Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do Parents Cause Eating Disorders?

If you know me at all or have heard me talk, you know I am constantly shouting from the rooftops that PARENTS DON'T CAUSE EATING DISORDERS!  Now, it's one thing for me to share this from all the research I have done but here I want to back that up with the paper released recently by the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED).  It is in a pdf and the link is here:

Here is an excerpt from the paper:
"The AED stands firmly against any model of eating disorders in which family influences are seen as the primary cause of eating disorders, condemns statements that blame families for their child's illness, and recommends that families be included in the treatment of younger patients, unless this is clearly ill advised on clinical grounds."

I welcome your experiences as a parent.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

ANAD Eating Disorders Conference

Before I get onto the next topic that I committed to discuss here... I feel compelled to share the info on the 2011 ANAD conference in Chicago May 6th!  Hope to see you all there!

Happy Halloween ~

ANAD 2011 Midwest Eating Disorders Conference

ANAD is pleased to announce the professional eating disorders conference: “Wellness, not Weight-the Changing Focus of Eating Disorders.”  It will be open to clinicians, educators, friends and families affected by eating disorders.  The conference is co-sponsored by Linden Oaks Hospital and Rogers Memorial Hospital.   Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD  will be the keynote speaker on May 6, 2011 at the Oakbrook Marriott, Illinois.

CEU’s will be offered. Registration begins in January 2011.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What to do if your child has an eating disorder

In thinking about how to best respond to and discuss this article in which Hope Network was featured I became a bit overwhelmed as many topics surfaced that come to mind after reading Beth's well written article.

So, I decided to do a series addressing the different concepts I feel are so important to address.

Over the next few weeks (using that timeframe loosely) I'll be discussing these:
1. Diets turning deadly/"War on Obesity"
2. Blaming Parents...this will change in our lifetime if it is the last thing I do.
3. Medical professionals not taking eating disorders seriously.
4. Shame/Stigma/barriers to treatment
6. The wonderful work the Joy Project is doing-
Joy Project -- Grassroots nonprofit, networking self-advocacy website that provides information about support groups, treatment options,
7. Genetic predispostions - (will come up in some of the above but cannot be talked about enough.
8. Evidence Based Treatments - FBT
9. More on what parents/carers can do.

There, now it's out there and I'm committed.

Thank you again Beth Dooley and Star Tribune for addressing this important and often avoided topic.

Beth Dooley is a freelance writer, cookbook author and frequent contributor to: Delta Sky Magazine, Mpls StPaul Magazine and Minneapolis Star Tribune

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tele-Class for Parents of a child with an Eating Disorder

Thursday, November 4 through December 16, 7:00 to 8:30 pm.

We Understand – We've Been There – We Want To Hear You

...Eating Disorders Tele-Classes

√ Are you feeling alone in how to cope with an eating disorder in someone you care about?

√ Do you want a safe anonymous place to learn more about eating disorders with others?

√ Would knowing what to say and do empower you to better someone in recovery?

Hope Network and Pivotal Crossings have partnered to host the following Educational Tele-classes dealing with one of life's most challenging experiences -- being a family member of an individual with an eating disorder.

Learn from the experts and peers who have experience in moving forward with their lives in the face of this mental illness.

Week One -- Topics for this first session will focus on eating disorders vs. disordered eating; practical tools for staying in balance and how to deal with our emotions.

Week Two -- Learn to separate your loved one from the eating disorder; maintaining boundaries, asking for help, styles of transition and how we handle adjustments.

Week Three -- We will address the number one myth that parents/family cause eating disorders; embracing family conflict; and readjusting to a new world of family dynamics.

Week Four -- We are all lost with what to say/not say - what to do/not do, how to build bridges and make transitions work and learn to forgive ourselves and others.

Week Five -- This session will concentrate on hidden losses - loss of dreams; riding the rollercoaster of emotions and exceptional books and resources.

Week Six --The focus of this last session will include types of treatment; using your strengths for positive change and honoring your gifts.

Presenters -- Becky Henry Speaker and Eating Disorders Family Coach. She is the author of Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders. Rita Goldhammer is a leadership coach, author, and facilitator who encourages others to embrace major life transitions and losses. Her most recent book, Enrich Your Caregiving Journey, is dedicated to one of the most stressful transitions: caregiving.

Pricing -- Tele-class Registration is $70 per person for this six-week PILOT series ($150 value – less than half for this premiere). The six-weekly sessions are designed to be taken in order. Sessions will be recorded and available if you miss a session. Register for the Series -- Register online by at or call 952-451-5663 or 763-784-4841 for assistance and questions.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Families and eating disorders recovery

It has been a while since I've written as I've been busy with the writing final pieces for the book and reading it aloud to make sure it is complete.

In reading through Carolyn Costin's chapter I came across what she shared about including families in recovery and wanted to share with you:

"When families are included in the recovery process, they can be trained to see the eating disorder is a part of the person but that the healthy person is also still there. This helps significant others work with us to strengthen their loved one's healthy self.

I find it very annoying when I hear that parents are told their loved ones will not fully recover. Although it takes a long time, studies show that in 7 to 10 years, people can be fully recovered. More recent studies are showing that with family involvement the recovery is much shorter." ~ Carolyn Costin, MFT Founder of Monte Nido Treatment Center in Malibu, CA

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Is Maudsley Family Based Therapy Still Obscure?

As happy as I was to see this article in the Seattle Times I was a bit disappointed to see Maudsley Family Based Therapy(MFBT) STILL being referred to as "obscure." 

Check it out and let me know your thoughts:

What can we each be doing on a daily basis to let health care providers know about eating disorders and the different treatment options?  Sending this article is one way.  What other ideas do you have?

One thing I love doing is speaking to the groups of health care providers, they are hungry (sorry for the bad pun but I couldn't resist) for this information. 

I love what psychologist Dr. Sarah Ravin says about the family role in MFBT, "If a 15-year-old had a bottle of vodka before school every morning would you say, 'Well, that adolescent is asserting her need for control, so parents back off?"" Ravin said. "No, because drinking alcohol before school is not OK."

I love this about the MFBT approach that includes the family in recovery.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Feed Me!: We need more FBT therapists!

We need more therapists trained in Family Based Therapy (FBT)! Now is your chance - training this fall in Chicago.

Feed Me!: We need more FBT therapists!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Eating disorders and tooth damage

An article by Julie Dearborff in the Chicago Tribune on August 10th talks about 5 threats to teeth which includes eating disorders. Here is what she had to say about that:

"Eating disorders
. Dentists are actually on the front lines when it comes to spotting eating disorders since mouth changes are often the first physical signs, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. Up to 89 percent of bulimic patient show signs of tooth erosion due to frequent vomiting and nutritional deficiencies. Stomach acid can render the teeth brittle, weak and translucent. Teeth can also change in color, shape and length as well as become more sensitive to temperature. Tooth decay, meanwhile, can be aggravated by extensive tooth brushing or rinsing following vomiting."

What has your experience been? I had hoped bi-annual trips to the dentist would help us get a diagnosis for my daughter but just like she was trying to be --- her teeth were perfect. The good news was there was no enamel erosion, the bad news was the diagnosis got delayed.

Would love to hear your stories of eating disorders and teeth.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bulimia Research Study

Thank you Maudsley Parents for sharing this important information!

Eating Disorders Research

Bulimia Research Study

Principal Investigator: Angela Guarda, M.D.

The Johns Hopkins Eating Disorders Program is seeking women 18-40 years old with bulimia nervosa interested in a research study funded by the Klarman Family Foundation. The study includes a health assessment, blood testing and pictures of the brain taken using a medical scanner. Eligible women will be paid up to $400 for their participation and will be offered 6 weeks of outpatient treatment. Please call (410) 955-3863 for more information.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Peter McClellan Radio Show Interview

Last December I drove through a snow storm to be interviewed on the Peter McClellan Show. It was totally worth driving for an hour in a snowstorm to meet with him. Peter is a financial planner with Geneos Wealth Management and on his radio show he spotlights other entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities.

