About Abigail Natenshon
Over 35 Years of Eating Disorder Specialty Practice
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Eating Disorder Specialist

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You need not walk this path alone


In my professional experience over these past four decades in treating individuals and families with eating disorders, I have found knowledgeable parenting to be the “magic bullet” enhancing effective, timely, and lasting recoveries in children.  Self-advocacy is a prerequisite to parents becoming effective advocates for the child, treatment team, recovery process, and the overall quality of the parent/child relationship.


This site will educate you about eating disorders, the treatment process, your child in recovery, and yourself…preparing you to become your child’s most invaluable resource and mentor for recovery. It will eradicate the misconception that parental involvement in their child’s recovery is equivalent to interference, or that parents who attempt to become involved in healing their child  violate their child’s budding autonomy and privacy.

As informed consumers, it is for parents to

  • Recognize their inherent rights as individuals, parents and partners in the treatment team
  • To dare to have expectations.
  • To make appropriate demands of the recovering child as well as of the team.
  • To be steadfast in seeing to it that their own, and their family’s needs get met.


Parental activism has become a means for facilitating and sustaining eating disorder recovery. Eating disorders never stand still; they are either getting better or getting worse. Matching the nature and demands of these disorders on the move, parents, like therapists, must insure that there is movement in recovery that is intentional, directed, and tracked. It is this systematic tracking and response to what would otherwise be an unpredictable and counterintuitive recovery dynamic that yields the most productive learning and outcomes. With eating disorders, parental love needs to be translated into action; loving one’s child is not enough.

The most critical resource for parents is themselves; their most critical tool, the gentle and familiar art of listening…actively and purposefully, to:

  • Themselves; to their own values, attitudes, and biases about food and weight management, and to the courage it takes to maintain a parental presence throughout the child’s recovery process
  • Their child; to help the child listen to and better hear herself.
  • Their child’s health professionals; to discover whether the professional is truly listening to them.
  • The unique and counterintuitive nature of recovery; to comprehend and interpret it to the child, inspiring reassurance, motivation and perseverance throughout an extended and challenging process.

Parents need no instruction about how to respond when their child has cancer or diabetes; interestingly, they tend to lose their emotional balance, self-confidence, and faith in their instincts when confronting the adolescent life stage, life corrupting eating disorders, their own personal issues regarding eating, exercise, and weight management, and their search for the best professional team.

In searching out health professionals to work with your child, finding the “right fit” for your child will feel like a comfortable fit for you. Your child’s health professionals need to understand that the quality of your connection with your child in recovery will be the best insurance of a timely recovery and the best hedge against relapse. By hearing and addressing your concerns, supporting your strengths and facilitating your partnership in the treatment team, professionals who collaborate with and advocate for you in the healing process will become role models for your own effective advocacy for your recovering child.

Though the eating disorder shows up in the individual child, their most effective solutions are found within the family system as a whole. Many parents, when confronted by the intimidation of the eating disorder and the child carrying it, tend to forget what it takes to do what they do best… care for their child, purposefully and proactively. They need to be reminded. Recovery from these diseases happens at home, under their parent’s noses and before their eyes…not in the doctor’s offices.

Parents' motivations are pure and genuine, their intentions noble. Parents want to do what is best for their child. Intelligent and appropriate parental involvement in the prevention and healing of eating disorders, with proper coaching and guidance, renders them capable of doing just that. For parents without guidance, the task can be an uphill battle.

Summary points for empowered parents:
Parents must learn to address food issues before they become problems, to intervene in problems before they become serious, ingrained, or habitual, and to address body image concerns before they become body image distortions and preoccupations. Parents who address food and eating issues in their child are essentially addressing the whole child. How we eat is how we live.


  • Be parental. Take charge.
  • Don’t be afraid; of the child, the eating disorder, of taking a stand, of conflict, or arousing child’s anger or displeasure. Anticipate it, prepare for it, face and handle it.
  • Eat meals together. Stay connected emotionally, as well as nutritionally.
  • Become aware of your own attitudes around food.
  • Educate your child. Teach and model a healthy eating and healthy exercise lifestyle.
  • Don’t skip breakfast.
  • Participate actively as an advocate for your child, family, and treatment team in facilitating the treatment and recovery progress.





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