Monday, January 25, 2021

Eating Disorders Tools for the Dog Days of Summer

How can parents respond to the defensiveness of an eating disorder?

We are in the midst of summer now, constantly barraged with advertisements showing airbrushed and photoshopped models in barely-there bikinis—images that can be severely destructive to a person’s self-esteem. Even the most self-confident person can be affected by these images. For those with eating disorders they can be deadly.

As a family member of someone with an eating disorder, it is important to be aware of  excuses and defensiveness, especially during this time of the year when thin, toned and tanned bodies are “expected” at the water. Most importantly as a parent it is to crucial to understand how to respond to these excuses and defensiveness. Here are a few examples of what a family member might hear during an eating disorder:


-I ate at my friend’s house. I don’t need dinner.
-Why are you always in my business?
-What difference does it make to you what I eat?
-Are you happy now? These shorts that used to be loose are now tight!
-I hate my life. Will I ever be happy?

I welcome your feedback on what has worked (and not worked) in your household and also the comments of therapists and dieticians who specialize in treating eating disorders.

A couple of tips I give my parent clients are:
1. Try responding with a question that begins with “How” or “What” (NOT “why”).
2. Separate the child from the eating disorder and let him/her know you’ll speak to your child not the eating disorder.

These are a few suggestions from the National Eating Disorders Association toolkit for Parents on how to be supportive:

-Be patient and nonjudgmental
-Be honest
-Let him/her know you only want the best for him/her
-Don’t take the person’s actions personally
-Listen openly and reflectively
-Talk with the person in a kind way when you are calm and not angry, frustrated, or upset.

You can view the whole list here by clicking on #4 How to be supportive –

Summer can be a tough time for families suffering from eating disorders, but these tools can help you get through the dog days. My best advice: don’t forget to take care of yourself and find a time to have some fun!

Becky Henry

Founder, Hope Network, LLC

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