Children and eating disorders

Filed under: Preschoolers, Tweens, Teens, Nutrition: Health, Development/Milestones: Babies, Day Care & Education

We all knew that girl in high school, the one who never ate anything. She was pencil thin, with paper thin hair and skin. She was anorexic or bulimic, but no one ever talked about it. She withered away right in front of us and no one realized it was happening.

The girl I knew had really flakey skin as a result. It would essentially fall off in big flakes that floated through the air like dandelion fuzzies, only it wasn't idyllic. She and her friends and her family could've come up with a million different excuses.

According to this article, an older one I only recently turned up, the inclination to have an eating disorder could show itself or be promoted at an early age. One Kenyon College professor stated there is a possible connection between children who are "invested" in a certain body type when they are younger having eating disorders later on in life.

It's an easy enough thing to do. When I worked at a private school many years back I could see that even the young girls--eight, nine years old--were more than interested in fashion, models and being thin, thin, thin. The idea that one could never be too rich or too thin was already instilled in them. And they were in the second and third grade.

This article is a little different, though. It points the finger at society, yes, but moreso at parents. We've all been (or probably will be) guilty of some of the actions mentioned. Letting children eat junk food, letting them be picky eaters, fixing specific foods just for a child rather than asking that he or she partake in the family meal (or at least give that spinach a try)--all of these actions could lead to our kids having issues with food.

Well, having only a five month old at this point I can't say what's right or wrong about getting your kids to eat. And I'm not so sure that parents can be solely blamed for this too. Some kids, I think, are just born with the inclination toward eating disorders. I think that identifying these traits early on is one of our best defenses in getting our kids to eat healthfully and be happy with their bodies.

Other suggestions include education and eating healthfully in front of children. This means eating our fruits, veggies and whole grains too (practice what you preach) and avoiding the pitfalls of fad dieting, the sentiments of which are absorbed by these young observers from the earliest of ages.

I'm just now starting with solid food with my son, which means rice cereal, so I think I have a while to go before I instill in him the values of eating healthfully. Let's just hope all that broccoli I ate while pregnant pays off!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.