Helping you free your child of an eating disorder

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Anorexia and other eating disorders - book - How to help your child eat well and be well

Detailed table of contents with page numbers

My book has, of course, a table of contents, but someone asked me for a more detailed one, to help them find sections they previously read. So here goes. Page numbers refer to the 2024 paperback (other versions will be reasonably similar).

I suggest you do a search (Ctrl-F) to help you find a bit you are looking for.

For the shorter table of contents, with links to pages on this website, click HERE.


How this book can help you – Page 1

The practical and emotional tools parents are asking for 1

What you will get from this book 2

Is this book for you? 3

Don’t just read this – get clinical support 4

How to use this book 5

With a little help from my friends 6

Our story in less than two minutes 6

How does an eating disorder affect you and your child? 8

What it’s like for parents 8

What’s going on in your child’s mind? 10

What it’s like on the way to recovery 14

How the body interacts with thoughts and behaviours 15

Your part in diagnosis 19

Eating disorder or ‘just’ disordered eating? 19

Getting a referral for diagnosis and treatment 20

Keep the sense of urgency 21

Get the right medical tests and urgent intervention 21

What are the main eating disorders? 21

‘Normal’ weight: just as ill 24

How bizarre is your child’s eating disorder? 24

What to tell the doctor to get help fast 25

What you don’t want your child to hear from a doctor 26

While you’re waiting for a diagnosis 26

Treatment: the essentials 27

The road ahead 27

What is this method called? 31

Choose a family-based approach first 31

One size fits all? 32

When to treat co-occurring disorders 33

Adapting for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) 34

Expect full recovery 34

How long before my child is well again? 35

What parents need to know about the causes of eating disorders 38

Practical steps in a first phase of treatment 42

Take the lead on the things your child cannot manage 43

Will this treatment not ruin our relationship? 44

Food and love 44

Be a calming coach 44

Give your child ammunition against the eating-disorder voice 44

Hear how your child speaks in code 45

Remove choices: the Magic Plate method 47

Tips for effective collaboration… or not 48

‘You’re making me fat!’ 50

What if my child doesn’t eat? 50

How long should we persist with a meal? 54

How much food? Which foods? 59

Target body weight 67

Weighing your child: open or blind? 73

Hiding food and lying 76

Eating rituals 77

Exercising, moving and standing 77

School 80

Bedtime 83

Purging and bathroom visits 84

Bingeing 86

Post-meal anxiety 89

Running away 89

Self-harm and suicidality 89

Being cold 90

Compulsive behaviours 91

Bodychecking and fat talk 91

Clothes 91

Protection from the internet 92

Baking, recipes and images of food 93

Protect your child from triggers 93

Your self-care 93

Plan how you will start treatment 94

Conclusion: parents take the lead 98

How do you get your child to eat in spite of the eating disorder? 99

The great bungee-jump thought experiment 99

Planning the challenge 101

Logic doesn’t work 101

Education: the dinner table is not a lecture hall 102

Eating prompts work best 102

Conversation topics: pick with care 103

Distraction: a firm favourite 103

Reassurance: surprisingly not reassuring 103

* Pause for self-connection * 104

Calming skills 105

Trust me, I’m an expert 105

Shock tactics: short-lived gains, high costs 106

Shouting, intimidating, blaming: counterproductive 107

Threats, punishment, and ‘consequences’: unnecessary 108

Rewards and bribes: handle with care 109

Incentives: a nudge in the right direction 110

Visualisation: access to inner resources 111

Praise: complex and risky 111

‘It’s your medicine’: worth a go 112

Lost your temper? Repair and resume 113

Teamwork: have a break, make a graceful exit 114

Containment: stay close 115

Humour: the best relaxant 115

Feelings: a good start 116

Empathy: listen and reflect with kindness 116

* Pause for self-connection * 119

Selective hearing, body-swerving and translation skills 119

Mirroring: model calm confidence, de-escalate 120

Defusing fear: remove the fear of fear 121

Notice indicators of progress 121

Wait a few minutes 122

How long should you persist? 122

Focus on the current step in the present moment 123

Let your kid save face and maintain some dignity 124

All singing from the same hymn sheet 125

Giving uncritical acceptance 126

Putting it all together 126

See the tools in action: mealtime scenarios 128

What to say, and what not to say when you are supporting your child to eat 128

Be a fly on the wall: a lunchtime scenario 136

Free your child of fears and rules with exposure 154

Extinguishing fears, returning to flexibility 154

The safety behaviours our children cling to 154

When is a good time to challenge a safety behaviour? 155

Weight gain isn’t enough 156

Dealing with fears: parents and professionals 156

List those fears 157

Pick an item from the list 157

Should you collaborate with your child? 158

‘Why are you torturing me with ice cream?’ 158

