The Parent’s Guide to Childhood Eating Disorders

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
May/June 2003 Volume 13, Number 3
©2002 Gürze Books

(Marcia Herrin EdD, MPH, RD, and Nancy Matsumoto.Owl Books, Henry Holt and Company; 324 pages; $16.00, paperback)

Here’s a book I happily recommend for parents of children and teenagers with eating disorders, and to the children and adolescents themselves. After all, they should know what their parents know. The primary author, Marcia Herrin, is a highly qualified psychologist-nutritionist-clinician, who founded the Dartmouth College eating disorders programs.

This well-organized, easy-to-read, very current and well-referenced book weaves the author’s own and several patients’ stories in at the beginning, and then looks at risks, early signs and prevention. It describes when disordered eating becomes dangerous; avoiding parent traps; families’ reactions and what families can do; risks to boys; medical consequences, including course and impact on growth and bodily organs; what friends, schools, and summer camps can do; nutritional and exercise planning; outcomes; treatment options; and resources. Her sources include the American Psychiatric Association’s Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Eating Disorders, and it’s clear that she’s read and considered many of the sources that went into those guidelines.

The sections that give highly specific advice to parents are well done, very practical, and make sense to me. The book’s style is chatty and conversational, and the book is broken down into bite-size chunks, headed by clear, declarative statements, such as ” Put issues of body size, shape and food in a political context”; “Explain at an early age that different kids have different body types: focus on body function over body shape and size”; “Ban teasing about weight”; and later, “Fight the disorder and not your child”, and many, many more. There are lots of tables and inserts: early warning signs, risky dieting behavior; restricting through pseudo-vegetarianism; healthy exercise, and many others. Appendices have DSM criteria for eating disorders and body weight assessment tools, including BMI charts.

I had one small quibble–the list of eating disorders resources is incomplete, omitting the Academy for Eating Disorders ( site, the Cornell Westchester programs, the University of Toronto programs, and many other fine University-based programs in California (e.g., Stanford), Colorado (Denver Children’s Hospital), Washington D.C. (National Childrens’ Hospital) and many others, including several based in adolescent medicine services. In addition, the resource list favors private hospitals and clinics. Although I also understand the authors’ good intentions of listing every treatment program they came across, regardless of treatment orientation, I look forward to a day when as a field we can offer patients and their families treatment choices based on some reasonable set of programmatic standards and data on clinical outcomes.

— J.Y.

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