Surefire Ways To Give Your Kid An Eating Disorder
The writer of this blog post linked it on an international online forum for eating disorder professionals. I and a handful of the 1770 members have asked the writer to reconsider the title and the implication that parents can "give your kid an eating disorder."
I wrote a comment on the blog but it has not been published. I posted it again on the online forum and on Facebook and repeat it below. The author responded briefly on one forum defending her post and has not changed the title.
I'd like to suggest, if you too are alarmed by the post, that you politely and respectfully join me in sharing that with the author. Once out there, pieces like this can spread and undermine the heroic work of families to overcome stigma and guilt and blame.
"My heart breaks a bit to read this article. Eating disorders are mental illnesses that need no cause, influence, or trauma to occur. They happen in all kinds of families. In fact, there is no evidence that parenting style or action can influence the risk of an eating disorder. This is a common misperception and tempting idea, but one that confuses the normal range of eating and body dissatisfaction present in human beings with what we now know is a terribly serious mental illness like schizophrenia or autism. Does parenting matter? Of course, but when it comes to an eating disorder where parenting matters most is in how we help get evidence-based treatment and we participate fully in the treatment and support.
The idea that we can give our kids eating disorders is no more true than we can give our children Type 1 diabetes by giving them sugar, or autism by being cold and distant, or schizophrenia by inconsistent parenting.
I share your distaste and join with you in calling out parents who are abusive, withholding, inconsistent, or poor role models. Those are terrible things that cause damage to any child. For someone with an eating disorder, parenting like this is a further injury, but it is so very important to know that a loved one with an eating disorder doesn’t say ANYthing about the family or parents – or even the patient – except that they have a treatable mental disorder."
Her responses, with her permission:
The author and I have exchanged some messages and I asked her permission to share her response and she said yes:
I appreciate your concern. My intention is not to say parents THE cause of eating disorders, but their actions can certainly cause children to have low self-esteem, trauma and body dissatisfaction which can lead to eating disorders. Of course there are other causes like mental illness which you mentioned. I am sorry to hear you and your daughter have gone through that and I am glad to hear she has recovered. My point in this article is not to point blame, but to encourage people to look at their behavior and be more aware of how they unconsciously impact children. The title of the article creates a visceral response and sometimes that is needed for people to really listen to the message.
I appreciate your response but I'm afraid you and I are far, far apart on what we believe eating disorders are, and what "blame" means. What you call a 'visceral response' I would characterize as manipulative and cruel.
The best analogy I can give you is to exchange autism for eating disorders in your post, and imagine you were encouraging parents of kids with autism to be aware of how their coldness and distance unconsciously impacted their kids.
I am so saddened for the parents who will see your piece. Truly.