Anorexia starts early: do something NOW
We spot obese children a mile off, and hell don’t we love to go on about it.
Not a day goes by that there isn’t a mention of obesity, junk food, health problems caused by poor, unbalanced diets and increasingly, this is geared not only at the parents responsible for feeding their children crap, but at the children themselves. I was appalled last week to see Supersize vs Superskinny Kids, filling our screens with chubby little people who knew no better being told that they need to dramatically change their diet with a skinny beanpole who lives off chocolate and crisps, only less often and most likely the thin one has a faster metabolism: because they’re CHILDREN.
With so much constant, intense bombardment of warnings, scares and shocking statistics, it is surely easy to see that young people are growing up with an increased knowledge, accurate or not, about a certain idea of what is healthy. Most scary of all, so many children now are being taught to differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. Arguably, there needs to be some sort of system such as this, a labelling of food groups perhaps, to help children to learn about what is healthy for them and what may cause problems in later life, but in my opinion, this black and white approach is dangerous and stupid.
We all know that a young child’s diet depends almost exclusively on what their parents eat; whether they eat all meals together at certain times round the table or they help themselves, homecooked or ready-meals and takeaways, special treats or cupboards packed with sweets and crisps. It’s the early years that count and that give a grounding in, quite simply, how to eat. With a routine or without, consciously or not… Without oversimplifying, anyone can look at a family and determine whether the children are growing up in a healthy or an unhealthy environment. Either extreme could be damaging without taking into account any external factors or messages picked up as the children develop. Too strict and a child may develop fears of certain foods, or be tempted to overindulge on the things that are restricted at home when they are old enough to do so. Too lax and children will develop no sense of set mealtimes, routine, control or discipline.
What I’m getting at is that children form very strong, powerful and definite ideas and beliefs about food and weight from an extremely young age and now, as we are constantly told that we are feeding our kids too much rubbish and hammering home this message that fruit and veg is good and pizza and crisps are bad, those initial thoughts are being confirmed at an ever increasing intensity. Fatty foods = the devil. The relationship between child and food/weight would ideally be balanced, but that, worryingly, is a rarity.
Considering conflicting messages, ill-informed ideals and incessant scare stories, there is no wonder why we have an obesity crisis. Why though, has it taken us this long to realise that this could all be equally as damaging at the opposite end of the spectrum?
I finally reach the point of this blog. How’s that for SEO?
The newspapers today are reporting that “More children have anorexia than previously thought.” Shock, horrow! Research has found that GPs have trouble detecting signs of eating disorders in children under 10 – no shit.
Really though, IT’S NOT THAT HARD – especially when parents are taking their children to doctors, telling them that they are not eating and losing weight, and they are being told to come back in six months time.
Anorexia, like obesity, CAN be picked up and prevented before it gets to the stage where intensive, expert help is needed. Not only would opening our eyes to this save money, it would also save lives.
Currently, there are no national paediatric guidelines for the care of individuals with eating disorders. I, as somebody who began to develop obvious anorexic behaviours at the age of just 6 or 7, find this appalling. This isn’t something new, this isn’t something that has only just started popping up in younger girls and boys and I know many people with Eating Disorders now in their twenties who developed Anorexia before the age of 13. Why are we only just starting to consider doing something about it? If we had done something earlier, there would be no need for this sense of urgency now.
Blame, once again is being placed on the media, websites and since Vogue Italia editor Franca Sozzani launched her recent campaign, Facebook.
Too easy, too obvious. We are too scared to point the finger at the PEOPLE who see these children every day, the teachers who notice children skipping lunches, the teaching assistants who overhear children discussing calories and weight, competing and the GPs who ‘wait and see’.
Images of skinny models don’t help societies perception of a realistic body image, sure, and that certainly contributes somewhat to the younger age at which we become aware of our bodies, our size and how what we feed ourselves can change that. We’re body concious too young, but we’ve left it so much longer than necessary to DO anything about it other than gasp when we hear about an 8 year old girl in hospital with a tube up her nose.
We can’t prevent Eating Disorders, no one can and no one ever will, but we can prevent them from worsening, we can detect them at the early stages and treat them before these poor kids become so entrenched in the illness that their lives will be dictated by it and punctuated with long stays in treatment centres.
Anorexics are sneaky, we hide it well and we lie to our parents about what food we have or haven’t eaten – but I know for a fact that as I was growing up, many people picked up on my habits, comments and weightloss and I beg that anybody else who does notice these things speaks up about it. We wait too much now. Dinner ladies, sports coaches, swimming teachers, school teachers, school nurses, heads, deputies… tell the parents. Parents – when you approach a child with an eating problem, he/she will try to fob you off. Don’t ignore the problem, don’t push it aside… get to the doctor. And GPs – don’t you ever, ever dismiss a parent with concerns about their child or a young girl who tells you she has been throwing up after meals. This is when they will benefit most from your help.
Waiting is ignorant. Do something.Tagged in: anorexia, bulimia, children, eating disorders, health, mental illness
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