Is this "Food Police" week, or what?
I hate the term "Food Police." And I wear it with pride.
This week I'm hearing it a lot: as a condescending slur on parents who are using the Family-Based Maudsley approach - some of the the hardest and most heroic parenting ever. They're talking about it on the Around the Dinner Table forum, on the Dr. Phil show, and the comments are on fire on my new Huffington Post blog.
I carry a sheriff's badge when I go to ED events and point to it whenever I hear the "Well, you don't want to be the Food Police..." or "It only makes them worse" kind of comment. I don't think those who use this phrase have any idea how infuriating and disheartening it sounds to us. Though some are taking a stand, finally, against it.
To carry on the police analogy, there is a big donut hole in this thinking. Nobody goes to bed hungry at treatment centers, I notice, but that's okay at home with your parents. And make no mistake: patients at home are policed by ED, and inpatient by nurses. Patients are told to "use your skills" at home, and parents are told to let them. This makes food optional at home, and home unsafe. Is it any wonder that patients grow contemptuous and angry?
Do patients need to be in charge to recover? Yes, but the time for that is when they CAN, and DO. And treatment that allows a patient to steep in malnutrition one meal longer than they need to is treatment that gives ED a badge and a baton and a gun stronger than any caliber talking you want to put up as a defense.
To bring it back to Dr. Phil, whose show on bulimia brought forth a wave of anguish on the part of many parents I know, "How's that working for us?"
Not very well. Early and assertive intervention is the only known way to stop this illness in its tracks. Calling parents the Food Police is, effectively, a way for ED to get control of our children until their chances of recovery are slim. The policing, it strikes me, needs to be of treatment that is ineffective and those who insist on offering it and not telling parents there are alternatives. That's a swat team I'm willing to join.
** A grateful shout out to Mamame - the lyrics queen and lead deputizer of Food Police.