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Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.

chaos or order

Here is a real family Sunday morning breakfast story that happened just a few hours ago. Please read it for fun and to see areas that could be problems or disasters or eating disorder triggers for you. See the quiz questions at the end.

I'm sitting at someone else's dining room table after having an overnight visit with this family. I'm inspired to write a different kind of post to you - one that is fresh from a Sunday morning breakfast experience with a real family. I'll change names for family privacy and to make the story easier to follow.

Father: Mark, 58.

Mother: Stephanie, 47

Daughter: Cleo,  7

Daughter: Miranda, 5

Me: Joanna

Agenda: Get out of the house by 10:00 a.m. with everyone fed, clean, dressed properly, in a good mood and prepared for a major social event.

My morning begins at 7:00 a.m. with Cleo climbing into my bed for talk, giggles, deep conversation and fantasy games. Miranda is in bed with her mother and father. After 15 minutes, Miranda joins us. More fantasy games, tickles, up and down, activity for costume changes. Suddenly I am in the ocean with a five-year-old mermaid swimming on me while a seven-year-old queen of the mermaids arrives with a green sparkly skirt that serves as her tail and regal status.

Stephanie joins us for more physical play while Mark tries for a few more minutes of sleep. Stephanie manages to get a few minutes of e-mailing in during story intervals on the computer in the guest room.

I get dressed so I can continue to be a butterfly who doesn't know about the ocean and is about to be led by two mermaids into the sea for a magical journey. We head for the back garden, girls in the lead.

Miranda cries out that she sees a spider. Stephanie calls me to deal with it. Suddenly Miranda screams. She stepped on a bee and got stung.

Stephanie rushes out to hold her and see if the stinger is still in Miranda's foot. Miranda is crying hard. I hold her while Stephanie gets the meat tenderizer and water. She puts a paste on the sting that very slowly starts to relieve the pain.

I say, "What about a bath?" Stephanie nods. So does Miranda. I say, "Shall I carry you?" She says "yes."

I pick her up and start to make siren sounds. I am the mermaid ambulance taking the mermaid to the mermaid hospital under the sea. Miranda smiles and almost laughs. I carry her through the house into the bathroom, take off her dress, and deposit her into the ocean. Cleo arrives, strips and gets in the tub too.

Pain is gone and the mermaids show me what they can do in the water. Mark grins at them in a sudden appearance through the window from the back garden. Miranda and Cleo joyously scream simultaneously, "Daddy!"

The girls get dry and dressed. Our game has now turned into my locking Princess Miranda in the tower (on top of the bunk bed) because I intend to marry her and her little friend (a doll.)

Suddenly a musketeer arrives and asks to marry the princess. Miranda says "yes."

The musketeer and I battle. The musketeer wins and reveals herself to be a girl.

Cleo says, "Girls can marry girls you know."

I cry out, "Curses, foiled again!" (This is my standard position of defeat and is almost a guarantee of big smiles.)

During this play, I hear shouts across the house determining breakfast choices. Scrambled eggs with cream cheese and bagels with cream cheese?  I say no to the cream cheese but yes to the eggs.

The girls dance off, still in fantasy game roles to the kitchen. I get dry and dressed again. When I enter the kitchen the girls are eating scrambled eggs with no cream cheese. Miranda has an untoasted bagel with cream cheese. Cleo has unbuttered toast she is "dipping" into her eggs.

Stephanie says she and Mark decided they wanted oatmeal instead of eggs. Do I? I say, "Yes, I actually prefer it."

I stir the oatmeal while Stephanie makes coffee for herself, Mark and me. She leaves.

Mark comes into the kitchen, talking to the girls, and tending to his coffee. He tells me about a book he's reading that he thinks I'll love. "It was written for you, Joanna. I'll give it to you when I'm finished. I'm halfway done. Seeds, by Richard Horan.

Mark leaves. I'm standing at the stove stirring the cooking oatmeal. The breakfast island is covered with a plate of a huge oatmeal cookie left from yesterday, a package of cream cheese, coffee cups, juice cups, a bagel package, Cleo's plate of scrambled eggs, toast half under a napkin with center eaten out, Miranda's plate with half the scrambled eggs gone, an eighth of a bagel on the table with cream cheese licked off.

I say, "Miranda, are you going to finish your eggs?"


"Why not?"

"I don't like them."

"But you ate a lot already."

"Yes, but I just discovered that I don't like them."

I catch glimpses of Stephanie moving in the hall as she prepares for the events of Sunday.

I say, "The oatmeal is done. Are we going to eat together?"

She says, "You and me. Mark's not ready. He'll eat later. You can dish it out."

I find shallow bowls. Stephanie says, "Oh, the deep ones that keep the oatmeal hot longer are in the washer. Do you want the frog or the kitty?"

As I'm dishing out oatmeal (I chose kitty.) I thought I got a glimpse of Mark in the dining room. Stephanie says Mark will serve his own and shows me how she prepares oatmeal by adding walnuts and raisins. She uses agave syrup and I use Stevia. I tell her that I like to cook oatmeal with cut-up apples. She says, "mmm, good idea."

When Stephanie and I enter the dining room to have our oatmeal, Mark has just finished a bowl of dry cereal with fruit and puts down the Sunday paper.

He leaves to tend to the girls. Stephanie and I eat our oatmeal and talk for three minutes. Girls enter with fake swords, now playing "girl three musketeers."

Then, more activity than I can describe or even remember coherently.

"We have to leave in fifteen minutes"

"Miranda, do you have panties on?"


"Get your shoes on."

"Does this gift and presentation look good?"

"You can't wave that pencil around."

"But it's my wand."

"Here's a wand."

"No pointy things in the car."

"I'll be careful."

"I'm wearing my musketeers hat."

"Is everything in the car?"

"Did you brush your teeth?"


And somehow, at 10:00 a.m. Mark, Stephanie, Cleo, and Miranda are in the car. They are all clean, dressed, fed, prepared for the day, and in a happy mood.

A delay in leaving occurred when Cleo wanted to continue leaping into my arms for yet another goodbye kiss and hug. Then, with a look of sudden dismay said, "Please pet Winston and say goodbye for me." (Winston is my terrier. He got to eat the leftover scrambled eggs.)

Mother says, "Time to go."

Cleo says, "One more."

I say, "Time to go. See you soon. Have fun."

Cleo buckles up in her car seat, smiles and waves. So does Miranda.

And they are off.

Note: All the people in this scenario are at a healthy weight, in excellent overall health, and have powerful personalities.

I see no indication of an eating disorder in anyone.

  1. What aspects of this real-life Sunday breakfast story bring up emotions in you?
  2. What surprises do you discover in behavior and reactions?
  3. What would have been troubling or triggering moments for you now or in your past?
  4. How would you have responded to any part of this complex three hours?
  5. Do you think this morning was chaotic?
  6. Do you think it was orderly?
  7. Do you think the food aspect was triggering?
  8. What insight, if any, comes up for you with the reading of this story?
  9. And the ultimate question: What forces were at work that allowed this family to meet their 10:00 a.m. deadline in good spirits?

I look forward to your responses!

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Written by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD, and adult development.

She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, and UT. Author of the Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering from Your Eating Disorder

Appointments are virtual.

For a free telephone consultation, e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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