I had a comment from Renee about a problem they were experiencing, which is worth writing a post on here. Many families are faced with the discomfort that a member’s compulsion can cause. There is a concern for what is obvious and then struggling with a need to not cause distress for the person in question, as can be seen in this plea:
Was wondering if anyone could help on an issue that my partner and I are having with his daughter. We have custody of her week on/week off. She is 10 years old and a beautiful girl but her weight is beginning to spiral out of control. She is now in a size 14 and around 50 kilos. We give her nothing but healthy food and we walk together but she has begun to steal food. It started with occassional pieces of chocolate leftover from celebrations to taking chocolate that was for a friends son for Xmas. It is only getting worse. She now rarely eats her dinner, preferring to sneak food into her room to eat. Her mother is not a great help as she often sends whole large bags of chips or lollies with her. My partners daughter will not talk about anything instead getting angry at us for finding out, she will not admit to what she has done. We really just want to help her! What can we do?
Imagine that the substance and behaviour were not food but rather a drug, would you be afraid to sit down with your partner’s daughter and discuss the problem? The same applies for compulsive eating as for any other compulsion. Of course she is uncomfortable to talk about it and becomes defensive – that’s how compulsive behaviour presents itself. You may be afraid that if you speak to her she may become anorexic. Better to ask her to talk to you both about something of concern. Make sure you use a nurturing method of talking. Explain that your concern is about her eating patterns and her weight gain. Ask her how she feels about it. If she continues to stand her ground then it is better that you see a therapist to help you plan a strategy. You may even take her to a doctor who can determine that she is obese and write a letter to give to the mother requesting that she stop contributing to the child’s obesity. Remember to use a nurturing tone at all times because fear can sometimes make us sound angry and that does not have a good outcome.
Tummy, photo by Kia Abell, United States