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7 Hurtful Things People Have Said About My Daughter's Eating Disorder

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My beautiful, blue-eyed daughter has recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder at the tender age of 7. While some people have been very supportive, others have said things that really hurt. Here are the most hurtful things I’ve been told so far:

1. “She’ll eat when she’s hungry!”

No, she will not. If she did, she wouldn’t have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. She doesn’t ask for food or drink, and isn’t aware when she’s hungry. She would go all day without drinking or eating and not even realize.

2. “That’s what happens when you give in to fussy children!”

Is giving my daughter the food she’ll actually eat and keeping her alive giving in to her?Should I let her starve herself to the point of requiring medical attention just so that I don’t “give in” to her? There’s a clear distinction between a child with fussy eating, a child with major sensory issues and a child with a complex eating disorder.

3. “Maybe if you let her make food she’d eat it.”

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

4. “Can’t you just force feed her?”

Yes, there have been times where I’ve had to almost force vital medications into her and spoon feed her yogurt or pureed fruit just to get something inside her. But force feeding her would only have a huge psychological impact on her mental well-being. It would send her the message that she has no control. When I tried feeding her before, she’d simply vomit it back up. She needs to be able to control what goes inside her mouth and learn that food is good. I need to teach her that eating is positive, not a forced issue that creates distrust and upset.

5. “You should try taking cooking classes. Maybe she just doesn’t like your cooking.”

This’s implying I’m the cause of my child’s mental disorder. Thanks. Have you seen the meals I make for my children? I don’t need guilt heaped on me on top of the stress I already have. That only makes things worse.

6. “They never had such rubbish in my day. You just ate what was put in front of you.”

I’m so glad you were able to eat the food you were given. But I’m also very confident there were children and adults around in “your day” who had eating disorders. As awareness grows and more people are willing to talk about these things, the more it may “appear” — but that doesn’t mean it’s just a symptom of “kids these days.”

7. “Let me have her for a week and I’ll cure her.”

Thank you once agin for making me feel inferior and inadequate. What you may not realize is that my daughter’s issues run deep. She requires patience, understanding and love. I would love one day for her to be “cured,” but until then we work daily with psychologists, her school, pediatricians and a dietician to monitor her mental well-being and physical health. Would you manage to juggle all of that?

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

So what could you say to me instead?

How about, “Do you fancy a coffee and a chat?” Or simply celebrate the good days with me when she manages her first bag of chips or half of a banana. We’re not going anywhere. And sadly neither is her eating disorder. Whatever the future holds, I’ll be right there holding my daughter’s hand. We will get through this together.

Follow this journey on Faithmummy.

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Originally published: January 29, 2016
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