There are specific ways that women with anorexia nervosa can help protect their daughters from developing this eating disorder.
“The number one thing an anorexic mother can do to protect her children from developing an eating disorder is to seek treatment immediately (whether before/during pregnancy or after a child is born; the sooner, the better),” says Linda Centeno, PhD, clinical psychologist, and assistant director of the Koch Center in NJ that specializes in eating disorder treatment.
It’s important that the psychologist or therapist is one who concentrates in treating women with eating disorders, as opposed to a clinician who has a general practice.
The anorexic mother should also see a medical doctor, such as their primary care physician or OB/GYN.
She should also schedule a visit with her child’s pediatrician and inform the doctor what she is going through regarding the anorexia.
Dr. Centeno notes that many anorexic women skip out on seeking treatment out of fear of being judged or shame over their eating disorder.
“It is important that women realize that their doctors understand this shame and will work with them to find recovery,” she notes.
Should a mother dress in a way to conceal her emaciated frame from her kids?
Dr. Centeno says that the mother’s attire won’t make much of a difference in the bigger scheme of things, and that “there is no way to hide from a child the fact that his/her mother is anorexic.”
Children will notice, either consciously or unconsciously, that something isn’t right; they have radar that will detect what their mother does and feels. There is no magical age when this radar starts hopping.
Women with anorexia should not put off seeking treatment just because their child is only two and not old enough to recognize an eating disorder.
Dr. Centeno recommends the following for anorexic women to protect their kids from the eating disorder:
- -Talk with your doctor and/or your child’s pediatrician.
- -Avoid over-exercising.
- -Do not purge food.
- -Maintain a healthy weight.
- -Eat an appropriate diet.
- -See a psychologist or therapist experienced in working with people with eating disorders.
- -Seek a medication consultation.
- -Find a support group.
- -Do not use laxatives or diuretics, and work with a nutritionist.
Dr. Centeno works with adolescents and adults. In her private practice her specific clinical expertise also includes anxiety and panic disorder, depression, relationship issues and sexual abuse.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.