How do you get an anorexia patient to eat?

The question seems so obvious and yet so impossible: food is medicine for the psychological symptoms of eating disorders but HOW? The patient generally doesn't believe it, doesn't want it, is terrified of it, will do almost anything to avoid it, and has the final say: a closed mouth.

So how is this miracle achieved? Is it "force feeding?" Is it begging? Threats? Nope. It's closing all the other doors and predictable structure.

Residential care does initial refeeding very well because compliance is pretty much guaranteed. Patients rarely refuse, and if so not for long. Most patients begin to eat the very first day even when they were unable to do so at home.

Timing is Everything.

There's a lesson here for those refeeding at home, too: clear structure, expectations, and Plan B.


  1. Appropriate timing, Laura, thanks for sharing. As a patient, I often wonder myself, "HOW DO I DO THIS OUTSIDE OF VERY INTENSIVE TREATMENT" (my parents are uninvolved, so I've built other support). It's often hard for me to identify what will work to keep me on track, this makes a lot of sense. Cheers, Gina.

  2. Gina, I'm so glad. I think it is best to put yourself into the hands of people who can make the decisions for you for a while. There's a time for doing it on your own, but there's a time for walking on a broken leg, too: after its been splinted for a while. There are many ways to get that support and creative ways to arrange it. Beating ED is a bit of a chess match: each game is unique!

  3. Thanks for this post, Laura. I find, in hospital, I am able to eat, but I only eat to be able to get discharged so that I can go home and restrict eating once more. As an inpatient, I feel safe knowing that, as you say, I can put myself 'into the hands of people who can make the decisions' for me. It's as if I can 'blame' them for the weight gain. Also, it is a great relief to be able to have some of the pressure released by handing control over to someone else, especially if you trust that person.

    Thanks for giving me motivation to continue trying with my own plan for recovery at home!


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