Book Review by Rachel Bachner-Melman, PhD

Review of When Your Teen has an Eating Disorder – Practical Strategies to Help Your Teen Recover from Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating 

Rachel Bachner-Melmanby Rachel Bachner-Melman, PhD, Israel

There could be few resources more valuable for parents of a teen with an eating disorder than Lauren Muhlheim’s “When Your Teen has an Eating Disorder.” This book explains in simple language what parents need to know about eating disorders, including warning signs, symptoms, what it feels like to have a disorder and above all, how they can help.

Dr. Muhlheim presents the rationale behind Family Based Therapy (FBT), normalizes fears and apprehensions experienced by parents whose child is not able to adequately nourish herself, and zooms in on what they can do to help her (or him) overcome her eating disorder. Dangers and the need for medical safety are clearly explained, as well as the need for parents and therapists to be aligned with one another. Dr. Muhlheim presents detailed and practical guidelines on target weights, appropriate nutrition, the role of a dietitian if needed, changes in metabolism, weight gain and weight maintenance, using excellent worksheets, real-life examples and solid, evidence-based advice invaluable for parents. The ugly, extreme sides to eating disordered behaviors are not softened, including possible self-harm and suicidal ideation. Hands-on advice is offered on how to face and overcome these and to view the eating disorder and its consequences as external to the child. No symptom is overlooked, and strategies to prevent excessive exercise, restricted food choices, binge eating, purging, excessive self-weighing, food rituals, and body checking are proposed.

If you are looking for tools for meal planning, food choices, scheduling, weighing procedures, dealing with digestive problems and negative behaviors, and increasing compliance, you will find them, as well as ideas for distraction and the management of what actually happens during mealtimes. Dr. Muhlheim does not present general, vague or theoretical guidelines. She goes into detail and troubleshoots, using true-life scenarios. She provides perspective by advising how progress or lack of progress can be gaged, what can be done when problems arise and when a change in approach may be best. The rocky but feasible road to recovery is described and parents learn what to expect and how they can help their teen to gradually increase her flexibility in the realms of food, exercise, and even clothing.

The final chapters explain when and how responsibility for eating can be gradually handed back to the teen, what recovery looks and feels like and what can be done to prevent relapse. “When your teen has an eating disorder” leaves much room for the autonomy of each family to trust themselves and find what works for them. Above all, it shines compassion. Compassion for the children experiencing the eating disorder and compassion for parents who need to learn the challenging art of keeping calm and confident in the face of their teen’s potentially life-threatening symptoms. A must read when helping your teen through an eating disorder.

Rachel Bachner-Melman, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment and research of eating disorders. She has rich experience in treating eating disorders in various inpatient and outpatient settings and is Founder and Director of “Koli, the Jerusalem Center for Recovery from Eating Disorders” in Jerusalem, Israel. Dr. Bachner-Melman completed her Ph.D. and postdoctoral studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is a Senior Lecturer in the MA Clinical Psychology Program at the Ruppin Academic Center in Emek Hefer and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She and has published over sixty peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and presents regularly at conferences in Israel and abroad. She is Director of Outreach of the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), a member of the Eating Disorders Research Society, and President of the Israel Association for Eating Disorders.

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