Refeeding

“We have been working on refeeding for about a week now and it absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. My daughter will eat without too much complaint for one day and then seems too lose momentum as “the thing” takes over. Two days ago I persisted for FIVE HOURS just to get her to eat breakfast! This was filled with screaming, yelling, and a red-faced glare I can only describe as evil.” From a mother helping to reefed her daughter.

Renourishment is an important step in healing from anorexia nervosa. Re-nourishment can happen at home or in a hospital or at a residential treatment center but it is necessary for recovery – and is going to be painful. Giving in to the tantrums, escalations, threats, and other manipulations only guarantees you’ll get more resistance next time.

Parents who are responsible for refeeding often use the Maudsley Approach. Key ideas in this refeeding program include:

  • Nothing comes before full nutrition-school, work, friends, activities, etc.
  • See a local physician for nutritional IV therapy until weight-restored and take nutrients.
  • Food must be finished before getting up from the table.
  • No playing with food.
  • No sleeping at the table.
  • No closing of bedroom or bathroom doors.

Just as in an inpatient setting, eating is not optional. The security of having no choice can be very reassuring to patients.

Parents looking for information and support on helping their children’s refeeding will find valuable help at aroundthedinnertable.org, a site sponsored by F.E.A.S.T., an organization of parents serving parents and caregivers of patients of all ages with anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders.

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