With The Child With the Eating Disorder Please Stand Up?

Identifying Eating Disorders in Children
As if parents don't have enough to worry about, now they have to be concerned about their elementary children diving into another disorder?

Eating disorders can be the most challenging to detect. Yet, there is hope when we unveil the signs . Dr. Setliff of UT Southwestern Med Center as well as other professionals offer these pointers:

  • If your child begins to cut out whole food groups, take heed.
  • Making excuses about not eating with the family is another warning sign.
  • Also, disguising their weight loss by wearing clothes that mask the obvious.
  • Temperament changes.
  • Social changes.
  • Withdrawal from family or friends.
  • Obsession with exercising.
  • Constant talk about their body.
  • Making celebrities their gods. When you hear, "Oh, I wish I looked like so and so on the movie/TV!" Or, "She's so thin, I wish I could be like her", you may be looking at a train wreck ready to happen.

Parents Should:

  • Keep regular pediatrician visits as they may alert an eating disorder issue.
  • Present healthy role models.
  • Help children to critically think about the flawless beauties seen in the media. Disclose to them the secrets of air brushing!
  • Share stories of people who have died or have been critically ill from thinking they had to be thin.
  • Discuss what is the ideal "size". What is reasonable and what isn't.
  • Help your children to understand body types. All of us can't be size one, nor should we.
  • Be an example. Refuse to buy into the lies or you can't expect your children to. What body talk do your children hear from you?
  • Speak health into their lives.

Some Things Are Meant For Never

  • Never, and I repeat NEVER use food to discipline your children, not as a punishment. NEVER. If you do, you will attach emotion to food and eating. Big NO-NO!
  • Never make your kids eat everything on their plate. NEVER. That may be what your parents taught you, not to be disrespectful, but it is a fact that doing so will only create huge drama and detriment in and to your children. Again, they will associate food with emotion.

I've known of personal cases and they produced anything but well balance. As the child grew, they learned to mask what they didn't eat in the following ways:

  • They covered their food with napkins, hiding the leftovers.
  • They pretended their stomach was hurting, that something was wrong with the food so they couldn't eat anymore.
  • They quickly left the table and took their food and dumped it in the trash when the parent wasn't looking.
  • They tried to get others to eat the food they couldn't eat.

So you see, the parents of this child attached emotion to food. What emotions? Frustration. Anger. Confusion. Which created: Manipulation. Deceit. Lies. Loss of control. Inability to trust their own judgment. Decision making skills damaged. Confidence stripped in their ability to make a judgment. Create an inability to judge when they were full.

One person I interviewed told me they were never able to "feel" what full was because they were made to eat everything on their plates, therefore stuffing themselves into oblivion, instead of stopping at a reasonable time.

I've heard parents say, "Well, it will help them to learn to control "how" much they put on their plate." Really? So that is your goal? Other parents have told me, "It will teach them to not waste money." Hmmm. Again, really? There is no amount of money you will save that will amount to the life long damage done to the emotions of a child.

I'm very adamant about this. Why? Because more often than not, the damage is irreparable. It's a death getting ready to happen. How? Eating disorder in the worst of forms. Obesity issues for a lifetime. Psychological damage.

Am I saying we have no say about what our children eat or how much? No, I'm not saying that. But to control their food intake at that level is abusive.

Was That my Personal Experience?

Absolutely NOT. Anything but. My parents didn't dictate anything about my food. And the fact is I've never had a weight issue, other than for a few months after a traumatic event in my life. And that was due to depression. And I love every kind of food.

And, you know what, I even have a great sense of not being wasteful. However, I will not sacrifice my health on a few morsels of food being left on my plate. Even if there are huge portions left, and I'm full, then so be it. It's not the end of the world. But clearly, I know how to portion out my food. I was allowed to think for myself and realize I could do it without someone dictating what I did and didn't eat.

Are there some people who have controlling parents who don't have weight issues? For sure. But I can bet you deep down, they have issues whose roots rest deep in those years of eating "emotional" food.

Next Time: How a father may affect his child's eating disorder. Does nutrition affect e.d.s?

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