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Families of Those With Eating Disorders: 12 Characteristics

We often think we cannot live without the ingrained patterns of our past — whether they be good or bad, positive or negative. But people who lose weight permanently know that if they are to grow in every area of their lives they must look at every area 0f their lives.

The following are characteristics of families of those with food-related problems:

1. Perfectionistic, including high expectations from the father, either verbal or nonverbal. This most often applies to the first-born.

2. Mother frequently dieted, accompanied by an over-emphasis on weight and appearance, compulsive dieting and fasting, diarrhetic use or laxative use.

3. Father distant, fueling an intense desire to to please the father who is typically emotionally unavailable.

4. Parent (0ften the mother) is co-dependent, often denying her own needs and assuming responsibility for everyone else.

5. Rigid discipline with severe punishment, including guilt and shame used as motivation, and perhaps humiliating or hurtful punishment.

6. Sexuality ignored or considered “dirty,” neglecting to give children basic information about sex or no opportunity to discuss sexual issues.

7. Daughters used as confidantes, perhaps with the father complaining to the daughter about the mother, and in fact the child may be used as the parent’s primary form of emotional support.

8. Children forced to be adults, especially daughters who “raised” siblings and children who are not allowed to be children themselves.

9. Children victimized in any way, which may include fondling, incest, neglect or verbal abuse.

10. Parent (often the father) addicted to prescription drugs, alcohol or street drugs.

11. Family members tend to ignore or deny negative emotions, often resulting in explosive anger, or anger and sadness never addressed, even to the point of covering up negative emotions just to please others.

12. Overuse of food for pleasure or reward, with food serving as the primary focus for pleasure and emphasis placed on sweets and rich desserts.

For your ongoing emotional growth and your permanent weight loss, it is important that you look at whether you have avoided — and may still be avoiding — intimacy on some level. Intimacy issues have interfered in your life and sabotaged your success at weight loss.

Now is the time to say, “I need help.”

There’s no point in blaming your past, your family, or even a former abuser, if any. You have simply had numerous unmet needs that you attempted to address through intimacy with food. Now you are moving away from such erroneous thinking and are moving toward joining the two percent of people who lose weight permanently.

SOURCE: Chapter 7, “Developing Intimacy With People,” in Losing Weight Permanently by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.

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