Children’s appetites may change at different ages and this is normal. Some
children eat a lot or eat anything, others are more particular. Worries about weight,
shape and eating are common, especially among young girls.
Eating disorders generally involve self-critical, negative thoughts and feelings about
weight and food. More children under the age of twelve diet and are developing
eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa and compulsive eating are the most common.
Celebrity culture which glorifies size zero figures, leaves an increasing number of
young girls struggling to cope with their growing bodies. Children diagnosed with
an eating disorder often have a history of early feeding problems.
Many children who develop an eating disorder have low self-esteem and their
focus on weight can be an attempt to gain a sense of control at a time when their
lives feel increasingly out of control. Eating disorders affect many more girls than
boys, but boys do suffer from them too.
If you are worried about your child contact your GP or school nurse. The sooner a
child gets help, the better their chances of a quick recovery. If you suspect
something is wrong, talk to your child. Choose a good time, avoid mealtimes and
interruptions from others and stay calm. With the right treatment and the right
support, disorders can be beaten.
These are serious mental health
conditions that need professional
help to diagnose and treat. Both
are eating disorders and can
lead to other physical and
emotional problems. People with
anorexia nervosa have an
extreme fear of gaining weight
and may starve themselves by
only eating tiny quantities of
food. A girl's periods may stop
or never even start. They
become preoccupied with their
weight and shape and the
weight of their friends and peers.
People with bulimia nervosa eat
large amounts of food in binges
and then make themselves sick
to get rid of the food. They may
not look overweight or
underweight, and because of
this their eating problems are
often difficult to detect and
children can become good at
hiding this. Talk to your GP.
Recognising eating problems
It can be hard for parents to know if a child has an
eating problem or disorder. Look for some of the signs
of difficulty which need to be taken seriously:
Regularly skipping meals and obsessively counting
Eating only low calorie or slimming food.
Showing a keen interest in buying or cooking food
Hiding their body.
An obsession with exercise.
Dramatic weight loss or gain.
Disappearing from the table directly after meals (in
order to make themselves vomit).
Saying they are unhappy with their body.
Food missing in large amounts from the kitchen.
Despite these signs, many children may deny they
have a problem. They may try to keep it a secret and
find it difficult to accept they need help.