I was fortunate to receive his "Braveheart Award" for rising about life's circumstances and living my life with passion and inspiration! Peter is Scottish and invites his "friend" Angus along to the show. It was quite fun to watch Peter switch from American (Minnesotan) English to Angus with his heavy Scottish Brogue.

Enjoy the fun interview here: (who knew talking about something as serious as eating disorders could be fun?)


I did some group coaching last night with some amazing Mary Kay consultants. We did some work on self limiting beliefs and creating new beliefs that are self expanding!

Here are the basics:
Write down what your situation is - ie; cold calling or my child with an eating disorder will never get well

Then make this chart and fill it out in the order shown:
Old Belief Behavior Outcome/Result
1 2 3

New Belief Behavior Outcome/Result
6 5 4

Then ask yourself:
What new behaviors are you committing to tonight? How will you stay accountable for them?

Let me know what you find out and if you need accountability, call me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

War on Obesity...not my choice of words

As someone who cares about a person impacted by an eating disorder are you feeling helpless? So many families/friends tell me they feel hopeless, helpless and want to help but don't feel there is anything they can do. In addition to encouraging your loved one to get treatment (if they are over 18 and you can't make them) so that you can enjoy life with them again, you can take action. Here is one way you can help get more attention to eating disorders so that help will be more accessible.

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 11:14 AM PDT
TIME SENSITIVE Action Alert! Ask Michelle Obama to address eating disorders!

Posted: 29 Jun 2010 07:06 AM PDT
TIME SENSITIVE Action Alert! Ask Michelle Obama to address eating disorders!
The Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) is working with Congressman Alcee Hastings, who cares about eating disorders and is asking Michelle Obama to expand her Childhood Obesity Initiative so that it also addresses eating disorders. Congressman Hastings has written the below letter to the First Lady and is looking for additional Members of Congress to join him in taking a stand for eating disorders by signing onto this letter.
This is where you come in!
We ask that you call your Representative in the House and ask her/him to sign onto this letter. Deadline for signing on is close of business Thursday, July 1st.
This is important. We have an opportunity to influence Michelle Obama's initiative so that it is more comprehensive and addresses the spectrum of eating disorders as well as obesity.
If you do one thing today - have it be this. Contact your Representative now.
Here's how:
1) Who is my Representative? If you don't know who your representative is
- go to
- put your 9 digit zip code into the box in upper left corner
- This will take you to your Representative
2) Calling your Rep
- Call 202-224-3121 which is the Capitol Switchboard and ask for your Rep's office. They will connect you
Tell the person answering that you are a constituent of Congressman/woman XX and that you would like him/her to sign onto Alcee Hastings letter that urges Michelle Obama to incorporate eating disorders into her childhood obesity campaign. The deadline for signing onto the letter is July 1st.
The receptionist may transfer you to the health legislative assistant who is in charge of this issue. You then repeat your message. You can get this person's email address and send the letter below.
More message:
Everyday people are dying of eating disorders yet this reality remains unrecognized and hidden. When there is such a focus on weight as is the case in the First Lady's initiative - this invariably results in some people using risky weight loss methods, the increase of weight-related stigma and bullying, and developing eating disorders. Unless Michelle Obama overtly includes a discussion of eating disorders in her efforts there is the unintended possibility that her campaign will do harm. If your boss adds his/her name to this letter it will help influence the First Lady's Initiative so that it is comprehensive and promotes health for all children.
If the office wants to sign on to this letter, they should contact Amye Greene at 5-1313 or This is for Members of Congress and their staff ONLY - please do not contact Amye as an advocate. If advocates have questions please contact Jeanine at the EDC at
The Sign-On Letter:
June 28, 2010
The First Lady of the United States
The White House
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear First Lady Michelle Obama,
Thank you for championing the health and welfare of our nation’s children through the Let’s Move Campaign. Let’s Move has brought historic attention to the importance of addressing one the most serious public health concerns of today. However, we believe that broadening Let’s Move’s focus to include information about eating disorders would enhance the campaign’s mission to improve the mental and physical health of all children.
We understand that obesity and eating disorders have distinct health impacts, and believe that the prevalence of these disorders indicates the need for comprehensive and well-coordinated interventions that support healthier habits and environments. Like obesity, unhealthy weight loss measures, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) have increased significantly over the past few decades. In fact, more than 11 million men, women and children suffer from an eating disorder in the United States.
In a speech that publicly introduced the Let’s Move Campaign, you stated that unhealthy diets and habits can negatively influence physical, emotional and educational development and well-being. Eating disorders are no exception. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that undernourishment impacts a student’s ability to excel academically, and suicide, anxiety and depression are more common in people with eating disorders. Eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, and can result in long-term health issues including heart and kidney failure, cognitive impairment, muscle atrophy and sudden death.
Like obesity, eating disorders afflict children of different ages, genders, economic backgrounds, and ethnicities. At least 30-40 percent of junior high students have reported dieting, over half of high-school girls have reported dieting, and 25 percent of bulimia and anorexia cases are men. What’s more, student athletes can be especially vulnerable to eating disorders because some adopt unhealthy dietary restrictions and weight loss methods to achieve or maintain a certain weight for competition. Many obese individuals resort to unhealthy weight loss tactics and may develop eating disorders in an attempt to achieve a desired weight or body image.
Strong environmental, cultural, social factors have contributed to the high rates of obesity and eating disorders in the United States. Stigma, blame and misinformation often accompany these conditions. Coordinated efforts among educators, elected officials, parents, community leaders and young people are crucial to executing sustainable solutions to these public health problems. We believe that Let’s Move Campaign’s mission is compatible with messages and interventions that are designed to address eating disorders. Educators could incorporate information about unhealthy dieting when providing information about healthy food choices. Speeches and parental toolkits could include information about risks, signs and support networks for eating disorders. And, the Let’s Move Web site could include a link to the Office of Women’s Health Web site which has comprehensive and evidence based information on eating disorders.
The unprecedented leadership in the battle against obesity through the Let’s Move Campaign shows your commitment to creatively and aggressively improving the health of children, families and communities. We hope that you will take our suggestions into consideration so that the Let’s Move Campaign can take a more holistic approach to addressing the full spectrum of behaviors that are compromising the health of America’s children.
Alcee L. Hastings
Member of Congress
If the office has any questions or wants to sign on to this letter, they should contact Amye Greene at 5-1313 or
Thank you for adding your voice to this effort. Every call makes a difference!
From the Hill,
Jeanine Cogan, Ph.D., Policy Director
Eating Disorders Coalition

Monday, June 28, 2010

Links in posts

Okay so I didn't get the article link in my post.

Here it is:

Again, I welcome your comments.

AOL Health Depression Article, Becky Henry and Eating Disorders

Gratitude, AOL Health, Hope, Depression and the part that got edited out. Here is what they have in common:

I am so grateful for the article that Catherine Donaldson Evans wrote about caring for a depressed family member in her column for AOL Health published June 27th, 2010. Not only did she give my soon to be published book: Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders, some buzz but she also gave hope to readers who have contacted me. That hope is why I do this work and it fills my heart with joy.

I am glad to see the points she was able to cover and would like to fill you in on what (in a perfect world- without column length limitations) I would like to have seen there too.

After this paragraph, "It was hard to be patient with it -- hard to be patient with the doctors, with choosing the medication," Henry said. "I felt so sad for her, but other times I was angry because she was being so mean to us, self-absorbed and rude."
I would have added: No one had given us the essential tool of separating the person from the illness which I have since learned families must do in order to remain calm in the face of the outbursts that come from these mental illnesses.

I have written posts on this previously so feel free to look back and see that one on Separating your loved one from the eating disorder.

The other main point I would like to have seen addressed is how we as parents were excluded from the treatment team. This is so very important as we were told to back off and let our daughter be in charge of her recovery. She was a teenager for God's sake and was seriously ill. In what other life threatening illness are the parents told to let recovery be her thing? There is now a term for what we experienced, it is called, "Parentectomy" and it's an outdated approach to eating disorders treatment. We were not aware of the Maudsley Family Based Therapy approach back then and didn't know it could be an option.

