Frequently Asked Questions

Where do our families turn when they are being torn apart? Where can one mother talk to another mother?  Families also want answers to questions that range from simple–to almost unanswerable. Here are some common questions click on the question to see my answers:

Becky, why did you write this book–and whom did you interview?

1) To let others know that they are not alone, reduce the isolation, expose the reality of eating disorders, and reduce the stigma. This is now a resource for the medical and treatment community to fill the gaps in their training, so they are able to recognize red flags and be able to diagnose and refer people for treatment–in other words, open up pathways to proper treatment.

2) I interviewed parents who currently have, or had a child with an eating disorder, as well as people in recovery, and those who are fully recovered.

What exactly IS an eating disorder?

Information from National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website, except for EDNOS, which is from Wikipedia:

  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS) - This category is frequently used for people who meet some, but not all, of the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED) - This is a type of eating disorder not otherwise specified and is characterized by recurrent binge eating without the regular use of compensatory measures to counter the binge eating.
  • Bulimia Nervosa (BN) - This is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating.
  • Anorexia Nervosa (AN) - This is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.
What percentage of teen-agers has an eating disorder? Is this a disorder that only affects teen-age girls?

No one really knows the percentage of teens with eating disorders

The numbers are staggering–about 10 million in the U.S. alone, and when we include disordered eating, the number of people in the U.S. has been estimated to be about 24 million. Worldwide the numbers are about 70 million. These illnesses affect people of ALL ages.  The age of onset used to be 13-24, but now has been lowered to age 8, and children as young as 5 years old are being diagnosed with eating disorders and the elderly are also affected in record numbers. More statistics at

How many people in the United States die every year from effects of an eating disorder?

Eating Disorders are the deadliest of all mental illnesses.

According to The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, “Eating Disorders 101 Guide: A Summary of Issues, Statistics and Resources,” published September 2002, revised October 2003,, 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, which includes suicide and heart problems. Even with the standard number of people with diagnosed eating disorders—that is 2 million people who may die from an eating disorder.

Why is this hitting our family? What did we do wrong?

Just as is the case with many illnesses, we still don’t have the answers as to why some people are predisposed and develop eating disorders—and others do not.

What causes eating disorders?

No definitive answers are known yet.

The prevailing research is clearly indicating that these are bio-psycho social illnesses that have a genetic component.

What can families do to support their loved one? What works, what doesn't?

Learn as much as possible about eating disorders so you understand what you are dealing with.

Educating yourself will help you know what questions to ask to choose the appropriate solution-oriented treatment for your loved one. If you are wondering what questions would help in your particular situation, our group coaching classes or a complimentary 1-to-1 coaching session are both good places to start.

What doesn't work: Ignoring the situation, isolating yourself, getting angry, hoping they will just stop, blaming yourself, and working with treatment providers who blame the family rather than helping the healthy part of the sufferer to grow.

Can an over weight person have compulsive or over eating behaviors–and then purge/vomit afterwards?

Absolutely. People can be any size and have eating disorders.

What are the clues if your child is starving herself–or has food phobias–or is restricting certain foods?

He or she may sit at the table with you and say he/she ate at a friend's house or tha the will take his dinner to his room.

Any food phobias and restricting foods can quickly develop into a life-threatening situation in a genetically pre-disposed person. These are all big red flags that need to be taken seriously. A great resource for these red flags is: http://

What makes teen dieting or exercise get outof control and become more than just losing weight or being healthy?

The signs to look for in both of these areas would be that other parts of your loved one'slife are changing—such as: friendships, personality, clothing choices, grades,as well as the number of hours she is exercising and how she is using exercise.

If the regular routine suddenly changes, you need to start asking, "What's up?" Also, if your instinct is telling you something is a miss, listen to it and learn as much as you can. You are in the right place.

What makes anorexia nervosa so dangerous to aperson's health, and what causes the person's death?

Though thinness is highly praised in many societies, and we may see weight loss as a positive, many with anorexia nervosa actually become malnourished, which is extremely dangerous for our organs. Organ failure, including heart failure, is quite often the cause of death.

Do depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) tie in with eating disorders?

Very often these issues occur at the same time.

