OK. I’d like to first, get this out of the way, right now. I’m sorry, but when I hear “Minnie Maud,” all I can think about is this:
But seriously, Minnie Maud is a new treatment “trend?” for restrictive eating disorders. The name comes from the sources of its evidence-based approach: the Minnesota ((Minnie)) Starvation Experiment, and the Family Based Treatment — aka MAUDsley Protocol.
All of the information on Minnie Maud is outlined on the website YourEatopia.com. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time perusing the website, because I frankly find it fascinating. Basically, the long and short of the guidelines can be summed up in this: It’s an outpatient treatment plan where you eat a minimum of 3,000 calories per day, (you’re encouraged to eat more, and give your body what it craves, even if it means eating 10,000 calories due to extreme hunger), no food is off limits, no restricting, no weighing yourself, and absolutely no exercise.
From what I have read, and from the rabid, cult-like following on Instagram and the blogosphere, people have had great results from adhering to the program. And that is awesome — Truly incredible that an at-home program is saving so many lives. Kudos.
My personal thoughts: it would not have worked for me.
Let me back up.
When I entered “forced recovery” in 2007, Minnie Maud just wasn’t around. The website didn’t come on the scene until 2011, so this approach simply wasn’t an option. So there’s that.
But, Minnie Maud wouldn’t have worked for me, because I did not initially want recovery. I was admitted to an inpatient treatment center for three months by my parents. I was so entrenched in my disorder that I did not want to get better. I wanted to stay in my safe little ED bubble. But it was literally “do or die.” I was 78 pounds. My parents knew that if I didn’t get admitted NOW, that there was a very real possibility that I would die within the week. It was a breaking point, and I had no choice in the matter.
So my weight restoration was regulated by the treatment team at the inpatient center. I chose not to have the NG feeding tube, so I drank my Ensure supplements to put on weight. But the meals at the inpatient center were planned out for us. We were allowed to choose from two options. And the foods, although they did challenge some “fear foods,” they did not in any way, shape, or form, make me find joy in eating again. In fact, they frankly weren’t very good. Eating at inpatient was more of a “Dear-Lord,- please-let-me-get-through-this-nightmare” kind of experience, rather than a “food-is-meant-to-be-enjoyed-and-not-feared” kind of experience.
That’s one aspect of Minnie Maud that I really do like: that you eat what you feel like and crave. This could lead to falling in love with food again.
And I know that sounds silly — fall in love with food? But here’s my new take on food: it is a way that God shows us that He loves us.
Because face it: God could have made all food taste the same. I mean, think about it: If the sole purpose of food was to simply provide adequate nutrients and energy needed for survival, God could have just made some sort of sludge or pill, even, to get the job done. But no. He created all different types of foods with different tastes, flavors, and textures to be enjoyed and savored. I mean, heck! Look at the human tongue — there are taste buds in five different areas — salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami — You look at that and tell me that God didn’t want us to enjoy food!
So anyway, that’s a definite plus of Minnie Maud: that you actually enjoy the weight restoration process. (That’s where the coveted “Pint Party” hashtag comes from on Instagram: it’s the Minnie Maud Army enjoying a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.)
But let me be completely honest here for a minute: that wouldn’t have worked for me. Given my mental state during my “forced recovery,” I would not have adhered to the 3,000 calorie rule. I would have found a way out of it, or found a way to manipulate my way to keep my eating disorder. I would have sneaked exercise. I would have thrown away food whenever possible. I would have made a case that I was actually “craving” carrot sticks. That I was finding “freedom” in plain oatmeal. I would not have been able to eat with reckless abandon, as is the goal of Minnie Maud. I would not have been able to adhere to that highly caloric intake on my own. I just was not at that mental state.
I needed an inpatient treatment center. I needed to be monitored. And frankly, I was so severely malnourished and on the brink of death that I needed the intense medical supervision I received at R. They took my vitals 3 times a day. I slept at the nurses’ station for the entire first month so they could monitor me while I slept. That’s how severe my anorexia was.
Plus, I would have never been able to challenge myself to “fear foods” had I not been at an inpatient treatment center, where there was just no other option. Your meals were planned out and made for you. That’s the beauty of inpatient — they make you completely relinquish control. Your meals are monitored. Your free time is monitored so you don’t exercise. The bathrooms are monitored. They even flush the toilets for you! Had I been at home trying to do the Minnie Maud method, I would have just been eating oatmeal and celery. I needed someone to take the control away from me. I needed someone to say, “You’re eating the cheeseburger. End of story.”
