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When Food Is Family: A Loving Approach to Heal Eating Disorders Paperback – October 1, 2011
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An expert in treating eating disorders for more than 25 years, Scheel believes that these disorders serve as a metaphoric voice for their sufferers. She argues that healing can be achieved if families understand the causes of eating disorders, change their patterns of communication, establish greater trust and empathy, and learn how to listen to the person with the disorder. In fact, she goes on to say that eating disorders develop when there is no room for painful or negative emotions to be expressed. Scheel uses case studies to discuss typical failures in attachment, which include trying to fix daughters' problems rather than listening to their feelings, parents confusing their own needs with their children's, and insisting that daughters always act "right." She also helps parents express their own feelings and create healthy boundaries. VERDICT Written primarily for parents, therapists, and caregivers, the book offers questions that prompt thoughtful reflection and provides insight that can ultimately heal a client or daughter with an eating disorder. Scheel adds a valuable resource to literature on this disorder.--Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ --Library Journal, October 2011
Families coping with clinical eating disorders have hungered long and hard for a book like When Food Is Family. Based on her decades of experience, Judy Scheel has written the clearest, most user-friendly guide to understanding and addressing the complex emotional and relational issues underlying these frightening and mysterious problems. No shame or blame games here just information showing how disruptions in relationships or attachments have affected the individual and how these can be healed. Clearly, concisely, and compassionately, When Food Is Family conceptualizes the eating disorder as a metaphorical quest for comfort through food and provides exercises to help families and patients develop a language of emotions so feelings can be expressed directly instead of through self-destructive behaviors. When Food Is Family fills a gaping hole in the eating disorder literature this is the one book I will recommend to all family members facing an eating disorder. --Margo Maine, PhD, FAED, CEDS
Eating disorders create and deepen disconnection within families. Parents often struggle to understand their child's inability to change behaviors that are often life threatening and intractable. Eating disorders also thrive in disconnection and full recovery usually involves not only nutritional and weight restoration but real relationship repair and restoration as well.
When Food is Family provides clear and sophisticated exercises for rebuilding attachment and connection. Grounded in the science and research of attachment theory, these guided self-explorations will help families re-establish the empathy, security, and connection necessary for lasting recovery from these complicated illnesses. --Douglas W. Bunnell, Ph.D., FAED
About the Author
Judy Scheel, Ph.D., LCSW, has been treating eating disorders for more than 25 years. In her years of providing treatment she has found that mutual respect, empathy, and trust provide the foundation for familial and relational repair and recovery from an eating disorder. Helping patients live authentically is the cornerstone of her approach.
Dr. Scheel is the Founder and Executive Director of Cedar Associates, a private outpatient program specializing in treatment of eating disorders and other self-harm behaviors. She is a member of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), and the Eating Disorders Coalition, Inc.
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Top customer reviews
Here are the strengths of the books as I see it.
1. Highly credible, coming from the author's 25+ years treating patients with an ED.
2. Very compassionate, yet honest approach to ED. By compassionate I mean to both the supportive and the suffering family members.
3. The book is based on the "Theory of Attachment" which argues that in order for a person to develop successfully emotionally, they must develop loving, trusting and safe relationships when they were children. My value for this books is due in part to my belief in this theory.
4. The book has an adequate amount of "case study" material too keep it from getting too dry.
5. The book gently asks the most important questions that can be asked of a family member who wants to be supportive of a loved one with an ED: Are you willing to work to understand your loved one's reality? Are you willing to put your own "stuff" aside to help your love one? Are you willing to accept the possibility that you yourself may have had a role in enabling the ED? Are you willing to accept the challenge of breaking/abandoning old patterns of behavior to bring your relationship with your loved on to a new level, in order to help your loved one get better?
The text has a fresh, new approach I haven't seen before. I look forward to reading it again, because I read it so quickly the first time, and there was so much there, I'm sure I will absorb more the second time through.
Its important for family members to trust that the process of being supportive can be intensely and personally affirming not just for the person with ED, but for the supportive person as well.
2/27/12: After two months of no activity, in the last 24 hours my review of this book, and the review of an actual contributor to this book were both "bombed" by four "not helpful" votes by someone who is very angry with "When Food is Family." Their viewpoint is valid. I will to try to learn from what they are saying. I feel like I should make two additional statements about the book:
1.) This book is not a cure-all. With ED there is no panacea, and I'm not sure there is ever complete victory. You hope for improvement and progress, and only after much hard work from the patient, long, difficult therapy, and ongoing support from a strong and comprehensive network of professionals and loved ones. Everyone's reality is different, and not every approach will work for some people, and no single approach will work for anyone.
2.) This book will be so much paper pulp to a support person whose first instinct is to defend, protect, distance, or justify. My review made a large assumption upon which my critic reasonably called me out: in order to be supportive (especially parents), the support person must be completely open to moving forward, including setting their "stuff aside," to help the loved one.
Well, I was wrong. Not only is this not about how families can help, the author assumes that problems with family dynamics and attachment cause eating disorders.
Certainly there are people with eating disorders who have attachment problems in their disordered families. There are also people with cancer who have attachment problems in their disordered families. There are people with OCD who have attachment problems in their disordered families. There are people with the flu who have attachment problems in their disordered families.
Attachment problems or disordered families do not cause any of these illnesses.
Scheel states that she is puzzled about why there is so much relapse among anorexia patients. Her answer is that families and attachment problems are the reason. The actual reason is that anorexia patients are not nourished to a healthy weight. And, even if they are weight restored, they cannot maintain the weight without support because they are still ill. Once weight is restored (and a healthy weight is likely higher than any treatment center has ever set it), thinking begins to clear and recovery becomes possible. And, family support is essential in maintaining that weight. The most important role of families and loved ones is in supporting nutrition--I will use a stronger term--*requiring* nutrition--to save their loved one from starvation. Food is the medicine that cures eating disorders. Once physically restored, emotional healing can happen. This may be healing of pre-morbid conditions (like OCD, depression or anxiety disorders), or there may be healing needed of the family relationships that were damaged during the ravages of the disorder. Eating disorders damage families. That is different from saying that families cause eating disorders.
If you are looking for a book on how families can help sufferers, this is not the book. For a healthier approach, try reading books by the authors Harriet Brown, Laura Collins, Carrie Arnold, James Lock, Daniel LeGrange, and others. Food is medicine. Families can provide an environment for nourishment that heals the disorder and prevents relapse.