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‘Twenty families talk frankly about how an eating disorder affected their lives’ By Bev Mattocks

Following the publication in March of my book Please Eat… a mother’s struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia, I wanted to see how our story overlapped with other families’ experiences across the UK. Through my various networks, I approached 20 families to see if they would be willing to share their personal stories with other families. Each responded with a resounding “Yes!” And so my latest book When Anorexia Came To Visit: families talk about how an eating disorder invaded their lives came about.

From the moment I wrote the first word, I knew this was going to be an important book. Not only does it feature a cross-section of families from across the UK (looking primarily at restrictive anorexia nervosa), but two of the 20 stories are about boys with eating disorders.

Some of these young people are now fully recovered from their illness whereas others are still a ‘work in progress’. Some have received outstanding treatment from clinicians drawing on the latest evidence-based treatment while others have received less than ideal care. Shockingly, in some instances, families are still being labelled as, at best, dysfunctional and, at worst, as abusive in a world where it is becoming increasingly recognised that parents are not to blame for their child’s eating disorder.

The primary purpose of this book is to help parents to identify the warning signs of an eating disorder and take prompt action – and to empower them to demand the best, evidence-based treatment for their child while drawing on the strategies that these 20 families found most helpful.

Of course each family’s circumstances are different and one approach may not be suitable for another family. Yet so much of what we’ve all experienced is similar. Not just in terms of the warning signs but in the way the illness transformed our children into people we scarcely recognised, mentally as well as physically. And, of course, the sheer uphill struggle of trying to get them to eat again.

The other purpose of my new book is to highlight inconsistencies in the way eating disorder treatment is delivered across the UK – and to draw attention to the problems encountered at GP level where there is often a low awareness of the complexities and symptoms of eating disorders, in both boys and girls.

I was delighted when Professor Janet Treasure OBE agreed to write the Foreword for When Anorexia Came To Visit. Becky Henry, whose book Just Tell Her To Stop: Family Stories of Eating Disorders is the US-equivalent of mine and which inspired my book, volunteered to write the Preface. And Laura Collins, Founder of F.E.A.S.T. (Families Empowered And Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders) and author of Eating With Your Anorexic has written the Introduction.

Getting a son or daughter through an eating disorder is one of the toughest and most distressing things parents will ever do. But re-visiting painful memories is unbelievably tough, too. Yet each of the families I interviewed for this book willingly volunteered to come forward and describe their own struggles.

Not only did they agree to talk frankly about their experiences, they agreed to read through the various drafts I sent through for checking. In other words, being involved in this book meant having to re-visit distressing memories not once but several times over. This takes courage and commitment. It also demonstrates how much these families care about others – families they have never met who will read this book and hopefully draw inspiration, strength and hope from its pages.

Finally I must thank the young people themselves for demonstrating the courage, grit and determination to fight the eating disorder and win. Being a parent is tough, but being someone who has fought to break free from this insidious illness is even tougher.

 Bev Mattocks is the author of Please Eat… A mother’s struggle to free her teenage son from anorexia 

 Her second book When anorexia came to visit: Families talk about how an eating disorder invaded their lives  has just been published, with a Foreword by Professor Janet Treasure OBE

 Both are available on Amazon and as Kindle downloads

 Visit Bev’s blog AnorexiaBoyRecovery


'Men Get Eating Disorders Too' is a registered charity in England and Wales no. 1139351.

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