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By Gabrielle

The topic for today’s post is eating disorders. I know. It’s pretty heavy. And there’s a lot of misinformation out there. I haven’t experienced an eating disorder myself, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t touched my life. In fact, something that makes my head spin: 5 of my nieces have battled (or are battling) anorexia. Five! Five girls from five different sets of parents (and in case you’re tempted to feel judge-y, please don’t. I assure you, these are all loving, kind, involved, attentive, wonderful parents.)

According to the Mayo Clinic, no one knows the exact cause of anorexia, but as you can guess just based on my first sentence, there appears to be a genetic predisposition to it. So you can imagine, as parents of four daughters and two sons, in the same extended family of 5 people who have experienced anorexia, we try to keep our eyes open for possible eating disorder warning signs, while at the same time attempting not to get buried under unnecessary worry. (Ah, parenthood.)

For those of us who know someone struggling with an eating disorder, and who are feeling helpless as far as how to improve the situation, I have a solid new resource to share. My sister-in-law Lisa has a child who has battled anorexia off and on for years. And Lisa found that navigating the illness and recovery was insanely confusing, often ineffective, and completely discouraging. But after lots and lots of frustration, then lots and lots of research, she finally found proven therapies — evidence-based therapies — that really work. Since then, she’s dedicated much of her time helping other parents avoid all that confusion and frustration

Lisa launched a website called Parents-to-Parents, to share what she knows. There, you’ll find specific resources, and advice on finding a therapist. You’ll also find a new video Lisa created — she made it for parents who have just discovered their child has an eating disorder and don’t know how to start responding. Her mission is to help parents take action as quickly as possible, because the quicker parents take action, the more likely a full recovery will be made.

The video is super impactful. It helps parents get into the mind of their child, to get a picture of how their child is suffering. It’s 40 mins long — so you may want to watch it in smaller segments, or set aside time to watch the whole thing.

As I touched on above, eating disorders are not uncommon, and they end up touching the lives of almost everyone. If someone you know is suffering and you don’t know how to help, I highly encourage you to watch the video — it’s like a quick crash course on the disease.

A couple of big takeaways from the video:

1) As parents, don’t feel guilty. You did not cause this. Really. You didn’t. And the guilt won’t help. The disease is not your fault.

2) As much as you’re suffering, your child is suffering far more. This is a mental disease. Their brain has essentially been hi-jacked, and they are in a very, very dark place. So do what you can to get an idea of how much pain they are in (the video will help), and use that understanding of your child’s suffering to gain an extra dose of patience and compassion. You may need that extra dose, because eating disorders have a way of wreaking havoc on relationships.

Lisa’s goal is to reach as many parents as possible. She knows friends will spread the word, and she hopes pediatricians will share the video link with parents, if their child is diagnosed with an eating disorder.

Eating disorders can be hard to discuss, but I know there are so many people struggling with these diseases, and so many parents worried sick about their kids, and so many friends and relatives that want to help but don’t know how. I’m sharing this here, hoping that the video and website will offer encouragement, plus practical steps that families can take on the road to recovery.

If you’re up for sharing, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you had any experience with the confusion and frustration of eating disorders — as a parent, a victim, a sibling, or a friend? (And feel free to remain anonymous if this is not something you want to share publicly. Obviously, everyone has their own comfort level as far as sharing about this sort of thing goes.) Do you have any good resources that you’ve found that you would add to Lisa’s list? If you’re on the other side of it now, do you remember what happened to finally turn things around?

Lastly, know that I am sending huge love to any families going through this right now.