Eating Disorders

What it’s like for the parent of a child with an eating disorder

June 17, 2016

Self-Paced Course: Non-Diet Academy


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A Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian (CEDRD) with a master's degree in dietetics & nutrition. My passion is helping you find peace with food - and within yourself.

Meet Katy

In the shoes of a parent…

  • Their child is sick with an illness they don't fully understand.  "Why can't my child just eat?"
  • The treatment standard is a "multidisciplinary treatment team," which means seeing a therapist, dietitian and medical doctor.  That's a lot of practitioners to see, and all are essential.
  • The therapist and RD will most likely recommend weekly sessions.  That's a lot of appointments to attend.  
  • Insurance may not cover the cost of seeing these providers.  The out of pocket cost can be stunning.  Add in the cost of missing work, transportation, and other expenses associated with treatment and we're talking a lot of money.  
  • And then imagine that you are told their child needs to be hospitalized at a residential ED treatment facility.
  • Oh, and by the way, the closest one is out of state, where your child will have to stay for weeks, and maybe even months.
  • So you can choose to visit on the weekend or take a leave of absence from your work and life and come stay near the treatment center in a hotel. 
  • They will probably use "family-based treatment," meaning that you have to feed your child every meal and snack (42 eating occasions per week).  
  • After discharge you still need to do outpatient treatment, probably for a few more years.  
  • Even with the best treatment from the most competent providers, your child still may not recover, or may relapse in the future.  
  • So let's do some family therapy, which also may not be covered by insurance.
  • And don't neglect your other kids.  They still need your love and attention.  

It is so important for parents to take care of themselves through this obviously draining process.  And easier said than done.  Caregiver fatigue is a very real and legitimate thing.  If your child is struggling with an eating disorder you are not alone.  Reach out for support, talk to other parents, don't do it alone.  Take breaks and time for yourself.  Get plenty of sleep.  Your own self-care is unlikely to happen unless you make it a priority.  It's not selfish; it's survival.  

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