I urge other families to be assertive in being included in their child's treatment, their lives depend on it.

I am so grateful for the publicity and look forward to the book's arrival soon! Would love to hear your comments.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Celebrity Gossip mags & Eating Disorders

Long ago I couldn't help but wonder what the , Celebrity gossip mags effects were on my daughter's eating disorder. Not being one to blame things outside of our control I let it go.

This is still good to see this research to encourage parents who may have a genetically predisposed child to keep these out of the house.

A study in Wales by Dr. James White of Cardiff University and Dr. Emma Halliwell of University of West England compared habits of 546 children ages 11-16 in South Wales. The research is being presented at the Appearance Matters conference in Bristol.

The study's results indicated that the one of the strongest risk factors for significant increases in eating disorder behaviours was how often teenage boys and girls read gossip magazines.

See the whole article here:

What have you seen in your child with an eating disorder? Do they enjoy these magazines?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Living with Loss

As I see it's been a few weeks since my last blog post I am realizing I need to state what has been occupying me.

Jenni Schaefer's beautiful Mother's Day letter brought me to a new level of understanding that I need to respect the fact that I am constantly grieving losses that eating disorders have brought to my life.

We still don't know if our daughter will ever be recovered. Millions of people are living with this type of uncertainty. On many levels my daughter has been taken from me. I have been told I have a lot in common with parents who have had their children abducted and don't know if they are alive or not. This realization has led me to spend some time doing this grieving I didn't know I needed to do.

Luckily I have a wonderful coaching colleague who specializes in the caregivers journey and helps people process grief. I am now in a much better state of mind and can allow creating to happen again. Thank you Rita Goldhammer of Pivotal Crossings for helping me to do this valuable work.

One of the things I've had to grieve and let go of is that what we experienced in our daughter's treatment is being called: Treatment Failure. It was both exciting and sad to learn more about the very promising Family Based Therapy approaches in talking with Laura Collins of F.E.A.S.T.

So I am done with the "What Ifs" and am excited to talk with and interview families who have found successful recovery via Family Based Therapy!

I would love to hear of your positive experiences of incorporating FBT into traditional treatment models.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thank you Jenni Schaefer for this mother's day gift!

Happy Mother's Day to all who are, have been and who have mothers. This mother's day gift came to me via another mother's child and I am so happy to see it. Than you Jenni for helping all of us who love a child with an eating disorder to hear what we have so badly needed to hear.

IT'S NOT OUR FAULT. - Thank you Jenni for saying it so beautifully and gracefully, you have given an amazing gift to every mother who has had a child with an eating disorder. I believe your words will help to heal millions of mother's hearts.

I know I am not alone as a mother who was very clearly given many many messages that my daughter's life threatening illness was somehow a result of my parenting. Not only was I scared out of my mind that she would die, saddened beyond description at what this disease was taking from her and us but I was at the same time blamed.

What we all needed was help. Encouragement. Support. Tools. Kindness. Answers. Love. Instead what happened is now being called a "parentectomy" and that didn't help anyone.

Thank you Jenni for your beautiful letter, your gift to all of us mothers of children with eating disorders. In my world of believing that ANYTHING is POSSIBLE, I picture your letter in the family waiting rooms of every eating disorders clinic in the world. I see it in all of the curriculum materials that (will soon exist) to educate ALL healthcare providers so that they know that eating disorders are complex bio-psycho-social illnesses and that blaming the parents is an antiquated way of treating the family.

Moms out there, I would love to hear your stories of hearing words such as Jenni has shared with us and her mother.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Eating Disorders Parent/Family/Friends Support

Join us tomorrow for group coaching to assist you with your journey in caring for someone with an eating disorder.

Parent/Family Friend Support Group
$10/person or $15/couple
Every other Wednesday beginning April 7th
Dunn Bros. Freight House
201 3rd Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55401 (Next to the historic Milwaukee Road Depot) Phone: 612-692-8530
Call or email Becky to reserve a spot

Monday, May 3, 2010

Oprah and Eating Disorders

What are your thoughts about Oprah's 8 episode series that will document a group of patients as they undergo a 42 day eating disorder recovery program? Will it be done respectfully? Will they sensationalize the experience? Will you watch?

I am hopeful that this show as well as the E! eating-disorder mini series will bring a lot more attention to eating disorders and hopefully help with :

  • Reducing stigma
  • Increasing awareness about treatment for patients, families and health care providers
  • Improving diagnosis rates and referrals to treatment
  • Increase awareness of insurance issues and improve reimbursements
That's just for starters. Please add your wish lists. I could go on and on but want to hear what you hope for.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

FREED ACT Introduced to Senate

This is big exciting news! Okay so I admit, what I know about how an Act becomes and Act is what I learned from watching Sesame Street with my kids...but I know this is big news.

What I do know is that on April 27th two MN senators and and Iowa senator introduced legislation aimed at fighting and preventing eating disorders in the United States! That is BIG NEWS and it's about time.

Did you know that:
  • The NIH spends about $1.20 in research funding per person with an eating disorder compared with $159 for someone with schizophrenia, which has a much lower incidence rate, said Jillian Croll, director of education, research and program development for the Emily Program, a Minnesota company that offers comprehensive eating disorder treatment.
  • “Most physicians get between zero and two hours of eating disorder education in medical school,” Croll said. “Yet they often are on the front lines of screening or assessing someone with an eating disorder, and they just don’t have enough information.”
  • At the University of Minnesota, about 5.3 percent of students reported struggling with an eating disorder, according to a 2007 Boynton Health Service survey.
The details of the FREED Act are below if you are interested. I'll be sending out a notice to all on my newsletter list. If you want to be on that please comment here and I'll add you or visit my website: to sign up!

See my facebook page to see links to some articles on this.

To confront the growing issue of eating disorders, the FREED Act will:

* Expand research on the prevention of and effective treatment of eating disorders: Coordinates research on eating disorders at the National Institutes of Health and across the federal government, and creates research consortia to examine the causes and consequences of eating disorders, and to develop effective prevention and intervention programs.

* Improve the training and education of health care providers and educators: Authorizes grants to medical, nursing, social work and other health professions schools to train health care providers in the identification and treatment of eating disorders, and grants to train teachers and other educators in effective eating disorder prevention, detection and assistance strategies.

* Improve surveillance and data collection systems for tracking the prevalence and severity of eating disorders: Tasks CDC with addressing the lack of accurate information on the incidence and severity of eating disorders. Requires the development of new methods to accurately collect, analyze and report epidemiological data to ensure that the incidence of eating disorders and related fatalities are better understood.

* Prevent eating disorders: Authorizes grants to develop evidence-based prevention programs and promote healthy eating behaviors and in schools, recreational sports programs and athletic training programs.

* Build on existing reform efforts to ensure that treatment is available and affordable: Creates a patient advocacy program to aid people suffering from these diseases and their families negotiate the health care system. Incentivizes states to ensure that adolescents covered by Medicaid are diagnosed and treated.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Caring for someone with an eating disorder

Now is your chance to share what your perspective as the family has been with a young researcher in Australia.

Caring for someone with an eating disorder: Different perspectives

My name is Kerri Coomber and I am completing a PhD in Psychology looking at the experience of caring for someone recovering from an eating disorder. While we now know a lot about what this is like, we don’t know whether the person in recovery and the carer see the experience of recovery and caregiving similarly or whether their experience is different. I’d like to invite you to share your perspective.

Both carer and the person with an eating disorder would each complete a short questionnaire. You won’t see each other’s responses and what you say will have any identifying information kept separate. I will give each of you a code number so I can match up your questionnaires.

The carer questionnaire ask you about how the eating disorder affects you, as a carer, how you deal with everyday problems related to the eating disorder, and how your general health has been lately. This questionnaire will take you approximately 20 minutes to complete.

