Monday 19 December 2016

Excellent advice on how to weigh an eating disordered child

Every week directly before our hourly CAMHS session Ben was weighed in an ante room. He was told his weight. It might have gone up slightly - or down. If it had gone up, even by a tiny amount, the entire CAMHS session would be hi-jacked by panic and anxiety that his weight was ballooning out of control and that we were "making him fat". Worse, that his weight would continue going up and up without ever stopping and he might explode, Mr Creosote style. As a result he would spend the following week making adjustments to ensure that the needle was pointing in the 'right' direction at the next scales session.

All of this meant that there was a lot of talk about weight at the CAMHS sessions - the nurse with her little cardboard wheel which she'd move this way and that to work out his BMI and the psychiatrist trying to pacify Ben as he reacted to what the scales were telling him.

In my book Please eat, I quote Ben as saying: “Everyone hates me. I’m so fat and ugly it’s disgusting. You’re making me fat. CAMHS is making me fat. Everyone is making me fat. You just want to keep on force-feeding me until I explode. You’re torturing me! My life is hell - I don’t know why the f*ck I’m alive!” 

That was typical talk at the time.

On top of this there were never any checks to see if Ben was cheating the scales in any way. The only items of clothing he was ever asked to remove were his shoes and outer jacket, so we never knew Ben's true weight; the weights noted on his charts were fully-clothed weights, jeans and all.

So in real terms Ben actually weighed less than what the scales were telling us. This makes me feel quite panicky, even now...

In her excellent blog (referred to in my last blog post) Dr Julie O'Toole of the Kartini Clinic talks about how to weigh an eating disordered child.

I would argue that this is how Ben should have been weighed.

It would have saved an awful lot of firefighting at those CAMHS sessions where his weight has gone up slightly.

It would have avoided talk such as "letting Ben choose a weight he feels happy with" (yes, that was said!) and "we're happy to settle for 'good enough' if you are" (ditto).

My son might just have attained his pre-anorexia weight which, sadly, he never did.

Remember, he was discharged from CAMHS after 26 months weighing just 1kg more than when he had started eating disorder treatment.

And that was with his clothes on.

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