatment is ineffective. After all, many people do recover using current standards of care. What I do think we need to see happen however is the addition of bottom-up treatments.

Today we have the power of neuroscience. We understand the nervous system in ways we never did before. Research and insights from people like Drs. Daniel Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson, Pat Ogden, Peter Levine, and Stephen Porges help us understand behavioral problems through an entirely new lens.

This new lens is being applied in many areas, including treatment for ADHD and autism. I believe it should be applied in the treatment of eating disorders. And parents and professionals who are doing this are seeing positive results.

I don’t think we need to completely overthrow current treatment, but I do think we’re missing out on huge opportunities to treat the bottom-up side of eating disorders. Here are the things I’d like to see added to treatment:

Professional therapies

Today most treatment focuses on medical (weight and bloodwork), psychological (cognitive therapy), and nutritional. These are all necessary and helpful. But I’d like to see an expansion into therapies that address the nervous system. These can include things like: 

  • Somatic therapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing)
  • Vagus nerve exercises and toning
  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Trauma-informed massage and bodywork

These therapies don’t rely on cognitive processes but instead tap into the body to soothe and regulate the nervous system. Just like with traditional therapies, it is important to check the professional’s credentials, training, and track record in working with trauma and eating disorders. One caution is that working with the body like this requires a great deal of skill and conscious attunement. This is still a new and growing area of treatment, so pay attention to how it feels and seek another option if you sense it’s not having a positive impact.

Parent treatment

Today most treatment focuses on the child who has an eating disorder. When parents are involved, it’s typically in the areas of feeding, possibly attending some family therapy (cognitive), and getting the child to treatment appointments. These are necessary and helpful. 

But I’d like to see an expansion of the parent role into learning how to use emotional co-regulation to help the child. Our children are not born with the ability to self-regulate. They learn how to do this with our support and through repeated experiences of co-regulating with us. Parents who learn to intentionally co-regulate with a child who is struggling with behavioral disorders can make a huge impact. It takes some training and practice, but it can also transform your relationship and ability to support your child’s recovery.

To get started, you can download my eBook: Emotional Regulation Skills for Parents Who Have Kids With Eating Disorders. In this eBook you’ll learn how to recognize the different emotional states and how to respond, plus powerful worksheets to help you get started.

A new way forward

My experience in working with parents and professionals is that everyone desperately wants to help kids recover from eating disorders. I do not believe there is a lack of trying or love in the treatment of eating disorders. But I do think there is room to expand professional treatment and empower parents to engage more fully in effective treatment. 


Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders and body hate.

She’s the founder of More-Love.org and a Parent Coach who helps parents who have kids with eating disorders and other struggles.