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How Can I Help My Child Beat Their Restrictive Eating Disorder?

AKEDA offers a parent training designed by UCSD to improve parent communications and help children return to normalized eating

Watching a child or teen's health digress into a restrictive eating disorder is stressful, to say the least. Many caregivers share a common and pervasive feeling of shame, self-blame and fear over their child's condition. But it is not the caregivers fault for their child’s restrictive eating disorder. Read this again, the problem is not your fault.

It is well-documented that eating disorder cases more than doubled during the pandemic. Waitlists for treatment centers, psychologists, and other professionals are months long and the costs to receive this life-saving care are astronomical. Many parents are unsure where to turn for help, especially those in remote areas where healthcare is difficult to access even in non-emergencies.

A new Intensive Family Treatment (IFT) Educational Program is here to train parents remotely. The Alaska Eating Disorders Alliance (AKEDA) is working with UC San Diego’s Center for Eating Disorders Treatment and Research to offer a free, virtual 8-week course designed to help parents. The course is structured to teach skills and strategies for parents to help champion their 11-17 year-old’s recovery. Parents can expect weekly self-paced videos, alongside worksheets to help them guide their child away from the disordered behaviors. Alaska families can also join a free weekly on-line discussion and support group that is designed to help you implement the strategies.

No formal diagnosis is needed to enroll in the parent training program.

The free program is an opportunity to access immediate evidence-based resources regardless of whether you have insurance or a treatment team.

It is not your fault your child has an eating disorder. But your intervention could save their life. AKEDA is here to help. For more lifesaving informational materials, visit AKEDA’s resource page, which includes links to Alaska providers:

You may be wondering if your child really needs specialized treatment in the first place. Maybe you are wondering if it is just a phase that they will grow out of. Eating disorders are difficult to understand because they live in the mind, disrupting your child’s moods, beliefs, behaviors, emotions. Eating disorders have no “look.” Even if your child has not rapidly changed their body size, if you are worried for them and have come here, then they are sick enough, and it’s time to lean on the professionals in this recovery community.

Early intervention is key, which is why the intensive family treatment program is designed to give parents the tools to get their child into regular eating patterns as quickly as possible. Food itself is a surface level problem in eating disorders. Often these obsessions with calories or nutrition masks underlying stresses and anxieties. Nonetheless, restrictive eating disorders like orthorexia and anorexia often go undetected because of popular health trends. Social media normalizes social comparisons and pressures to fit a “thin ideal” inspired by GymTok and fitness influencers.

Disordered behaviors and thoughts around food and body are incredibly common, especially in children. Eight in ten 10-year-olds fear becoming fat, no matter their gender. More than 42% six to eleven-year-olds diet to control their weight. Later on, 42% of female high school athletes report disordered eating, which increases their injury risk eight-fold compared to their peers.

AKEDA’s program provides parents with tools to avoid any further disruptions to their child’s health. Your child can still be a high-achiever, or laugh, or be social, and have an eating disorder. It’s never too early to get help, but it can be too late. Don’t wait.

Guest written by Megan Bazzini

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