The questionnaire that the person with an eating disorder will complete will ask you about your eating disorder, where you feel you are on the road to recovery, and how you think the eating disorder affects your carer. This questionnaire will take you about 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

If you have an eating disorder, or you are a carer of someone with an eating disorder and you would like to take part please email me at, or phone me on (03) 5227 8436. Can you please let me know your address so I can send you the questionnaires, the age of the person who has an eating disorder, and whether the person with an eating disorder has bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. The last two pieces of information are needed to make sure I send you the appropriate version of the questionnaires.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Media and Eating Disorders

I promise to delete any rants I find myself making here this morning. Tuesday I flipped through the April issue of Minnesota Monthly as I was waiting to get my haircut. Now, I was forewarned by my dear editor Connie Anderson of Words and Deeds (she is awesome by the way) that these photos were going to be in this issue. I already had Sue Stein, who writes articles for me, working on a letter to the editor about these photos.

I can't believe how angry I got sitting at my hairdresser's. I had already seen one of the photos.

When I talked with Sue the next day, Wednesday, I got angry all over again. I promise to remain calm today.

In talking with Sue I described what I saw and the question that formed for me was: "How would photos of an emaciated woman who looks like she might keel over any moment make someone want to buy the clothing she is modeling?" That was after poor Sue had to hear much ranting.

I have been told I dress nicely, usually look fashionable so I don't think I'm completely in the dark about what looks nice. I didn't even notice the clothes...couldn't tell you. It is supposed to be a piece about fun new spring fashion. HUH? It was done all in sepia tones, no other color. The whole spread made me feel sad.

The poor waif made me think of my previous cleaning ladies who are immigrants from Ukraine. They used to tell me sad sad stories of having only 1 potato for a whole day for their family because other desperate people had stolen the food from their gardens and there was no food in the grocery store.

When I showed the photos to my hairdresser she instantly said that just looking at her hair was a strong indicator that she was undernourished. I stood in awe looking at this young woman with her scraggly, dry, thin hair—no smile (her teeth were probably in decay too) and all I could think was: Who in the magazine thought this could possibly be a good idea? Was this the "brainchild" of the stylist Jennifer Dickey? How about the photographer Joel Larson? What did he think? Then I saw that the byline on the piece was lifestyle editor Elizabeth Dehn and wondered, If she had a child with a life threatening eating disorder, would she be allowing such triggering photos to be published?

I normally don't name names but my blood is boiling on this one. I am on the record saying, "The media does not cause eating disorders in my opinion, but they can contribute to deadly results in those who are pre-disposed to eating disorders."

In this case I can clearly see how it might go down. A young person (male or female) could see this sickly model and think, Well, she is skinnier than I am and she is still alive so I guess I can lose even more weight and still live. Yes, it is distorted thinking but that is how the eating disorder sounds and it happens every second of every day.

I want to educate those in the media to see this concept as I truly don't believe they are evil people intentionally trying to kill young eating disorders sufferers. They just are unaware of the damage that such photos could create.

Besides, "Who would be inspired to buy those clothes anyhow? I still don't get it.

My plea to Minnesota Monthly editor Joel Hoekstra and Minnesota Monthly Publisher/President Steve Fox is this: Please take responsibility and learn about how what you print could be contributing to life threatening eating disorders. Did you know that eating disorders are the most deadly of all mental illnesses? At minimum 11 million Americans are sick with eating disorders and you can play a role in contributing to their wellness by your decisions.

I tried not to rant. I left A LOT out - thank goodness for the delete key.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Eating Disorders MN

Have you ever wondered what to do if your doctor says your child is obese? Or too thin? This can be very overwhelming for parents leaving them wondering many things including:

  • What do I do now?
  • Does the doctor know what they are talking about?
  • How will labeling my child affect him/her down the road?
  • What if the child is naturally sedentary?
  • Could pushing "healthy" foods and "healthy" exercise promote an eating disorder?
I read Dr. Katja Rowell's blogpost this morning on Family Feeding Dynamics; WHAT'S ON MY MIND AND ON MY TABLE and learned some helpful information on this topic.

Did you know that:
1. Labels and shame are not good motivation for positive change?
2. Children have been denied insurance due to their weight?
3. BMI is merely a screening tool and not a diagnostic tool?

Take a look at Katja's blog post from Sunday April 4th to learn more tools for healthy children and read the juicy discussion that follows.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Eating Disorders Parent Support in MN

Here is the info on the Parent/Family Friend Support Group in Minneapolis:

$10/person or $15/couple
Every other Wednesday beginning April 7th
Dunn Bros. Freight House
201 3rd Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55401 (Next to the historic Milwaukee Road Depot) Phone: 612-692-8530
Call or email Becky to reserve a spot

Even if you aren't a "support group" kind of person, this will be different. You get to talk with other parents/family/friends living with binge eating disorder, bulimia and anorexia AND you get some hands on coaching from a certified life coach who is a parent of a child with an eating disorder herself. We are your peeps - not the marshmallow treat kind though.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How do I respond to my child's comments about her body?

Parents/Family and Friends often ask me about how they are to reply to the comments of loved ones with eating disorders.

When we barely can comprehend what it is they are saying and why, it can make responding feel like walking through a field of land mines.

Here are a few examples of what a family member might hear during the course of an eating disorder:

  • I ate at my friend's house, I don't need dinner.
  • Why are you always into my business?
  • What difference does it make to you what I eat?
  • So, are you happy now? My jeans that used to be loose are now tight!
  • I hate my life, will I ever be recovered?
After a long day it can be overwhelming and feel a bit like you've been slammed against a wall to hear some of these comments and questions. What's a person to do right then and there in that moment?

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.

Here are some great 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 -

ps. I love hearing your ideas on what works for your family during holidays such as Passover and Easter when you have a loved one with an eating disorder.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Children and Eating Disorders

Have you read Carolyn Coker Ross, M.D.'s blog on children and eating disorders? I thought she did a great job on talking about the important things that parents, especially mothers, can do to help avoid negative messages. She sees girls in her practice who tell her they first learned to dislike their bodies or learned to diet from women in their families, including their mothers.

I think these suggestions Carolyn shares are all very good, and I would like to have seen the issue addressed that mother's don't cause eating disorders.

Here are my summaries of Dr. Coker Ross's excellent points:
1. Watch your comments about body dissatisfaction in front of your children.
2. Don't go overboard on focusing on healthy eating and calling some foods good and some bad.
3. If you have heavier children don't fight obesity but exercise together as a family, eat together and accept genetics.
4. Build up self-esteem with good qualities other than appearance.

I think these are all great approaches and I feel it is imperative to stress that eating disorders are complex, multi-faceted bio-psycho-social disorders caused by a combination of many factors. Don't beat yourself up mom's if you have made some mistakes, this is only a part of the puzzle. Take these suggestions and use them to improve your parenting, not to blame yourself.

We've had enough blaming of mom's and it isn't helpful for anyone. Let's make sure when we give mom's suggestions that we include the information that they alone can't cause eating disorders.

See Dr. Coker Ross's blog here:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What is Orthorexia?

Did any of you catch the ABC piece on Obsession with 'Pure' foods Leads to Eating Disorder this morning on Good Morning America?

Here is the link to the story:

I would love to hear your thoughts.
Are you often avoiding certain foods so you can eat really "clean" and feel better?
Does eating "pure/clean" foods help with your anxiety?
Are you isolating yourself socially?
Spending increasing amounts of time food shopping and reading food labels?

Orthorexia is not yet a diagnosable eating disorder but clinics are seeing these patterns of people worrying about what is in their food to the point that they are becoming dangerously ill.

What if you allowed yourself to try those foods that you used to let yourself have? Just one for now? Why not try it if it gives you back your normal existence?

