'We caught our daughter's eating disorder early'

(33 ratings)
A girl eating an apple
Our 15-year-old daughter looked fit and healthy and seemed happy. She'd always loved her food and I'd never put any pressure on her to watch her weight. But just after she started her GCSEs I noticed she seemed nervous at meal times. She always seemed to have an excuse why she didn't need dinner, like saying she'd eaten at a friend's house.

To start with, it didn't worry me but as time went on, I noticed that when she did eat with us she just pushed her food round on her plate. Sometimes she'd even shove her leftovers in the bin when she thought I wasn't looking.

My husband and I didn't want to over-react but we did some research on the internet and discovered that one of the most important with an eating disorder is to catch it early. We went to see our family doctor who advised not to confront our daughter directly or make her feel pressurised. She also put us in touch with a psychotherapist and counsellor.

We brought the subject up with our daughter in a relaxed, chatty way and asked if she would go and see the counsellor just for an initial chat. She was reluctant at first but we struck a deal that she only had to go to three sessions, then it was up to her.

Luckily she got on really well with the counsellor. It seems that whatever was worrying her was easier for her to discuss with someone outside the family. That made us feel a bit inadequate at first but after a while we realised it was perfectly normal.

Six months on our daughter seems much happier. Her self-esteem has improved and, although she likes to keep slim, she does this by eating normally and doing exercise instead of obsessive dieting.

Obviously, we're going to keep an eye on her but I hope she's passed the really danger patch. I'd advise other parents to seek help as early as possible too.
Caroline Gordon, Alton, Hampshire

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More help and advice

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- For more information and help, visit

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Despite the article about genetic tendency to eating disorders, this story shows that early referal to a psychotherapist or counsellor is the best way forward. I imagine it would be difficult, almost impossible, to treat eating disorders with pills : how are you going to know they're being taken, or if taken, thrown up! Thanks for sharing your story with us, and I hope all continue's to go well. lol Liz (psychotherapist)

Dawn Pugh

Hi Caroline, Firstly well done and I can imagine you went through quite a difficult time. Beauty and body images in the media can be responsible for lots of low self esteem. The media heavily influences on body image. From as young as eight years old females can develop a disturbed body image. We need to create body image solutions.Girls need to see better role models, size 12/14 and +. Take care and thank you for sharing your story. Regards Dawn Pugh

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