Locking the Fridge, Community Stories text on image of mother and daughter with pws in kitchen

Locking the Fridge, Community Stories

Contributed by Anne Fricke
We finally locked the refrigerator! I did not expect my daughter’s reaction.
Freya is 12, living with PWS, and while food seeking has not been a big challenge in our lives, it was starting to creep in. For the past few years, we’ve managed by ensuring we put leftovers away shortly after meals. That was all we needed to do. The fruit bowl on the counter seemed invisible, and the closed door to the refrigerator was enough of a barrier. Recently, though, we had a few instances where the closed door was not enough. Thankfully, there were no alarming binges, just a few extra bites of food here and there. 

A Quick Fix for One Family

Thanksgiving break was coming, and we had to do something since I would be occupied with work. My husband got a few parts at the hardware store and made a quick, effective fix to our refrigerator. (See picture) It might not be a permanent fix. It wouldn’t be impossible to wrench this lock off the fridge, but for now, it will hold. And, it turns out, locking the refrigerator was all the support Freya needed. 

Lock on refrigerator for Prader-Willi Syndrome. A metal bracket with a flip latch is screwed into the top of a refrigerator , held closed by a small gold padlock.

Anxiety and Food

Freya watched as I clicked the lock into place for the first time. I wish I had captured the sigh of relief that escaped her when it clicked and the sweet, relaxed smile that came after. Her reaction told me so much. 
It is a struggle for our loved ones to navigate their desire for food. Locking the food is a relatively minor accommodation for people with PWS, but it can do so much for their lives. It eases anxiety over food and offers them a chance to let down their guard or cease plotting to find food. It can also help ensure there will be no binges or unsanctioned eating that can lead to a variety of other problems like obesity, stomach rupture, or choking. Locking the food is not something to be feared or ashamed of. It is a way to ensure the safety of our loved ones, a way to ease their minds and their anxiety, along with ours. I wish I had started locking sooner. 

Community Stories

I took to the PWS Facebook community to celebrate our newest victory and hear feedback from other families who have locked their refrigerators. Here are some of the things you all had to say:
Vickie B: “My daughter will lock the fridge or cabinets if I forget. She knows she feels better with it locked”
Mitzi K: “Our son is 26. We never really had food seeking issues until a few years ago. When we locked our pantry and fridge, we got the same reaction. It was such a huge relief not to have to struggle to control himself. We cried from the release of stress and I felt so bad that we had not already done so.”
Staci R.: “My son, now 26 asked me at about 16 to please lock the closet and the refrigerator when we are not in the kitchen. He said it is easier for him to know it is locked. When someone forgets to lock it, he tells on them!”
Theresa M: “Yes. This is so intriguing for me. After many years, 18, the light went on. We actually had to implement a protocol for our daughter. It has reduced the anxiety around food 100 fold!”
Lisa C: “My daughter reacted the SAME. She smiled and told me she hates her disease and says locking the kitchen door helps her sleep better at night.” 
Kelly S: “Our son Jack is 4 and we locked the fridge about 9 months ago and our pantries about 7 months ago. Jack will ask or remind us to close the fridge or pantry if it’s been left open. He did begin food seeking around this same time, and over the past few months, that has significantly decreased everywhere (including sister’s backpacks and trash can). I hope it gave him some relief, but I can say it definitely gave us relief.”
Annie J: “So liberating for our PWS people. Our 38-year-old daughter told us that the 4 digit key code to our pantry/fridge was too easy and asked for an eight digit. Having no access to food has allowed her to concentrate on other activities and freed her of that anxiety within the family home.”
Kathy S. C: “We had the same experience! I was so upset about it, thinking she would resent us. But she said it made her happy because it stopped the food from ‘calling to’ her.”
Flavia B E C: “We are Brazilian, and here the kitchens have doors… We locked our kitchen door 2 years ago, Malu was 9, and she was happy and grateful. She said she could sleep better knowing that there was no food around for her.”
Brenda K: “Lock the moment you get diagnosed. This way (it) becomes a way of life.”

Learn More

Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences! If you would like to read more about locking and securing food, please check out our blog, Food Security on a Budget.

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