But here’s the main reason why Minnie Maud wouldn’t have worked for me: I wasn’t ready to truly recover. Sure, I put on the weight at inpatient, but that was only so I could get the hell out of there and get back to my eating disorder. I relapsed as soon as I got to college and got away from my parents. I was not ready to give up my anorexia yet.
I do think Minnie Maud would have worked once I genuinely accepted recovery.
Post-relapse, I had to take a semester off from college and live at home with my parents. At this time, I had gotten almost as low as my pre-inpatient weight, so I had some serious weight restoration to do. I finally adopted recovery because of three things: 1) I had no other options (college was taken away), 2) I embraced God’s love, and 3) I fell in love with food again.
In this second “go-around” of weight restoration, I didn’t go to inpatient. Mainly because it was $160,000 and it didn’t really get to the root of the issue the first time. Yes I put on *most* of the weight at R, but I didn’t truly recover. SO after my relapse, I did it from home with the help of my parents. My dad primarily helped with the physical healing and my mom primarily helped with the spiritual healing. And both of these were key to my true recovery.
But back to Minnie Maud: The way I tackled weight restoration after my relapse went along with the Minnie Maud guidelines to a degree. My dad’s a brilliant man. And even though MM wasn’t around, he intuitively knew the guidelines, even though they weren’t formally spelled out on a website.
My dad knew I had to fall in love with food again. He knew I had to break out the regimen of egg whites, oatmeal, and canned tuna. He knew I had to learn to embrace food. So during that six month period, we went all over the city, eating at restaurant after restaurant, buffet after buffet, learning to love food. Not only did it allow me to see the pleasure in food again, but it also relinquished my control in preparing the food, which was a big thing for me. If left to my own devices, I would have never been able to add the butter, add the cream, add the oil. I just couldn’t do it. But at a restaurant, I had no other option. I was at the mercy of the chef. Looking back, my dad was doing the Minnie Maud method before it was even a recovery “trend.” I don’t know what I would have done without his help through that difficult period. He was so patient and loving and supportive. He’s earned his place in Heaven, I’ll say that.
So in short, there are a lot of aspects of Minnie Maud that are really terrific and could be a great approach to recovery, but only if you have truly adopted recovery, and are committed to actually consuming a minimum of 3,000 calories a day.
However, there is one aspect of Minnie Maud that I see as problematic. And that is that it does not take your spiritual healing into account. Yes, you learn to embrace food and eat what your body craves. Yes, you tackle fear foods and allow your body to rest and restore.
But what about your mind? What about your soul? I did not find one thing on the MM website that addressed those things.
And I’ve got to be 100% honest here: Jesus was central to my recovery.
Nay. Let me rephrase that: Christ was my recovery.
Putting on weight for me was absolutely terrifying. And literally, the only way I was able to do it was through the strength that God gave me. Had I not have been completely focused on Christ’s love and forgiveness, had I not meditated on Jesus’s comfort during my suffering, had I not accepted that my worth and dignity came from simply being a daughter of God, I would not have been able to recover. Every. single. day of my recovery, I would focus on different bible verses and quotes that kept me thinking about His love and comfort, rather than negative body thoughts, self-hatred, and feelings of unworthiness, which all came from ED. In fact, to this day, I still have to completely fill my mind and heart with His Truth, otherwise the damn voice of ED will find a way to taunt me and shake me up. So I constantly listen to Christian radio, Christian podcasts, and books — I keep myself focused on His love, which fills me up so that ED can’t bring me down.
But that’s what’s missing from Minnie Maud. MM is great, yes – it tackles the weight restoration aspect of anorexia and eating disorder recovery, but that’s it. And frankly, that’s only 10% of the battle — mental healing is far greater and much more difficult to overcome. And for me, mental health and wellbeing stems from one place: God.
I’ll leave you with this final thought: just like everyone’s eating disorder is different, so is everyone’s recovery. No two recovery journeys look the same. And that’s okay. So long as you get to the destination, it doesn’t matter if you follow Minnie Maud, if you go to inpatient, if you are tube fed, if you drink supplements, if you eat Ben & Jerry’s or go to Chinese buffets every day. Recovery is your journey. If the Minnie Maud approach sounds like something you could really get behind, then more power to ya!
Recovery is hard, no matter what way you go. It will be the fight of your life. It was a fight, that to be honest, I would not have been able to win had it not been for Jesus. He was my strength, and He can be yours too. He wants to be. He longs to be. Because He loves you so incredibly much, and wants to take your suffering away from you — you just have to let him.