Can constant pursing/vomiting when bulimic cause lifetime health issues?

Definitely. The list can include but is not limited to: Esophageal and stomach cancers, reflux, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), osteopenia (a precursor to osteoporosis), infertility, decreased lifespan, lowered immune function, tooth enamel erosion, and kidney failure.

Is having an eating disorder a kind of addiction? And if so, does it ever lead to having other addictions?

Much disagreement exists in the eating disorders world on this topic. Many papers have been written on this. One of the best I have seen so far is "Understanding The Complex Relationship between Eating Disorders and Substance Use Disorders written by Bethany Helfman, PsyD and Amy Dennis, PhD published in the Winter 2010 Renfrew Perspectives Newsletter.

If we need to put our child into a treatment center for this disorder, how do we decide which one is right for him/her?

If we need to put our child into a treatment center for this disorder, how do we decide which one is right for him/her? How do I know if the treatment center near us has had good results? Do we use in-patient that is usually 30-day program? Will a local outpatient program be as effective?

As you are researching treatment options, it may help to talk with other families to learn what their experiences have been,and what questions to ask for your particular situation. A great place to connect with other families is an online forum hosted by the F.E.A.S.T. organization at

Is there a higher divorce rate in families dealing with this?

Though one thing most agree on is that this tears families apart, there are no statistics on divorce rates in families impacted by eating disorders.

If our child overeats and then vomits, purging up the meal–or never eats at the family dinner, how can we have a normal family meal?

Setting clear boundaries is essential, even when your child is very ill. Choosing to remain calm will help, as it may be a very long time before you have "normal" family meals again.

How do we pay for the inpatient or out patient treatment, the counselors, etc.?

It is not necessary to be wiped out financially, although it happens with alarming frequency. Excellent resources on the National Eating Disorders Association website at can help you learn about how to make sure your insurance company pays what they are obligated to pay, as well as lists scholarships for certain centers. In addition, an approach called Maudsley Family-Based Therapy, is an option for some people, is much more affordable than traditional treatment centers.

If he/sheis out of high school, but too sick to go to college, will our insurance cover treatments?

The laws differ, depending on what country you are in. Your country's eating disorders association will have information on what your rights are. In the U.S., with our health system changing, be aware of what the current regulations are for dependents over age 18. As of 2010, private insurance is still trying to avoid paying, but if you are persistent, you will increase your ability to get them to pay. Keep detailed notes in designated notebook with the date, time, and name of the  representative that you speak to, along with notes about the conversation. The next time you speak with someone, let her know that you are keeping this notebook. Detailed records will pay off, and insurance will be less likely to deny your claims. Know that if they do, you can go higher up in the organization. A  great resource for writing a letter to the CEO of your insurance company is:

What do we tell our family members–or do we have to tell them anything?

That is a personal choice. If you want to help yourself and your love done with the eating disorder, getting support from those around you (who are able to help without being judgmental), is going to reduce the isolation that gives eating disorders power.

How do we not neglect our other children?

Make a conscious choice that the eating disorder will not be in control of the household. Choose to make time for the other children, even if it means finding others to be with your ill child.

How do I recognize a relapse? How do I stay calm when relapse happens so I can support this slip?

Being aware that relapse is very common will help you remain calm, as will making sure you have a great support system in place. As I mentioned in a previous question, a great way to connect with world wide support of other families is an online forum hosted by the F.E.A.S.T. organization at When you are seeing more secretive behaviors, and some of the signs that initially got your attention, it is time to trust your instincts and ask for help from your support team.

What can I read to learn as much as possible about this disorder?

Many great books and websites are available. Visit links page on, and you may order my book here which shares other families' stories you may identify with. The book also includes many references to organizations, websites, books, and resources.

How do we as parents not get pulled into all of the drama that surrounds an eating disorder?

Learn how to have healthy boundaries, learn as much as possible about eating disorders, and find a qualified treatment team to support you. Remember, you must "put your own oxygen mask on first" before helping your child. This is essential—not optional.

Book Awards

2013 - Los Angeles Book Festival - Just Tell Her to Stop won Honorable Mention in the General Non-Fiction category.

