Eating Disorders Have No Boundaries

To Anyone Who Will Hear,
I don't know who to turn to in this never ending battle. Who would understand? That food has become my obsession. Whether I eat it or whether I don't eat it. But, then, my demise must be how I look. Or is it? What is wrong with me? Just yesterday while shopping, I got a glimpse of someone I didn't recognize. But does the mirror lie? Was that me? Please, God, no. I can't bear the pain anymore. My war is not just with you, Eating Disorder, but with society. A society who excludes me from holding you close to my heart. A society who rejects me as being a possible victim. What will they say when I die with you embraced in my arms? ~Josh~ age 15

Who is susceptible to eating disorders?
Without a thought, we immediately think of females. Ten million to be exact. Men at one million.

But there is a growing concern not with just girls but young children in general. Yes, even boys are being bitten by the fangs of eating disorders. The question rages on as to why?

The Children
Dr. Stephanie Setliff, medical director of the Center for Pediatric Eating Disorders at Children's Med. Center says they are seeing more and more children under age 12. And she goes on to say, "...and (that age group represents) routinely half of our unit now." Sobering.

According to NEDA, 42 percent of first to third graders want to be thinner, and 49 percent of 9 to 11 year olds are sometimes or very often on diets. Typically dieting is the entry point for girls to evolve into an eating disorder.

Where The Boys Are
An estimated 10 percent of young people treated nationwide for e.d.s are males (DMN). Children's hospital stats reflects one to three boys to every 14 or 15 patients. And these are life and death cases. Severe.

Dr. Wooten an asst. prof (child and adolescent psychiatry at UT Southwestern Med Center), says boys issues usually are not about being thin or pretty. Rather, he says, they are trying to look good for sports, etc. and without realizing it, the eating disorder "has them by the throat, and it won't let go."

Younger boys are joining the eating disorder death call, though according to Wooten, it seems their issues are deeper psychologically. Issues that may come from some form of malfunction in their family unit. Instead of acting out by hitting, kicking, etc., they implode. Which creates stomach issues, therefore making it a challenge to eat.

Wooten goes on to say,"Eating disorders are a way that kids can express something they are unable to do outright. It is a way of coping with life in the face of maybe a lot of chaos."

Why Our Children?
Again society plays a key role. And as parents, we add the fuel with and without intention. Think! What are children surrounded with from the time they dance into the arms of their mothers? The all mighty media.

Magazines, TV, Internet. All contribute to the demise. A media that dictates how they "should" or should not look. Rail thin bodies are deified as gods. As well as nip and tucking procedures. Sleek, cool clothing beckons them from every shopping window. Celebrities are praised for flashing size one, and dare they, like Jessica Simpson, veer off that path. And, for boys, it's the buffed and trim that becomes their model, their ideal.

Often in this age group, parents and significant others do no recognize that there is a problem. Why? Often parents will attribute the change in weight to a growth spurt or the natural build of the child. Professionals like Dr. Setliff would advise parents to come out of denial. Not that they are laying all the blame on the seemingly unaware. They do agree that this illness is sneaky and undefined or under construction in that so much about it misunderstood.

As parents, we have the responsibility to consider the messages we are sending to our children. And the messages they are sending us. It's called communication. Below the surface.

Next time we will discuss:
  • Options for success in identifying eating disorders in children.
  • How to help them overcome the disorder.
  • Better yet, how to prevent eating disorders from invading the lives of our children.

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