Email me or call me at Hope Network, Inc. to share your stories. You too can recover as the woman in the GMA piece did.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Education about Eating Disorders

Thanks to Sheila Himmel, Co-Author with her daughter Lisa of Hungry: A Mother and Daughter Battle Anorexia for her article on Pediatricians: first responders to possible eating disorders I found it thought provoking and frustration producing. Not due to what Sheila shared but what a doctor shared...this is why I am out there talking with health care providers.

Here is what the doctor had to say in Sheila's article:
Dr. Frederick Lloyd told me, "I've never had to hospitalize on that first visit. My usual strategy is to listen to the family and the child's concerns, which is most often weight loss. The child almost always feels there is not a problem and they are in control. Since they are usually medically stable, I suggest the parents step aside and we will see where we are in a couple of weeks. Sure enough they come back with further weight loss, and then I describe what needs to be done to be sure this is not an occult medical condition [such as celiac disease]. I describe how we will follow this, and then, depending on how they do, discuss other resources."

Tell me why the doctor wouldn't talk with the parents further and dig a little deeper instead of wasting valuable time? Why not refer to an eating disorders specialist who could do an evaluation and if there is a problem, get treatment started right away? If this was cancer would the doctor take the child's word for it that he/she feels fine and delay treatment? It is time for more education of the front line health care providers on the seriousness of these illnesses.

AND - that doctor and many others need to know that not all people with eating disorders present with weight loss. Hello.

Here is my comment to Sheila, I am so grateful that she got me thinking about this more. Yes, this one hit a nerve with me. Gives me some more talking points with the health care providers I speak with on this topic.

Thank you Sheila for this article and for the work you are doing in trying to educate the doctors. I felt my blood start to boil when I read what the doctor said about weight loss being the most common thing he sees! Then it hit full boil when I immediately read that he asks the parents to back off.

This is why it is so important that you and I and many others are out there doing the educating that our medical schools haven't done. First of all, anorexia is the least common of all the eating disorders and so if he is watching for weight loss then he is missing many kids with bulimia and binge eating disorder who don't often present with weight loss.

It took at least 2 years to get my daughter's eating disorder diagnosed in part because she wasn't emaciated. Doctors need to know that it can still be serious and that the parents need to be involved.

That parentectomy model is so old - I am not shocked that he is still suggesting this but I am saddened by it.

Thank you Sheila for sharing this.
Becky Henry
Hope Network, Inc.

So readers, I'm a bit riled up for a Friday, thanks for reading. Would love to hear your experiences with trying to get an eating disorder diagnosed by a primary care physician.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Weightism...what's up?

Making comments about other people's appearance, what is it about? We are often socialized to give one another compliments on appearance.

"Oh, your hair looks so nice today." "You look great."

On and on it goes. I've been asking lately what people have heard in the way of body comments, it is bizarre.

Yesterday I addressed the shame and stigma that larger sized people face by referencing a NY Times article about Gabby Sidibe.

Today I want to respond to a respond to a readers comments on the discrimination felt by the underweight population. Same thing - different flavor.

Here are some of her thoughts (used of course with her permission):
I read your status on face book, and the linked article, about shame and stigma being used in dealing with obesity. The article got me thinking about another problem on the opposite end of the scale that I’ve experienced but never read anything about.

The obese are discriminated against, but also the extremely underweight are. I have found that people who would normally try to be politically correct when around an overweight person will come right up to an underweight person and tell them what they think. They will openly and bluntly call the person a skeleton, and tell the person that no one wants to see bones, tell them they are going to die if they don’t gain weight, tell them they need to be in the hospital, tell them they look terrible and sick. Our doctors have already warned us of the risks, it is not something we should have to hear when we go to church or come across friends. All of these things may be true, but since the person saying them has no medical background it is none of their business, and is not helpful. It seems as though some people feel that with overweight people they shouldn’t say rude comments directly to them, but they feel it is ok to talk behind their back, but they feel that with underweight people it is ok to state their opinions openly right to them. There is still a lot of stigma and shame and prejudice attached to being overweight, but many people talk behind the persons back due to wanting to appear politically correct and socially proper, but with persons underweight there is no social expectations of what is proper and what is rude. Society has said it’s rude to say you are fat, but society has never told people it is also rude to say you are too skinny, you look gross. As I mentioned I’ve never read anything on underweight bashing being a problem, but it does exist. It will be nice when some day society accepts the person without feeling a need to comment on their weight at all.

I responded to her by saying, "...have heard many people share about folks feeling it is okay to make comments about a thin person's body...maybe one day people will no longer feel a need to make comments about another's I dreaming?"

To which reader replied:

That would be nice if some day people can appreciate the many varieties of personalities and body types without feeling a need to make themselves feel better through comparing.

Thoughts? How about health care providers? Are you stumped as to how to address health issues without being rude about the patient's appearance?

Thanks reader for sharing your perspectives. I welcome comments here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Congrats Gabourey Sidibe

How many of your hearts were bursting with joy to see the lovely Gabourey Sidibe present at the Academy Awards nominated for an Oscar? Not only was a thrilled for this amazing young woman who is having a fabulous start to her career, I felt a glimmer of hope that we may be making progress on accepting people for who they are being and what they are accomplishing rather than their size.

Those of you in the eating disorders world know that our families/friends may tire of hearing us talk about body image issues when we look at TV. So, I kept my mouth shut and just listened to the comments of the other ladies who had been making catty comments all evening about the appearance of many of the people who crossed the screen. Quite an interesting commentary, no wonder women feel so judged...when we are constantly judging everyone who crosses our paths we must feel they are also judging us. It was sport. Kind of like the "sport" of throwing dynamite into a lake and watching the fish fly out is "fishing." Those of you not from the upper midwest of the US might not know about this "sport." Or maybe this goes on in other parts of the world too.

I digress with my analogy, let's just say:
What if we all started feeling love and acceptance toward those we see during our days?
Would we in turn start feeling love and acceptance toward ourselves?
Would the incidence of eating disorders decrease?
Would we be happier and have a more prosperous society?
Would women (and men) improve their self-esteem? Body-esteem? Body image?

Who knows but it seems worth the effort to me.

So in the spirit of love and acceptance I am sharing this fun - tongue in cheek, smartly written article written by Kate Harding. Enjoy and kudos to both Kate and Gabourey keep being the change you wish to see in the world - and thank you!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Do parents cause eating disorders?

Have you ever seen Laura Collin's video interviews of many eating disorder's experts on the topic of a parent's role in causing eating disorders?

I wish I had seen this many years ago when I was feeling blamed for causing my daughter's eating disorder. There are still people to this day who feel that over-controlling mothers are the cause or at least contributing factor.

We all influence our children in many ways but blaming mothers, even if they have been dieting and criticizing their bodies and those of other people, does not do any good in aiding the recovery of people with eating disorders.

Long ago we realized it was useless and harmful to blame the families of those with alcoholism or drug addiction but so many persist in blaming parents of those with eating disorders. We need to move into the 21st century and even though we are not certain of the multi-faceted causes for these deadly illnesses we need to spend our energy on more research for a cure instead. See Laura's wonderful video here:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Support for parents of kids with eating disorders

I blogged about this a couple of weeks ago but it bears repeating as this should be a great event for families to attend to get what they need to support them while they are caregiving their loved one with an eating disorder.

The Mission of Hope Network is to provide access to resources, hope and healing to all families affected by eating disorders through: education, coaching, writing and speaking. Creating informed healthy families leading loved ones to full recovery as they navigate the crisis of an eating disorder with Joy and Peace and Hope.

Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 10:00 am - 5 pm, The Lighthouse International Conference Center, 111 East 59th Street, New York, NY

Please join ROAED and RAMS for a day of education, renewal and friendship. This event is for parents, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and other loved ones of those suffering from an eating disorder. Presentations will include guest speakers, music, art, coping skills and much more.

Visit to register.
Registration deadline is February 20, 2010.
Tickets $125 per person, lunch included.

