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Child Safety Emotions & Behaviour

Children and Eating Disorders

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Although eating disorders commonly develop in adolescence, or young adulthood, children as young as age 5 can be affected. In young children, eating disorders are particularly dangerous.

Children and adolescents receive so many mixed messages regarding what to eat, how much to exercise, along with images and messages they receive from peers, television, magazines, the internet and social media, of what a ‘normal’ body image should be. Due to all of these outside influences, many feel pressure, anxiety and confusion.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting an amazing lady, who shared her personal story with me. She offered to give a first-hand account of her daughter’s battle with an eating disorder. She hopes that her story will help other families understand what the early warning signs are, so they can get the help they need, before it escalates.

See her family’s story below…her daughter’s name has been altered for privacy. However, she has stated that she would be happy to speak with anyone who would like further information, or advice. If you would like her to contact you, please email me and provide your contact details.

If you have concerns that your child may be developing an eating disorder, seek help immediately! Early detection and intervention is crucial. Speak with a psychologist or your family doctor about your concerns; they will assist with obtaining a diagnosis and treatment.

Eating Disorders – A Mother’s perspective…

“If you’ve ever ignored your gut instinct you may relate to my story. Eating disorders are sneaky; they happen slowly, then suddenly leave a wake of destruction.

At age 13, my daughter Anna was on top of the world – an A student, actively engaged in school activities, and had just made the competitive soccer team. When she asked to become a vegetarian I said no. However, after much discussion about her reasons why and what nutrition was required, I relented. They say hindsight is 20/20 – that was one of the first signs.

As time progressed and pressures increased, Anna started to focus on physical fitness more. At school they were learning about nutrition and for Anna she interpreted this to mean read labels, eliminate “unhealthy” foods, and exercise more. I was becoming concerned and we made a trip to our family doctor. As more foods were removed from Anna’s diet my concern grew. She would say “I’ve eaten too much of that and am sick of it now”, “It’s too sweet”, and “I’m super full”.

She was getting thinner, eating less, and exercising more. Anna developed an obsession with cooking and baking for others, encouraging them to eat, but not herself. She was always cold and needed to wear her housecoat around the house. Stress was wearing on her due to pressure from school and sports commitments – always feeling that she had to be better. She would pick her fingers until they bled – stressed and anxious. When I caught her lying about what she was eating for lunch I knew we needed help. I took Anna to the hospital and told them my concerns. She was admitted for a 3 week stay, attached to a heart monitor, and placed on a refeeding plan.

That was almost a year ago. I did not realize that an eating disorder was a mental illness, or that anxiety and depression were companions. I was shocked that of all mental illnesses, anorexia has the highest death rate. My daughter, whom I was so close with, drifted away and a wall went up, because I became the eating disorder’s biggest enemy, as we began marching down a treacherous and painful road, searching for recovery.

Words cannot adequately explain the stress, worry, anxiety, fear, and anguish that our family has felt. This spring Anna was readmitted to hospital for a 6 week stay and is now on a Day Program that will last at least 12 weeks. She is strong, brave, and courageous. Anna did not ask for this illness; it targeted her. I implore you to listen to your gut instinct, reach out and talk with others. Banish the taboo of mental illness and keep our children healthy.”

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