Eating Disorders In Children: What You Should Know

When you are a parent, all you want to do is take the best possible care of them. You want to protect them from any type of harm, whether physical or emotional, and you will do whatever you can to achieve that goal. However, children more than ever before are exposed to the realities of the world at an earlier age than ever before. As a result, the prevalence of issues such as childhood eating disorders has risen exponentially. The overwhelming emphasis on physical appearance and perfection has a profound impact on children as well as adults. To prevent and detect eating disorders in your child, there are a few things you need to know. 

Overly Controlled Eating

Many children are considered "picky eaters." They refuse to eat certain foods or will go entire months eating nothing but chicken nuggets or some other such strange food choice. 

However, one of the first signs of disordered eating can appear to be "picky eating." If your child begins to seem overly restrictive about what they are eating, eliminating carbs, bread, candy, or other foods, you may have cause for concern. Dieting or restricted eating at a young age and for no apparent reason may be signs that you should take your child to a pediatric psychologist or their pediatrician for further consultation. 

Food Hoarding

Along the same lines, unhealthy relationships with food can manifest themselves in other ways. Secretive behavior about food, such as food hoarding, is another telltale sign that your child may be developing an eating disorder. 

Your child may sneak food away from the dinner table to hide in their room, or you may find secret stashes of candy or other junk food in hidden places in their room, particularly in dresser drawers, behind books, or under the bed. If you find such hidden food in your child's room, you may want to ask them about it. However, a child with a disordered relationship with food and eating may not be able or willing to tell you about the reasoning behind the stashed food.

Over-exercising

While having a child who is physically active is a positive thing, particularly in a day and age where children are becoming more and more sedentary, over-exercise or activity may be a sign of an eating disorder as well.  This exercise obsession is often paired with a noticeable fear of being fat.

If your child begins to exercise after every meal, particularly running, jogging, or other exercises that are not "fun" childhood activities, you need to be concerned. The more hours your child spends exercising, the more you should be concerned, especially if your child is young and not involved in athletics.

A trip to your child's pediatrician is in order if your child is over-exercising, especially if paired with restricted eating.

If you keep an eye out for these signs of a disordered relationship with eating and food in your child, then you will be able to detect the development of an eating disorder in your child early on. Taking your child to the pediatrician and pediatric psychologist right away will help your child overcome their eating disorder and go back to enjoying their childhood.  

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