2011 Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) - Just Tell Her to Stop won in the National Category for Mental Health/Psychology May 23, 2011 Awards Ceremony in NYC. :

Speaking Events

  • 12-1-15  "Eating your way through the Holidays: What to look for when working with Eating Disorders" Rivermend Health Lunch and Learn, Bonefish, St. Louis Park MN
  • 11- 2015 Caregiver Retreat - Naples, FL
  • 11-27-15 "March Against ED" Sharing the Parent Experience of Long-term Eating Disorders and Advocacy.
  • 10-15-15  HOPE: Shift Your Perspective on Supporting Those with Eating Disorders and Their Families" St. Louis Co. HHS Conference, Duluth, MN (Presented with Thea Sheldon, CPCC) ?
  • 2-21-15 “The Family Experience of Eating Disorders” Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa Conference, Des Moines, IA
  • 2-11-15 “A Former Patient and a Parent Share Perspectives on Eating Disorders” University of St. Thomas, EDAW, St. Paul, MN
  • 12-2014 - Caregiver Retreat - San Diego, CA
  • 2-1-14 “From Hopeless and Fearful, to Empowered Caregiver”, F.E.A.S.T. 3rd Annual Eating Disorders Conference in Dallas, TX 
  • May 2013 “Featured at Author evening”  At Home With Eating Disorders Conference, Brisbane, Australia
  • 10-22-12 "Preparing for Surgery. Does Weight Matter?" Twin Cities Orthopedics CEU's offered
  • 10/13/12 - Writers Rock! Workshop - Century College, St. Paul, MN - Self-Publishing Panel
  • 9/15/12 - The Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis, MN. Panel on Self-publishing and book marketing.
  • 2/23/12 - NEDAW event at The Emily Program Foundation "Art and Eating Disorders" Open Mic night.
  • 11/17/11 -  "Eating Disorders and Your Teen" Moms of Teens Group - Christ Presbyterian Church, Edina, MN
  • 11/17&18/11 -  The Lowdown on Eating Disorders From the Trenches Grand Rapids, MN Public Library 7pm & Itasca Community College12pm Both open to the public.
  • 11/3/11 -  Moderator of Q & A with Dr. James Lock, Stanford Univ. at F.E.A.S.T. Symposium, Alexandria, VA
  • 1/16/10, Minneapolis, MN” Moving the Weight Paradigm from Dread and Failure to Balance and Health" - Promoting Healthy Body Image, Eating, Fitness, and Weight, CEU Program with Kathy Kater, LICSW, Michele Gorman, MS, RD, LD, Katja Rowell, MD” 
  • 10/11&12/11 The Lowdown on Eating Disorders From the Trenches.-Timberline Knolls Treatment Center - Lemont, IL
  • 8/22/11 - Common Good Books & The Emily Program Foundation host, "Joy and Hope" - A discussion with Kathleen MacDonald of the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) Washington, DC & Becky Henry of Hope Network" Moderated by Kitty Westin.
  • 7/12/11 - Speaker on the Family Experience - The Emily Program Foundation Recovery Night 
  • 2/13/11 -"Including Families in the Treatment of Eating Disorders-What difference does it make?" Featured Speaker - Eating Disorder Network of Maryland 5th Annual Eating Disorder Awareness Event 

Buy the book

Becky Henry’s story of how she learned first-hand about eating disorders with an experience with her 14 year old daughter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do our families turn when they are being torn apart?

Where can one mother talk to another mother? 

Families also want answers to questions that range from simple–to almost unanswerable.

Here are some common questions and my answers:

Learn more


Read ‘Testimonials’ from families I have helped and inspired as well as support from healing experts.

"Hi Becky,
Just wanted to drop you a note to thank you for all your help and support.  Your guidance and wisdom was invaluable during one of the toughest times of my life. You always listened to me and then made sure I had a goal each week to help keep myself sane through all the trials of having a child with anorexia. Your knowledge and network of information was very helpful.  I could not have gotten through it without you." ~ Toni C.

“Thank you for writing it.” I am honored to know you and am grateful for your wonderful book - which is a gift to parents.

~ Cathy Vee, Parent

Read testimonials about Becky Henry's Book Just Tell Her To Stop

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