time for us to listen to our instincts

Wisdom from a wise parent on the ATDT forum:

"Dear S,

I agree wholeheartedly with you that parents should trust their instincts and that food, not doctors, gives parents and kids strength.

For too long we parents have assumed that professionals have some secret treatment for anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. We've been led to believe that if we turn our kids over to them, they'll use great wisdom and scientific knowledge and will know the right cure.

It's an illusion.

The best available evidence is that when parents, not professionals, are in charge, with the right supports, they are best equipped to heal their children and adolescents. Further, the best available evidence shows that food, and lots of it, not talk, is the top priority in recovery.

Our gut parental instinct is to feed our kids when they are starving. That instinct has been side-tracked by well-meaning but misinformed speculation by certain schools of psychotherapy that assume eating disorders are caused by trauma and interpersonal conflict and that anxiety and conflict should be minimized in treatment, not faced head on. That school of thought has done huge damage. It has allowed sufferers to starve to death and it has disabled parents with feelings of unwarranted guilt and powerlessness. It's time for parents to take back the agenda. The older models of treatment have been around for several decades and haven't shown any measurable success. In fact, it's to the point where old theories of treatment are not even being tested any more using modern methods of systematic scientific inquiry. The proponents of the older theories are afraid, in my experience, to subject their methods to public scrutiny.

Our gut instinct as parents includesthe wisdom of earlier generations. Over the ages, peoplehave faced all kinds of fears and anxieties, and as a species we have learned, by trial and error, how toovercome them. My favorite advice is from"Falling off Your Horse; Getting Over an Unscheduled Dismount.

As soon as you can do so, climb back into that saddle, even if its just for a short walk around the arena. This will prevent a single spill from turning into the snowballing
nightmare of anticipating another. Facing fears directly is the only way to overcome them. If we don't, our fears will grow into looming dread. In other words, if you don't get right back on that horse, it will only become harder to do so."

On this forum we say, "If you aren't catching flak, you're not over the target."

Our kids have fallen of their food horses. They need a boost from us to get back on, and they need the boost right away.

Parents of eating disordered kids are,based on my personal experience and confirmed in scientific studies, among the most loving, devoted, conscientious, intelligent and persistent people anywhere. It really is time for us to listen to our instincts. "


  1. Charlotte Bevan UK1:56 PM, August 11, 2010

    From one who has flown in the face of professional advice and even got rid of those professionals and struck out on my own.

    Dear S

    I have NO doubt in mind that if I had not followed my instincts and fed my daughter (with a lot of emotional support and practical backup from the forum), she would, today, either be in hospital or dead.

    Maternal instinct has saved many children's lives outside the twilight zone that is the eating disorder world, where I lurk now.

    Every day I watch as someone else finds the courage to follow their instincts and every day we read another story of hope, rather than dismay.

    It keeps me sane in a disordered world. It also kept my daughter alive so that she can now return to the happy, beautiful, clever bundle of cuddles that she was before ed came to visit.

  2. Fantastic post. Children with eating disorders need to have strict supervision every hour of every day and be required to eat normally, no restricting, no binge eating, no purging. This should be the firm expectation and every resource should be brought to bear to make this happen for every child who has the grave misfortune to have one of these serious, life threatening mental illnesses. Being able to eat normally is one of life's most basic necessities, and with the proper help, most of them can be brought to the mental health required to do this. Therapy of a couple of hours a week without the intense parental support all the rest of the hours just can't cut it for an illness that is this serious.

  3. Even though I am a doctor, I wholeheartedly support the thesis of this article. And I had to laugh at the term "unscheduled dismount", which I think all humans-- and certainly all of us parents-- can relate to



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