Our goal with this workshop is to bring parents, mothers, fathers, boyfriends, husbands, and other loved ones of those suffering from an eating disorder together to empower you to feel you are not alone. It is to give you the freedom to realize it is okay to take care of yourself, as a person, and that in this way set an example for your child that you can survive this difficult time. We want to be able to educate as well as give a refreshing and new outlook on the recovery process. We envision that a Journey to Hope is the first of many workshops we can offer families.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Emily Program new facility in Orono?

Last week I read the Star Tribune article; Eating Disorders facility touches off a battle in Orono, by HERÓN MÁRQUEZ ESTRADA. I wasn't so shocked by the content of the article, as people often react out of fear of any change. I was mostly disappointed. What shocked me most were the comments from readers - lots of anger an assumptions.

Reading many of these comments is fascinating to me. I am happy to see that there are a couple that sound open minded and able to see a grey area worth exploring further.

My initial reaction to this news, as a coach supporting the parents of these frighteningly ill young people, was REALLY? And then I thought about it, would I want this right behind my home as neighbor5533 points out? Will there be bright lights all night long? Were there lights when it was a school? Was there noise then? Will this bring more noise?

So many things to consider. How many families will this help? Will this raise property values? What if everyone believed that having an eating disorders treatment facility nearby would RAISE property values?

Reading the comments I was very sad to see so many ASSUMING that everyone in Orono is super wealthy. I lived near Orono for a while, close to some homes that didn't even have insulation, the people were not all well off.

I am a strong supporter of the Emily Program having a facility in the western suburbs. Now that the Anna Westin House is moving to St. Paul there is next to nothing west of St. Louis Park for far west suburban and rural west MN families facing this crisis. Having a child with an eating disorder and trying to find and GET TO treatment is a nightmare I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Eating Disorders are an epidemic, destroying millions of lives everyday. There are not enough treatment facilities and I am so glad that the Emily Program is expanding to serve this dire need. I do hope that cooler heads will prevail and find a solution that serves our communities effectively. If this old school isn't used for this desperate need perhaps there is another facility that won't disrupt zoning issues. I do wonder then, what will the old school be used for? Will it be something creating even more traffic or police calls?

Fear and Panic are what parents of kids with eating disorders live with every day. I hear fear being present for this neighborhood that is about to have a change. Change is not easy. We can choose to react out of fear or we can choose love. There are so many more options available to us if we choose love, curiosity or another perspective other than fear. I'm not saying that is easy but if we can see the grey area, choose curiosity or love, then we might find a solution for this wonderful old building. And for people who need our help to get well.

I am grateful that the Emily Program is working to expand their locations and I hope that they can find a community that welcomes this much needed service.

Comments? Thoughts? Ideas?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Eating Disorders Family Support

I hope you all had a great National Eating Disorders Awareness Week! So great to see all that is happening including the upcoming BEDA Conference and locally the Anna Westin House is moving to St. Paul and doubling in size!

Therapists - here is a resource for the parents/families of your clients:

Twin Cities Eating Disorders Parent Support Group: Any parent struggling with an eating disorder problem may feel “alone.”

Now there’s a way for families to talk with other families who have lived this horror. You’ll have some group coaching, someone to listen to you, acknowledge the crisis you are in as well as the losses you are experiencing, give you some encouragement and connect you with your greatest source of strength.

This is for anyone who cares about someone with an eating disorder.

Details: 10-Week Family/Friends Support for Eating Disorders.
Location: Ridgedale Library - 12601 Ridgedale Dr. Minnetonka, MN 55305, Mtg. room on 1st floor below library.
Dates: Wednesdays 5-6:30 pm.
Cost: $10/person or $15/couple per week (or pay for all 10 weeks up front and SAVE $10).
Led by: Becky Henry, CPCC
For more information, visit: or send email Becky Henry with questions.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What do parents of a child with an eating disorder need?

Today I am looking for your feedback on this question. This month I am starting to work with a business mentor who will help me bring my services to many more parents impacted by eating disorders.

I say parents because she wants me to narrow it down, I am very aware that there are sisters, wives, brothers, friends, etc who are seriously impacted by the nightmare of loving someone with an eating disorder.

I would love to hear what else describes this person and what other needs a parent of a child with an eating disorder might have. Please comment or send me an email.

Here is what I came up with:
Parents impacted by a child with an eating disorder that I can serve are:

  • Female
  • Spiritual value based families balancing work and family time
  • Married
  • age 35-55
  • panicked and fearful about their child’s eating disorder
  • looking for resources and skills for saving their families
  • believe in coaching
  • love reading self-help books
  • value being pro-active about maintaining health
  • value education
  • have graduated from college
  • non-smokers
  • feeling hopeless about how to help their child with an ed
  • Don’t know where to turn for help for the ed
  • concerned that their child will die
  • want my services to give them answers and calm
  • need help coping with their anxiety about child’s ed
  • need help understanding basics of what makes someone with an ed tick
  • want to reclaim their joy and peace while child is sick with ed
  • want to save their marriage that is being impacted by the child with ed
  • are afraid this ed will destroy their own health and career
  • worry what this ed is doing to their other children
  • searching for help for families impacted by eating disorders, how to parent a child with an eating disorder
  • want someone to talk to who understands the nightmare and frustration of parenting a child with an eating disorder

Monday, February 8, 2010

Messages to our First Lady

As many of you know, there has been a lot of buzz in the eating disorders world about comments the press tells us that the first lady made about her daughters' sizes. Having learned over the past couple of years that what really matters is fitness and health, not size or weight I've had some thoughts about the matter. I'm realizing that fitness and health are what I always have valued and I'd been led to believe that weight and size were directly influencing the former two.

I am very grateful to two of my "parent heros" who share my passion for making eating disorders a thing of the past. Both Laura Collins and Doris Smeltzer have addressed this directly with Michelle Obama and I commend them both for eloquently and elegantly doing so. Both of them handled it with grace, style and respect of the first lady.

I am sharing with you the links to their blogs so you can read for yourself what they had to say. I hope that Mrs. Obama will get a chance to see and hear what they have to share also. For I too believe she is a very smart woman who like many of us has been led to believe that size and weight determine our fitness and health. My wish is that our first lady will study this as so many of us have and make her own choices about this matter. Of course I am hoping she will see the validity of this concept and use her position to share this with our health care providers so that they too can do no harm.

Thank you Laura Collins and Doris Smeltzer

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Eating Disorders Parent Support Group

I can’t believe it’s been 7 years since I led one of these but after many requests for this in the Twin Cities, it’s time. I keep hearing from therapists who treat people with eating disorders that the families of their clients need this - no doubt. The book is in the publication process and I'm not writing and editing all the time now, so it's here!

This is the chance for families to be able to talk with other families who "get it" for unless you have lived this horror, it's tough to really understand what it is like loving someone who is in the grips of an eating disorder. We'll have some group coaching, someone to listen to you, acknowledge the crisis you are in as well as the losses you are experiencing, give you some encouragement and connect you with your greatest source of strength.

Parent/Family/Friends Support Group ~ beginning this March! This is for anyone who cares about someone with an eating disorder – not just parents!

I can’t believe it’s been 7 years since I led one of these but after many requests for this in the Twin Cities, it’s time.

Details: 10-Week Family/Friends Support for Eating Disorders
Location: Ridgedale Library - 12601 Ridgedale Dr. Minnetonka, MN 55305
Space: Meeting room on 1st floor below library
Dates: Wednesdays Beginning March 3 2010
Time: 5-6:30pm
Cost: $10/person or $15/couple per week or pay for all 10 weeks up front and SAVE $10 – only $90.00 for all ten weeks by paying in advance.
Led by: Becky Henry, CPCC
Register in advance so we can reserve the room – must have at least 5 people signed up.

Check out the website for more information (outline) on the workshops page at or email me with questions.

Please feel free to pass this along to anyone who helps people with eating disorders including: therapists, dieticians, school nurses that you know ~ thanks!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Reaching Out Against Eating Disorders - ROAED

I am so happy to share with you this wonderful opportunity for families living with eating disorders! If you can be in the New York area on March 20th this looks to be a great opportunity to make your own - Journey To Hope

Here is their information:
Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 10:00 am - 5 pm, The Lighthouse International Conference Center, 111 East 59th Street, New York, NY

Please join ROAED and RAMS for a day of education, renewal and friendship. This event is for parents, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and other loved ones of those suffering from an eating disorder. Presentations will include guest speakers, music, art, coping skills and much more.

