How to ‘Confront’ My EDNOS Mother?

By October 11, 2012

I have recently started the search for information in regards to what I believe is my mother’s EDNOS. A recent visit to her home reminded me of the battle that I believe she faces everyday. My mother will be turning 49 in two days. She has four children, with myself being the youngest. My mother has dealt with weight issues since she was very young. Her nickname in school was “moose,” and it is my belief that she was nearly 200 pounds at her high school graduation. I can recall my mother’s obsession with weight beginning when she was in her mid- to late-20’s, looking for a new start after a failed marriage and now caring for four children – possibly after failed attempts to diet and exercise. My mom picks at food, rarely dishes a plate to eat; if she does she puts little on it, and she is obsessed with making elaborate meals. My mother often purges as well. Evidence in the toilet is what has and continues to haunt me. Currently, she is boney and frail. She also is overly concerned with discussions about weight and weight topics in the media. I would like to “confront” my mother about this topic formally. When I lived at home I remember making brief statements about my concerns. Now, at age 24 and going into a helping profession myself (School Psychology), I feel that I owe her this much – EVEN IF IT MAKES HER MAD. How should I do this? I have recently heard about [Constance’s] book. Should I give it to her . . . tell her I am concerned about someone I love? Please help! I am concerned about her health. – T

Dear T,

You’ve raised a very interesting and important question. Sometimes we forget that eating disorders did not just appear in this generation. The reality is that many women of your mother’s generation have also suffered from the symptoms of chronic dieting and many do meet the criteria for EDNOS.

Historians tell us that women were practicing anorexia and bulimia in the 1900’s, such as the wave of anorexic behaviors in the flapper era. Socio-cultural experts tell us that disordered eating may have really hit a peak for the first time in the 20th century in the early 1960’s, when your mom and other baby boomers were at impressionable ages. Women of this generation were likely to think it wasn’t feminine to eat in front of men and yet they were encouraged to FEED OTHERS. Then came Twiggy – the first anorexic-sized supermodel, along with the women’s revolution, the pill, higher divorce rates, and more single moms like yours. So, women were very confused.

Yes, many women of this generation ride the weight-gain, weight-loss roller coaster and suffer in silence. Your mom may be one of them. It would certainly be appropriate for you to ask if you could talk with her about this. As therapists we remind you to stick with statements like “I am concerned for you”. Avoid “you” statements like “You are really sick, etc.”

And finally, remember that as much as you love your mom, you may not be able to help her change. She has to be able and ready to begin this herself. Even though you’re going into a helping profession, you may not be able to change a family member. Try as I might, I was unable to save my own mother from dying from eating disorder related causes (decades of laxative abuse).

You can be there for her and offer to talk. I think it’s a great idea to give her Life Inside the “Thin” Cage and other books which could universally speak to your mom’s generation, as well as your own. Maybe you could remind her that things are changing. Thanks to efforts of many former disordered eaters and those who love them, the world is beginning to realize that sacrificing our health in order to be a certain size is unnecessary. Best of luck in your loving efforts. Keep us posted.