Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Anorexia is insidious and relentless. 

I was feeling like everything was going so well and I relaxed a little bit.  All of a sudden I start noticing the ways that anorexia is sneaking back into N's life.

It started a month ago.  J asked for lunch money and I realized that N hadn't asked me for any.  I checked in with him.  He said something like, "Oh, I don't need any.  Sometimes I don't get to lunch in time to stand in line, but my buddies give me some of their food."  I responded with a reminder of the need to each lunch every day.

Then, he started doing push-ups and sit-ups every night.  It's not been obsessive.  But he's doing them in private and won't let himself skip which concerned me a bit.  We talked about the need to be careful.

More recently, I noticed that was no longer eating a full breakfast.  He would be late and grab a glass of carnation-instant breakfast and a piece of toast as he ran out the door.  In not much time, he was only grabbing a glass of milk.

So, two nights ago, he starts following me around the house at around 11:00 p.m. talking about how big his nose is.  I know this routine with N, so I respond that he is tired and needs to go to bed.  [I always try to listen and respond to his concerns, but both he and I realize that sometimes it's just the tiredness talking and everything seems 10 times worse than it is.]  He replies with something like, "so my nose is big!"  I'm also familiar with this conversation which continues in different variations.  As he is talking, everything starts to add up for me.  I realized that not only is he tired, but he also isn't getting fully nourished anymore. 

I put all the cards on the table.  His argument for not eating:  "I'm supposed to be listening to my body and I'm just not hungry.  If I'm not hungry and I eat, then I'm not listening to my body."  What an argument!  He's right that he should be listening to his body, but we explain that he CAN'T SKIP MEALS!  EVER!  I guess this is where I see a bit of a break down with intuitive eating.  How can he eat intuitively when the anorexia can convince him that he isn't hungry?

We had a 45 minute discussion with tears.  He admitted that he has been feeling very insecure and anorexic lately, but didn't want to tell us because  he was "afraid that Mom would start making me drink cream again."  And that we "didn't need to worry."  He wanted us to wait until things were much worse before we intervened.  My husband said at this point, "that is the craziest thing I've ever heard!  We will never wait for things to get worse before we intervene because we love you too much to let that happen again."

We ended the very-late evening with a promise from N to eat lunch every day.  I am making his breakfasts again.  Yesterday I asked if he was feeling better.  Not yet.

I am convinced that the key to his future independence is in his learning to make sure that he never skips meals.   I remember the rigor and craziness of college and how easy it was to neglect my eating.  Somehow we have to train him that he can NEVER neglect his eating - even if he "isn't hungry." 


Abby said...

A friend recently linked me to your blog when I said I didn't know how I'd handle my child having an eating disorder, even having battled anorexia myself, and I just wanted to say it seems like you're doing such an amazing job with your son. I can only imagine how hard it must be!

And you are so right in teaching him that he can never skip meals. It's still hard for me after all these years to watch everyone around me doing it like it's no big deal. But I've learned it only takes one meal to trigger it all back again. So I plan ahead and change plans that I'd have to skip meals for. I eat even when I'm not hungry and even when what's available isn't my favorite. Food is medicine and I wouldn't skip taking medicine just because I didn't feel like it. I'm positive your son will learn, it just takes time and practice.

Also, his not wanting you to worry comment is SO familiar. One of the worst things about eating disorders is the guilt that comes with relapse. I'm still working on that one.

Wendy said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Abby. I'm glad to hear that making sure you never skip meals has helped you. Now if we can convince our son!

Erica said...

OMG, Wendy. I think your son and my daughter are twins separated at birth! I haven't posted to ATDT yet, but our d is having a similar relapse. It started with the depression, and then a few weeks ago we discovered she has been cutting herself. She has lost about 5 pounds and all the weird behaviors have started to come back...She even told her therapist that she doesn't want us to know that she thinks she is fat because then we will force food down her throat!
We have upped her calories, and since this past week was spring break, I made all her meals. I vacillate between feeling lucky that we caught this early and thinking that she will never lead a normal life. I can't even see her making it through one semester at college...

Wendy said...

I'm so sorry, Erica, that you guys are also dealing with this stuff again. It does sound so similar - except that we've never had to deal with cutting.

It's spring break for us this week. We're being careful about what he is eating. It only takes a few days of full nourishment and he seems to do better.

Anonymous said...

What helped me most was the realization that my d couldn't listen to her body because it was telling her not to eat. Instead we've taught her to eat in a very structured way. Dr. Kaye once told us intuitive eating sounds good on the surface but most likely won't work for someone with a history of AN.

Wendy said...

Thanks for you comment, Anonymous! I think my son would benefit from more structured eating. You're right - trying to listen to a body/mind that is telling her/him not to eat is definitely a weakness with intuitive eating. Maybe we need to rely on the concept of intuitive eating less.

Batty Matty said...

This situation sounds so familiar; we went through something almost identical...

You are right in saying you have to train him that he can never neglect his eating, even if he 'isn't hungry'.

Wendy said...

Thanks for your comment, batty matty. While weeding early yesterday morning, N and I talked about intuitive eating again. It's amazing how he can twist the concept to mean whatever he wants in the moment - to eat or not. We're going to have to work on separating him from using it as an excuse.