Visit to register.
Registration deadline is February 20, 2010.
Tickets $125 per person, lunch included.

Our goal with this workshop is to bring parents, mothers, fathers, boyfriends, husbands, and other loved ones of those suffering from an eating disorder together to empower you to feel you are not alone. It is to give you the freedom to realize it is okay to take care of yourself, as a person, and that in this way set an example for your child that you can survive this difficult time. We want to be able to educate as well as give a refreshing and new outlook on the recovery process. We envision that a Journey to Hope is the first of many workshops we can offer families.

Formal invitation and detailed program will follow.

For further information call ROAED at 212-935-2015 or RAMS at 585-797-3964.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Healthy Body Image, Eating, Fitness and Weight and NO DIETS?

True, it is possible to be healthy and fit without dieting. If you are a reader of this blog you know by now that I am very "anti-diet" and don't mince words about that. You've probably heard me say it many ways, diets don't work, most eating disorders begin with a diet, the dieting industry is a 40 billion dollar a year industry, and did I mention DIETS DON'T WORK!

On January 16th a long term Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) of mine was realized! Eight years ago, after 2 years of many failed attempts at getting my daughter's eating disorder diagnosed, I walked into the pediatricians office and handed her my daughter's diagnosis on a silver platter. Well, okay, verbally I angrily told her that I now had confirmation of my suspicions from reputable sources (teenagers who had a front row seat to the action). So we politely asked for a referral to eating disorders treatment. That day I made a promise to myself that ONE DAY I would find a way to take up where our medical schools have chosen to leave off and get the information about eating disorders to health care providers so that they would have the tools they need to both diagnose and refer eating disorders as well as not cause them with their language. After 2 years of planning with three very talented health care providers, we did it! I have been fortunate to meet these three women who share a passion about creating health in people who are challenged by eating, fitness, weight and body image concerns. Together we formed a small coalition called: Moving Mountains 4 Health.

Michele Gorman, MS, RD, LD shared with our diverse group of health care providers and educators the details of how the stress response takes a long-term toll on both the mind and body. She shared data on the impact of worry about weight, restricting food, overeating and dieting on our bodies.

Kathy Kater, LICSW is a well-known expert on research related to the onset and development of the full spectrum of body image, eating, nutrition, fitness and weight concerns and has spoken widely on paradigms for addressing these important issues. Kathy shared details of the Model for Health Body Image and Weight as a universal health promotion model.

Katja Rowell, MD spoke as the expert on Family Feeding Dynamics (also the name of her business). She shared from a medical perspective the Division of Responsibility in feeding and how it increases nutritional variety while decreasing conflict. I love how she says she helps take anxiety off the menu.

I then spoke about the importance of language and including families in eating disorders treatment and why that is important. My wish is that it will no longer be accepted practice to exclude parents from their child's eating disorders treatment. After all, the therapist, doctor or dietician sees your child for one 50 minute hour and the parents are responsible for the other 167 hours in the week. I learned that what we experienced in being told to back off, not talk about food, not talk about the emotional challenges our child was facing now has a term, it's called a "parentectomy" and that is not an effective treatment model.

I cannot go back now, with the knowledge I have, and have a re-do. NOT that I would want to relive that living hell, but I am making it my mission to educate both the families and the health care providers so that other families might get a quicker diagnosis and be able to begin treatment immediately in order to have a drastically improved chance at full recovery.

I feel like living proof that if you are tenacious and have passion you can see your dreams come true.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chapter 1 - An Unwilling Expert - Learning About Eating Disorders

As we are getting closer to the publication date of the book - I am learning that delays are a "normal" part of the book publishing process and trying to be okay with that. I have decided to put excerpts from the chapters here so you can get a "taste" of what is to come.

Here are some excerpts from Chapter 1.

Chapter 1 An Unwilling Expert - Learning About Eating Disorders

Waiting Rooms
Tiny little rooms
Like jail cells
All taupe and fluorescent lights
Nothing to look at
A symbol of the jail I feel ED has put us in

So scary
So incredibly alone
So helpless–losing hope
I’ll have only a few minutes of some professional’s precious time to ask our questions.

Want to jump out of my skin
So trapped, so tired

Will they ever help us?
We must help ourselves

Is this how all parents of chronically ill children feel?
I am the parent of a child with an eating disorder
And I need a hug!!

– Becky Henry ©2002

When I interviewed the mother of a seventeen-year-old daughter for the story, “We Would Have Done Anything,” if I hadn’t heard the story flow from her lips, I would think this was a movie script–it was so unbelievable. But the title says it all: We would have done anything–and that is so true of most families I have interviewed. A lot of them didn’t know what to do because many health care professionals they turned to for help didn’t know either. What is the first step, second step?

I wrote the above poem when I was sitting in the very tiny space allotted to family members to wait while their loved one is being evaluated for an eating disorder. This treatment center has since made a much nicer area–and they are working to include families more in the recovery process. I had just spent weeks trying to find help and a place that would determine what our next steps needed to be to save our daughter's life. I would have been so happy to have a colorful poster to distract me. The bare taupe-colored walls only served to make me feel that the family was not an important part of this picture. I kept staring at the blank wall and wondering, Why don't they just have a big poster with some bullet points about what is going on, what to expect, what to say, what to do, how to get help for my daughter, for me, my family? Would that have been so hard? Wouldn't that help my daughter if I were informed? Maybe they want to keep me in the dark so that she stays sick longer and then they'll make more money? Oh, am I that cynical or have I lost my mind? Or, perhaps the system is messed up and needs fixing.

I am an “unwilling expert” because I am the parent of a child with an eating disorder, I can emphasize with all of these families I’ve interviewed. I don’t have all the answers and have my own set of questions–but I have found in my friendships with these families and for some, as their coach, talking to others in the same situation really helps–if only to realize “you are NOT ALONE.” This incredible journey has given me a passion to make sure no family is alone and without answers when the uninvited guest I sometimes call "bully" shows up in their family. The families I coach to live better and support their child, spouse, sibling, parent, etc. with an eating disorder more effectively, often share very similar questions. Where do our families turn when they are being torn apart? Where can one mother talk to another mother? They also want answers to questions that range from simple–to almost unanswerable.
• What works?
• What doesn’t work?
• Why is this hitting our family?
• How can we have a normal family meal?
• How do I pay for this?
• If she is out of high school, but too sick to go to college, will our insurance cover her?
• What do we tell family members?
• How do we not neglect our other children?
• How do I know if the treatment center near us has had good results?
• How do I recognize a relapse?
• How do I stay calm when relapse happens so I can support this slip?
• What can I read to learn as much as possible?
• How do we keep our marriage/family together during this illness?
• What do I tell my friends in school about what is going on with my mom?
• What do I tell my son's grandparents about this illness that used to be a female illness?
• Is she going crazy?
• Am I going crazy?

Much research shows that eating disorders are an illness that some people are more predisposed to. People don’t “get” an eating disorder because of how their parents treated them. The old idea often was: This poor sweet girl has a demanding mother who wants her to be perfect, and that’s why she has an eating disorder. The “then thinking (and too often yet today) was: It’s the mother’s fault.

In some of my interviews, I found parents who could look back and sort of see something that triggered the eating disorder, such a her best friend’s suicide, relationship problems, or even her parents’ divorce–however there were other children in the family affected by these things who did NOT develop an eating disorder.

