Help your child eat with trust, not logic: the bungee jump (Anorexia & other Eating Disorders)

Hello everyone, my name is Eva Musby. My aim here is to give you some very practical support if you’re the parent
of a child or a young person suffering from anorexia. What I’d like to offer you
right now is a few very practical tips to help you support your child to
eat a mea. In order to do that I’m going to invite you to go bungee jumping! The idea is to get you suitably
terrified, because I propose that the main emotion that your child is
experiencing when you ask him or her to eat is terror. It’s anxiety, it’s fear, probably
mixed with some utter disgust as well So how can you best support your child
to eat in spite of the fear. Now let’s imagine that you have to go on a bungee
jump and you have an instructor whose job it is to help you actually take the
jump. Now there are many things that this instructor can do to make your job
harder and many things they can do to make it easier. I’m going to
concentrate on just one right now and that’s the use of logic. The reason I’m
choosing to talk about logic is that it’s a very common trap for us parents
at the dinner table. So your child asks about calories and you start giving a
lecture about metabolism, the energetic needs of the brain, how the body needs fuel. And your child says, “But all I’ve done is sit here all day!” and you say, “Ah, but do you know how much energy the body burns just by being awake! You need calories for
this and for that and…” You get the drift So let’s see what would happen if you’re
on this bungee jump and your instructor goes “Go on , take your jump” and you go “How do I know that the cord won’t break?” and your instructor brings out a whiteboard and
gives you a mathematical formula involving Young’s Modulus of Elasticity
and explains to you how by dividing the tensile stress by the tensile strain in the elastic, you get a stress
strain curve which proves that there is absolutely no way that with this
particular cord it would ever break and then you say, “Yeah, but what about the
clips? How do I know that the clips won’t break?” and on and on it goes. So by giving you a logical explanation
your instructor has only raised more questions, and all this happening is
you’re spending even longer looking into the void and hoping to delay the moment
at which you’ll need to jump. What would be far more reassuring and
much more likely to work is for your instructor to exude a sense of utter
confidence and competence so that you just look at them and you know you’re
safe. And if you start asking questions they
go, “Hey, I’m an expert. I know this is all right. On you go, you’re perfectly safe, trust me.” Now there are good reasons why logic doesn’t work when somebody is full of anxiety. When you’re scared there is one area in your brain which is
called the limbic area which kicks in. Its job is to do fight flight or freeze. It doesn’t do thinking, it doesn’t do rational, it doesn’t do logic. This may
help you understand why on the whole with anorexia there is a very little link to
the rational. And so I suggest that when you next try a meal and your child asks
you a lot of questions which you are tempted to respond to with a lecture
you take a breath and you think TRUST You embody trust, you are a trustworthy
parent, and you know that your child is safe eating. And you say, “Trust me, you
need this food. It’s safe.” And then you wait and then you watch for a sign of
relaxation. Does your child look just a little bit more ready to eat as they
think , “Maybe, maybe this is ok.” If your child is still not eating you can say, “Go
on, pick up your fork, have a bite.” You can trust me. This is safe.” And then your child might say, “How do you know it’s safe?! You’ve not even weighed it, you’ve not even measured it, you’ve not even counted the
calories! And what’s all this fat there on the side! How do you know it won’t make me fat?” And you go, “I know about these things. Trust me. This
is exactly what you need. I’m an expert. Have a bite, go on, have a bite now. It’s safe. Now this
is not the only tool to help you get your child to eat there are many many
more. But the general principle is there: that if you can help reduce your child’s
anxiety you have better chances to help him or her eat in spite of a certain
level of fear. So I propose that you try it at the next meal time and I wish you the
very very best!


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