Should your child feel the fear or be soothed? 159

What does your child actually fear? 160

The fears associated with eating out 160

Example: from packaged food at home to eating anything anywhere 161

Gradual steps, or dive in? 162

Ideas to make the steps gradual 164

Repeat and vary 165

A flowchart to guide your exposure work 166

When your child doesn’t manage 166

Moving through the exposure list 167

Forewarn or surprise? 168

Your persistence 168

Success breeds success 169

When can exhausted parents take a break? 170

The work towards full recovery and independence 171

Steps to independence and total recovery 171

When does ‘Phase 2’ begin? 171

It’s not a cliff edge 172

A risk management framework 172

Healing your child’s mindset 174

Invidualise the pace to your child 176

Watch out for these issues 180

Progressing through school 183

Re-introducing exercise 184

Activities 187

Holidays and school trips: risky or beneficial? 187

Food after weight-recovery 189

Addressing depression, OCD and other anxiety disorders 195

Trauma, grief and re-engaging with life 195

Normal teenage behaviour or eating disorder? 196

Towards a relaxed body image 197

Dealing with relapse 198

Events that rock the boat 200

Flu and stomach bugs 201

Relapse prevention, plans and contracts 201

Prepare your child to leave home 203

Safeguards as your child leaves the nest 203

Is there such a thing as total recovery? 204

Will parents always have to worry? 206

Partners, friends, family and work: help or hindrance? 208

The logistics: how can you care for your child and attend to your other commitments? 208

Single parents 209

Your spouse or partner 210

Siblings 214

Prevention for your other children 216

Family and friends: how to make good use of them 217

Links with other parents in the same boat 221

Work and money 222

Which treatments work? 224

The parent’s quest for good treatment 224

Eating disorder treatments that are likely to cause harm 225

The best evidence-based treatment 227

Principles validated by research 227

Family therapies: they’re not all the same 227

Family therapy: the first line of treatment for children and teens with anorexia and bulimia 229

Individual therapies 232

How to identify effective treatment providers 235

Disagreements with clinicians 240

Dropping unhelpful treatment 240

No good treatment locally? 241

Family treatment the DIY way 241

Parent-coaching, home support and day treatment 242

Hospitals and eating disorder units 243

Parents and clinicians in partnership 249

Don’t get excluded from your child’s therapy 254

Therapy, coaching and emotional support for parents 258

Powerful tools for wellbeing and compassionate connection 262

‘I’m sorry, and I love you’ 263

Silent empathy 264

Connect before you Direct 265

Keep tracking 266

Keep checking: use question marks 267

Keep your ‘but’ out of it 268

Open question or empathy guess? 269

More tools to help you connect 270

Kindness 271

Be interested: ‘Yes!’ and repeat 271

Guess deeper: feelings and needs 272

Be interested: feelings 272

Be interested: what are the deep needs? 275

Be interested: make use of the chatterbox 278

Validate feelings and needs 279

And now at last, ‘Direct’! 281

How to express yourself effectively 283

Self-compassion 287

Get compassion from others too 292

When to do self-compassion 292

What if the feelings are overwhelming? 293

Examples of self-compassion 293

Onwards 294

Love, no matter what: how to support your child with compassionate communication 295

Food is medicine, and love is life 295

Unconditional love and acceptance 296

Judgemental thoughts: my story 299

She loves you, even when she loves you not 301

What to do with your child’s anger 306

Is your child’s anger better out than in? 306

Is your own anger better out than in? 307

It’s not about you (even when she’s mad at you) 308

Punishment, sanctions, consequences and ultimatums 309

Rewards and incentives can backfire 311

How to be effective 312

Dealing with aggression 321

‘Am I fat?’ How to respond 324

Hysterics, panic attacks and extreme anguish 332

Comfort and reassurance: what works and what doesn’t 334

Nurturing your child’s wellbeing 338

Personality traits that help and hinder 347

The power of your relationship 348

Sick, mad, bad? What story are you telling? 350

Mending, apologising, and regrets 353

Influencers and reading materials for your child: take care 358

How to build up your own resilience and wellbeing 360

My search for new ways to deal with adversity 361

Get to know what sustains you 361

Self-compassion 363

Distraction 364

Soak in the good 364

Use your body to trick your mind 365

Good-enough Zen, or five percent better 365

Coping moment by moment 366

Being in the moment 366

Choose where you put your attention 367

Deep questions 367

Imagery to help you get grounded and peaceful 368

Mindfulness 369

Acceptance: work with reality, not against it 370

Trust that you have resources 375

What to do with fear 379

After the illness: will you be well? 381

Mistakes, blame and self-acceptance 382

Sadness, grief and … joy 385

Writing a diary: self-help or rumination? 386

Helper’s high 387

An attitude of gratitude 387

Joy 389

Thank you 391

Resources 392

Endnotes 393