Every family that is just starting to live with an eating disorder always has more questions than answers. As you read the sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes heart-tugging results of my interviews, you can see similarities and differences in the way the person with one of these chronic illnesses handles day-to-day living. And each family tries different things as well to just survive this ever-changing illness, finding what works for them as individuals, as a couple, and as a whole family. Many told me that on some occasions, they knew they were “connecting with their daughter” and could reason with her, while other times they knew that the eating disorder that occupied her head was distorting every single word they said, every gesture they made, as it gained another inch of control over their child’s mind and body.
An eating disorder is when a person has an abnormal relationship with food–and these people can be any size, even overweight–and have a life-changing eating disorder that needs treatment.
For simplicity’s sake, the book most often refers to daughters and their parents. This book is for all people who care about someone who is being lost to an eating disorder: women who have a partner or husband, sisters, friends, or parents–or men who have a son, daughter, friend, partner, co-worker, employee. When you read, insert your own words for that person as you find the skills, tools and hope needed to navigate this challenging journey.

Mostly I used “her” throughout the book because the majority are girls; however I want to stress how commonly boys and young men are showing up more in treatment. They can be pre-disposed as well, and certain things set them off. Some males may be reacting to some emotional upheaval just like females do. People have told me that their eating issues began with trying to “make weight” for a team such as wrestling, or trying to be faster for the swim or cross-country team. Some coaches in certain sports really put an emphasis on maintaining a set weight for males or females, for example: dance, skating, swimming, running, wrestling, cheerleading, and gymnastics. I have heard more than once from mothers of sons in treatment that the treatment facilities have not caught up with the needs of males. These boys are often the only male in the center, and as part of the program, they may be learning to knit and paint fingernails alongside the female patients. A few tell me they didn't mind, in fact they feel they will be better boyfriends/husbands/dads as a result of learning traditionally female skills. Sadly, it's time for treatment programs to develop more programming for the growing male clientele.

I am often asked, "You have studied and learned so much about eating disorders, what causes them? Is it just body image?" Of course, body image is the No. 1 reason girls and women of all ages are so self-obsessed about their weight and how they look. But the causes are complex, and multi-faceted. Currently the research is showing a combination of the following factors: (see for full descriptions)
• Psychological
• Interpersonal
• Social
• Other biochemical, biological and possible genetic
Following are some things that families going through this health crisis have told me they want others in their life to know:
• Avoid being judgmental
• LISTEN (this means don’t talk and try to fix–use your ears not your mouth)
• Remember–this illness is not just black and white, it has many areas of grey
• Be supportive (ask what they need)
• Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to do treatment
• Know that we are doing the best we can with what we have
• Be mindful that we are experiencing and grieving major secondary losses. We feel powerlessness over the severity of the situation
• This illness and all of its complicating factors are putting a huge strain on our marriage/relationship, finances and health
• Fear is our constant companion–this makes us a little jumpy and irritable–also affects our cognitive functions including memory. This is normal in our situation please cut us some slack and don't panic

This book is dedicated to all of the incredibly brave individuals who daily reclaim their power over eating disorders. To the families who lovingly walk alongside them believing in fully recovery and reclaiming their own power over fear and panic. My intention is that these stories will give you peace and hope along with tools to effectively support your loved one through recovery.
Tips from Becky:
1. Prepare stock responses for people who don’t know how to support you. Then when you are emotionally and physically wiped out and caught off guard, you can retrieve your memorized comment/answer.

2. Be prepared for people (anyone, whether they are friends, family, care providers), to say stupid, insensitive things. Have another stock response ready for the really insensitive ones.

3. Worry isn’t necessary. Worry is a choice, an option and a waste of time because most things we worry about don’t happen.

4. Getting pulled into drama is optional.

5. You have a choice about how you react to challenges.

6. You can actively choose to let go of suffering (I’m not saying this is easy).

7. Find a way to tap into your fearlessness–it may be facing the worst-case scenario that frees you.
8. Practice separating the person you love from the eating disorder. It isn't easy, but it will help both of you.
9. You can be happy, even if your child is not, but you have to work at it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sharing Melissa's blog on family support

Just read Melissa's blog post on the findingmelissa blog site. She shares some valuable information on what specifically families can do to support their loved on during an eating disorder.

Those of us in the trenches know it can be such a hopeless and helpless feeling when it seems there is so little we can DO to help them recover. We need to make a mental shift on what that looks like. They need to do the work and we need to be the cheer squad. Not an easy task when Ed is so tenaciously whispering in their ear.

Here is my comment on Melissa's blog post. Please share your thoughts.

Melissa, this is one of the best lists I've ever seen to spell it out for families on how to effectively support your loved one with an eating disorder. Such concrete things to do:
1. Remind you that you are special
2. Listen when you are scared
3. Reassure you when you have doubts
4. Call you on the phone and help you smile
5. Be there waiting for when you are ready to join the world again

All good things for families to remember. Thank you for digging deep to really put words to what helped you in your recovery. Families feel so helpless and often hopeless. I will share your blog with others.
Thank you!
Becky Henry

Monday, January 11, 2010

Language and Eating Disorders

This Saturday at our Moving Mountains 4 Health Continuing Education Course we'll be talking about moving the weight paradigm from dread and failure to balance and health.

I have found it quite amazing in all the listening I've done with people impacted by eating disorders to hear the little statements that pushed them over the edge into an eating disorder. Now, these people may already be predisposed to an eating disorder so it isn't the statement that gave them the illness. I want to be clear about that. Many in the field call these things, "triggering" language. As the statements or questions can "trigger" both the person already suffering from an eating disorder or those who are predisposed and headed that way.

One of the stories I wrote for my book is about a young woman named Heather, her real name is used in the book, who was preparing for prom. When she tried on her dress a week before prom for her boyfriend, she remembers him saying, "Yeah, you'll look good, but you'd look great if you lost ten pounds." Now, that is an extreme example, I think - what are some of your stories that you have heard?

Sometimes the comments are made by health care providers, how about this example: A woman who is 5'4" and 170 pounds says to her MD, "I have to lose weight!" And the MD says, "I'm glad to hear you say that. Your BMI is 29 and weight loss is recommended for people with a BMI over 25" Now, what would you be thinking/feeling if your doctor said that? Many of us would go right into shame and despair. Not to mention the stress in thinking about what to do. How would it be if your doctor said this instead, "Let's talk about how you are taking care of yourself before we assume what is next. Why don't you tell me about your eating and fitness habits?" I think I would feel like my doc wanted to help me and was really listening to what I might need to be healthy.

I'm so excited to get to share some practice of using language to open up clients/students/patients on Saturday with health care providers and health educators. I hope to help people avoid situations like this one: A mom brought her daughter who had an eating disorder to the emergency room for something completely unrelated. When the social worker walked into the little room looking at the girl's chart that stated that this girl had an eating disorder, she looked the girl up and down and promptly said, "You don't look like you have an eating disorder." This mother shared with me that the simple statement made by the social worker set her daughter's eating disorder recovery back by about a year.

We'll talk more about language, I'd love to hear your stories of how language has impacted your eating disorder.

Until next time, remember - You can't tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at them. These deadly illnesses affect people of all shapes, sizes, colors, sexes and religions - frighteningly equal opportunity.

Monday, January 4, 2010

No diets

Here we are already - January 2010! How did this happen so fast? I hope you have all been having wonderful holiday celebrations with friends and family. I have enjoyed spending lots of time with people I enjoy and don't get to see all that often. So much of those fun times center around food. It is always interesting to hear the comments people make about food, their bodies and other's bodies. Somehow it's as if that is okay to do - make comments about other's bodies that is. Most who know me know by now that if they feel inclined to say something about the condition of their body or that of someone else that I will say something about body acceptance.

I try not to be a pain so I gently provide an "educational opportunity" to open someone's eyes to the possibility that we are all looking the way we were made to look. What a wonderful world it would be if none of us judged ourselves or others - about how we look or anything else.

Most of you probably have realized I am not a fan of New Year's resolutions as I think they set us up for failure and shame. That being said, the only new goals I have here at the dawn of a new year and a new decade (thank goodness) are to avoid seeing all the advertisements for diets and "new" weight loss schemes as well as accepting myself and others the way we are.

I wish for you a joyful and accepting decade.