How can I best support my child with food?

Your loved one’s ‘non-compliance’ surrounding food may outwardly look like an act of defiance/resistance/unwillingness to engage in recovery.

Underneath the surface, it is far deeper than this.  Your loved one is most likely grappling with debilitating fear that makes food feel impossible.

But below the terror… what is there?

A life-or-death Situation

For someone experiencing an eating disorder the sheer terror that comes with fighting their own mind is similar to that of being faced with a life-or-death situation.

This distress is so difficult to fight that often one may act out in a fight response, flight response or completely shut down and freeze.

It is in these moments that your loved one needs you more than ever.  

Remain with them and remind them they are loved and safe.

A life-or-death Situation


Your loved one will most likely be facing intense torment and backlash from their eating disorder mindset for doing, and even considering doing, the thing they are being told not to do.

This brutal rhetoric is constant, yet often heightens during meal times, rendering the true self debilitated.

Remind your loved on you are right there with them and you see the pain they are in.

An inability to trust their body

For someone with an eating disorder, this fear is so very real and perpetually present.  We have been conditioned to believe by our eating disorder mindset that food is unsafe and our bodies cannot be trusted.  The fear that comes with weight gain/bodily changes creates enormous distress.

It is important that you remind us we are safe and we can trust you.  

Rather than focusing on food/bodily changes, bring attention to the present and help them sit with this distress.  It will pass.

An internal war

An internal war between wanting to believe something different and listening to what feels safe, comfortable and provides (temporary) relief.

Understand that this is the reality for those with an eating disorder.

We have to choose every second of every day to actively trust in something other than our eating disorder mindset.

Negative self-beliefs

A series of underlying negative beliefs about our true self often prevents us from feeling as if we are worthy, deserving or capable of doing what seems impossible.

Stressors – Something else may be going on

Has your loved one had a particularly hard day?  Is there something going on which is causing them to feel overwhelmed?

Paying attention to what is going on for them may give you an indication of why food is particularly hard at this current moment.

Often our minds use situational evidence to provide a reason as to why food cannot be done.

Fear of what our ED mindset will do to us after we eat

The distress of knowing the backlash that we are going to endure from our minds after eating … is terrifying.

Be present with your loved one even after the meal is done.  Remind them that they are safe.  Being alone with our minds is often the most isolating time of all.

Distraction/self-soothing techniques may be useful during this time.


Families and Carers need skills and EDucation.

Families and carers are often overwhelmed and unprepared for what is happening to their loved one.

We recognise that families caring for someone with an eating disorder need skills and EDucation.. 

Patience, compassion and understanding what is happening is vital.


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