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Externalizing the Eating Disorder

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  1. K

    I love this concept and it really helps us caregivers separate our child from the ED behaviour, however my daughter argues and insists it is HER who doesn’t want to eat these foods and not the ED, and that I am not listening to HER when she talks about all these foods she hates and can’t eat. I understand she really does feel like it is her who doesn’t like all these foods so it doesn’t seem to work in that sort of situation. Would you agree or is there a better way to approach this or help her understand that all these restrictions and dislikes are driven by the ED not really her even though she feels like it and she needs to eat. She gets very frustrated with me on this so I am just trying not to say it anymore.

  2. Sharon

    Hi K-
    I have the same issue with my 22yr. old daughter. I have struggled for quite awhile now on how to speak with her about anything ED related because of this issue. I know I should not remain silent about the subject. My efforts to separate ED only fuel anger and she removes herself from the room. I wish I had an answer for you-you are not alone

  3. Lois Zagrodzki

    I feel it is important to remember that the person did not choose to have an ED and would rather be free of it. It is such a complex disease that if you are not involved in it, it is difficult to understand. As long as the person with ED does not give up and therefore, give in there is hope!

  4. Eva Musby

    The big majority of parents I talk to say their child hates the externalizing model. Kevin does a great job 3mn in to give alternatives, such as “Abandon the metaphor”. The externalising model is a principle of FBT (family-based treatment). But let’s remember another principle: parents are the experts on their child.

    My opinion is that if a tool doesn’t do a job, then don’t use it. If our child feels unheard, misunderstood, when we say, “It’s ED who doesn’t like this food, you love it”, then using the metaphor increases disconnection. The reality is there is no ED goblin sitting on our child’s shoulder so why insist that there is?

    And if we shout “I hate ED!!!” then we may enjoy the release, but it we’re hardly showing confidence, calm and competence, we’re not creating a nurturing atmosphere.

    All that matters is that we don’t blame our children, remembering they have stuff happening to them that they did not choose, that brings on a whole load of difficult symptoms and behaviours. We can work on changing behaviours without judging them.

    If your child with asthma was struggling to breathe and refusing to run for the bus, you wouldn’t purse your lips and announce, “It’s Asthma who is refusing to run, you love running”. You wouldn’t say, “Is Asthma who is mad at me”, you’d say, “It looks like you’re mad at me and I’m guessing it’s because right now it’s really hard for you to breathe and it’s stressing you out”.

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