Families Empowered and Supporting Treatments of Eating Disorders or F.E.A.S.T., with its seemingly ironic acronym, is an eating disorder alliance founded by Laura Collins and an international group of parent activists according to their Web site, http://www.feast-ed.org/feast.html.
Laura Collins’ personal story is actually the story of how F.E.A.S.T. came into existence. Laura tells this story in her book "Eating with Your Anorexic: How My Child Recovered Through Family-Based Treatment and Yours Can Too." She writes that she had a normal, happy family. As parents, they were engaged with their children in a healthy, loving way. Then one day everything changed.
How did this happen? Laura writes, “…something about her [daughter’s] thighs being too big.” Something about her daughter’s thighs being too big catapulted Laura’s family into an anorexic nightmare.
Something about stomachs being too big. Something about backsides being too big. Something about cheekbones not being as defined as they “should be.” It’s always something in this superficial society.
But Laura’s story gets worse. When these distraught parents brought their depleted daughter to professionals for help, were they greeted with sympathy and guidance? No, they were treated with suspicion and locked out of her treatment. Laura, like so many parents, was supposed to leave her child’s care in the hands of professionals while she watched her daughter’s health deteriorate.
This is the story of thousands of parents. But you see, Laura asked too many questions and wanted to follow her own maternal instinct and feed her daughter. Imagine. Laura writes, “The therapist fired us for insubordination.” This sacking by the therapist was actually the beginning of her daughter’s recovery.
In fact, Laura and her husband tried a radical treatment. They started eating with their daughter at home and she responded and started to gain weight. It wasn’t easy; they were struggling. Fortunately, Laura read about the Maudsley Method and found a doctor who was willing to try it with their family.
The Maudsley Method is a family-based therapy for treating anorexia and bulimia, and unlike so many eating disorder therapies, the Maudsley Method does not demonize parents. Instead parents are trained by an eating disorder professional and actually put in charge of re-feeding their own child. In addition, this therapy provides support for parents and siblings because every member of the family is affected when one member has an eating disorder.
Practitioners of the Maudsley Method differ in another way from other therapists: they believe that there is a strong biological component to eating disorders. So when Laura’s daughter was bothered by thighs being too big, that was a reaction to our superficial culture. However, to stop eating because of this was, most likely, the genetic predisposition to anorexia.
Due to the family’s efforts and the Maudsley Method Laura’s daughter is thriving today. Of course a relapse is always possible, but both parents and daughter are ever vigilant and know what to do if one occurs.
While Laura was treating her daughter, she was also reaching out to other activist parents worldwide who together started F.E.A.S.T. in 2008. I’ll write about this family-support resource in my next post.
Collins, Laura. Eating with Your Anorexic: How My Child Recovered Through Family-Based Treatment and Yours Can Too. McGraw-Hill: U.S.A. 2005.