An Update on My Daughter

I can’t thank you all enough for the amazing, outpouring of support and prayer you gave our family yesterday. I was shocked to receive over 100 tweets, private messages, emails, and texts from all of you. I hope to respond to everyone very soon. I thank God for giving us the kind of prayer and loving support through this crazy internet world that I would normally only expect from close friends or family.

I came home from worship practice and threw up last night.

JanewayintheMorning

The daughter that I was so worried about saw me start gagging while I was holding the baby, and brought me a bucket. I made it to the bathroom instead.

She asked, “Mom, are you sick?”

“No honey. I was just really worried about you earlier.”

“Oh.” She wrinkled her brow. “I’m fine, Mom.”

“Yeah, I know.” She went back to the living room and ate her pizza.

Her doctor told me that there was no reason to be concerned about eating disorders right now, even after three days with less than 500 calories, because there was no weight loss. However, when I described her obsession with thinness (“I’m really worried my thighs are fat. Do you think my thighs are fat? See this flabby part right here? I never want to get fat. Mom, why would anyone be fat? Aren’t you glad you’re not fat anymore? I love my skinny arms. I’m skinny enough to slide between the fridge and the counter at Janna’s house and hide! I’m sooooo skinny, and it’s sooooo beautiful!!”) the doctor did encourage me to get her some counseling, to keep it from progressing into an eating disorder.

She’s nine.

I’ve never had any relationships with people who had eating disorders. I knew that the ideas floating around in my daughter’s mind were unhealthy, but since she didn’t change her eating habits, I didn’t think it was severe enough yet to warrant some kind of intervention.

Every time she would say something about her weight, her dad and I would redirect the conversation to health, and to true beauty. We would point out that we don’t know why some people are overweight, and that we should never judge someone based on appearances. I lost a large amount of weight when I found out I had food allergies, so we’ve discussed that being fat or thin may have nothing to do with a person’s self-discipline or character.

This has gone on for more than a year. Yes, that means it started in earnest when she was eight.

She’s in the tenth percentile for weight, and has been since she was a baby. Her sisters, however, are in the 50th-75th percentile, and we were concerned that they would feel shamed by her constant focus on thinness. Sometimes, we got so frustrated that we would ban her from talking about weight at all for the rest of the day. “I’m glad you like being thin, but being thin is not a bad thing or a good thing, any more than having red hair is a good thing or a bad thing. Stop. Talking. About. It.”

The good news is that we don’t have an emergency. We don’t have to hospitalize her, make dramatic changes in all of our lives, or start some type of re-feeding therapy to make sure her heart or brain or kidneys keep working.

The bad news is that she lied to me about eating lunch yesterday. She ate one piece of toast with honey for breakfast, nibbled at a bun and a pretzel for lunch, licked the frosting off of a cupcake for a snack, and ate two pieces of pizza for dinner, with no sauce. (We get pizza once a week when the babysitters come over, so we can have worship practice.) That’s still under 700 calories.

We don’t have an emergency. We do have a situation. We have a wonderful, intelligent, talented, spirited, –and yes, beautiful—young daughter who needs help. Please continue to pray for her, that she will be healed and whole in Jesus.  Please also continue to pray for us, that we will make good decisions, not overreact, and be wise and loving in all of our dealings with her.

Thank you so much for being a part of our lives.

6 thoughts on “An Update on My Daughter

  1. I’m relieved that the situation isn’t as dangerous as you feared. Here’s to your daughter’s health.

    However, it saddens me that a child wants to be “thin” and is terrified of becoming “fat”. The fashion and entertainment industries hold up thinness as a nigh-unattainable ideal, sending unhealthy messages to girls and women. One’s self worth should never depend on conforming to a silly beauty standard.

    1. Amen!! It’s horrifying, and it’s honestly mystifying. However, I’m learning that it manifests itself in so many different ways, and it may not be entirely related to the media. She had serious GI & feeding issues as a baby, and for a season, would only eat chicken nuggets from one specific store. As I begin this journey with her, I’m shocked by how much I *don’t know* about eating disorders. Thank you so much for your support & love Ahab. <3

    1. I don’t, honestly. 🙁 It breaks my heart. We only have Netflix, so we know every show that our kids watch. There aren’t any that glorify thinness. She is much, much smaller than her friends, and due to high IQ + her summer birthdate, she’s also the youngest one in her class.

      Also, quite honestly, she can tell when the family is under a lot of stress. We don’t talk about financial or job problems, with our kids, but she’s smart, and she knows when the cow manure has hit the combine blades. A couple of years ago, my husband was laid off from his summer teaching gig at the very last minute–the night before he was supposed to start teaching! We both started working two part-time jobs, while the kids were shuffled back and forth between babysitters and friends. When my daughter was at her grandmother’s house, she copied down the number of a payday loan commercial, thinking it would help us.

      Right now, they don’t know that daddy got laid off, for several reasons. 1) We might end up moving across several states if a certain opportunity pans out. 2) If it doesn’t, we’ll stay here while my husband adjuncts at a couple of neighboring colleges, until he can find a different job 3) All of these options take *time*, and kids have such a SLOW perception of time that we didn’t want to raise their anxiety level. Maybe that was a bad move on our part. I don’t know.

      1. Sorry for not getting to this before, I didn’t realize you had replied! Unfortunately our culture’s beauty standards are so insidious she could have simply overheard a conversation at school or noticed how thin women are on grocery store magazine covers. It’s amazing how subtle the message that thin = beautiful can be.

        You might want to consider just giving your daughter an idea of what’s going on. If she senses something is up, her imagination could run wild and imagine worst-case scenarios and stress her out. You could tell her not to tell the other kids because you don’t want to worry them. You don’t even have to tell her EVERY detail about what’s going on, it really depends on what you think she can handle.

        Sending you much love and hugs. <3

  2. As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, your story resonates with me. I was a “picky” eater my entire childhood, and now I can see how in my teen years it progressed. I think at first it might have been pickiness, but all the comments about how thin I was somehow made me equate thinness with goodness. Sounds crazy I know but it seemed it was all anyone talked about so it must have been what was good about me. The more people talked about my weight, the more I felt I was special because of it. I know it sounds crazy, but its what I was thinking at the time. Although I no longer struggle with it, I did until I was 39 (I am 49). I cannot tell you how I was freed from its control, but I swear one day I woke up and said “I am starving myself and I need to stop. Get out of my way I am hungry!” Literally, it looked like that. But even now I have to really talk to myself about ascribing worth based on the scale and about wanting to control control control. I have prayed for you and your daughter and will continue to do so. Also, because of where I have been, please know that this has nothing to do with you, and you didn’t encourage this in her. Its her struggle, and even as a child she has a relentless enemy. Burden bearing for our children is heartbreakingly difficult. Again prayers for you and her.
    Walking in grace,
    Karan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *