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Eating Disorders in Children

Updated on February 23, 2010

The pace of modern life has quickened to a run to the development of Eating Disorders.. Students are made to make decisions at a younger age about their future and the pressure to achieve begins as young as elementary school. Our society gives so importance to weight and appearance, obesity and thinness that kids keep getting anxious about their bodies at earlier and earlier ages. Young kids are intuitive and like to mimic adults. If one or both parents are always on a diet or makes derogatory comments about their body, their children will pick up on it and internalize it.

The most common onset age for eating disorders used to be in the 16-21 year old range. It has lowered, with 7 year olds becoming a more regular population seeking hospital treatment. Anorexia nervosa and compulsive eating are the most common eating disorder among such young children, but there are cases of bulimia being reported.

Complete Information on Eating Disorder In Kids

In Anorexia nervosa, there is an overwhelming fear of being overweight and a drive to be thin, leading to a restriction of calories that can lead to being underweight. Teens with anorexia may also have bulimia nervosa, with a loss of control and binge eating, followed by purging behaviors.

In contrary, there are also children who are new victims of fast food culture, which includes chocolates, noodles, pizza, pasta, cream rolls, cheesy spicy food stuffs etc. These foods lack the essential nutrients required in our body, absence or deficiency of which may retard their physical and mental development and may result in poor consequence on their health and fitness. Problems of obesity may be found in such children.

There are also cases where children could develop compulsive eating behaviors when their parents are not being much involved with them, leading the child to feel lonely and abandoned, resulting in turning to food for comfort. Criticizing a child about their weight may also cause anxiety in the child. Parents that push weight loss end up degrading the child, shaming the child and making them feel worthless for being overweight. None of this will encourage the child to lose weight. Instead, it will lead to more feelings of self-hate and cause the child to want to eat more for comfort.

It is not known what causes eating disorders. Some of the factors may be -certain genetic attributes, participating in certain competitive activities (especially ballet, skating, athletics, and fashion modeling,), having a perfectionist or obsessive personality, having a parent with an eating disorder or weight problem (obesity, frequent dieting) or having a past history of physical or sexual abuse. Early risk factors for eating disorders include having low self esteem and being dissatisfied with their body.

The treatment of eating disorders is slow and difficult (and sometimes requires hospitalization) and should be overseen by a mental health professional that is familiar with treating patients with this disorder to begin psychotherapy and behavior modification. Patients with anorexia also require nutritional and medical intervention to make dietary recommendations, ensure a slow and steady weight gain and correct the medical complications.

Role of parents in prevention of Eating Disorders:

  1. Parents need to set a good example for your children, which mean that they them self should be involved in healthy eating patterns.
  2. Never force a child to eat if they don't want to. Too many families force children to remain at the table until they have eaten everything on their plate, which results in hate towards food.
  3. Exercise is also an important part of everyone's life and we need to help our children become involved in physical activity, which means the parents themselves should participate in healthy exercise.
  4. Help the child to find activities they enjoy and activities the whole family can enjoy like walking, hiking, or some kind of sport
  5. Teach them the importance of physical activity in maintaining a strong and healthy body, but they should not be given the message that exercise is important in maintaining a slim figure.
  6. It's so important that the parents raise their child to believe in themselves. They need to know that they are important and valuable to the parents. They need to understand that what’s on the inside of a person that counts, not what's on the outside and accept themselves and others for whom they are.


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    • LensMan999 profile image

      LensMan999 4 years ago from Trans-Neptunian region

      Hi kowality,H PRoy and ncuxapa,

      It is the role of parents to teach kids on such things. They always follow their parents as said by HP. Thanks for your comments.

    • ncuxapa_ profile image

      ncuxapa_ 7 years ago

      Very neat and nice hub indeed

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 8 years ago from Guwahati, India

      It is natural children will follow parents.

    • kowality profile image

      kowality 8 years ago from Everywhere

      Great Hub. I don't think we cook enough at home. Children should be taught that cooking can be fun.