Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eating Disorders in Children

I have to apologize for not blogging all week!  I was bogged down doing last minute CEU's (continuing education credits) for my counseling license and was staying up late studying and taking online exams.  Normally I go to seminars and workshops in person, but after having a baby, not very realistic for me now!

One of the online workshops I studied this past week was on childhood eating disorders.  I've worked with clients with eating disorders in the past, have studied eating disorders in graduate school, and have gone to workshops on the topic.  But this week, the workshop I studied had some scary statistics about eating disorders.  Unfortunately, the prevalence of them has increased since I graduated school 10 years ago, including increased childhood obesity.


Eating disorders are very complicated and are also very, very scary. The various types consist of anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and obesity.

Did you know that bulimia was virtually unheard of prior to the 1970's??  It makes you wonder if culture and the media really have an affect on young girls and boys. And by the way, while most of us think that eating disorders affect mostly girls, we are seeing more and more boys having these disorders too!

In children, anorexia can start at age 9 but typically affects teens aged 15-19. (Anorexia is when one restricts eating or binges and purges and can not maintain proper body weight). Bulimia (when one binges and purges) usually does not affect children (thank goodness) and is often seen more in older teenagers. But it is definitely increasing and affecting younger people. For more info, click here.

There are a lot of theories about causes for anorexia and bulimia, (genetic, family dynamics, culture, etc.) but as a parent it scares me and I know I want to set a good example, especially having a daughter.

I am now VERY aware of the comments I make at home such as "I feel fat" or "I can't wear this outfit, I look too big in it" etc. And talking about dieting.  I am going to nip these comments in the bud in front of my daughter and really foster a healthy body image.

And what about obesity?

The scariest statistic in regards to eating disorders is with childhood obesity.  Check out these alarming statistics:

-16 % of children aged 6-9 are overweight or obese! That's 9 million children in the U.S.

-The number of obese children has tripled since 1980

-Illinois is the only state with a requirement for daily physical education in schools. WHAT? I can't believe that one. I feel like writing my local congressman about this and helping to lobby on this issue.  Children don't have PE anymore?

-And all of these issues regarding obesity in children have caused health problems so much that hospital bills for related obesity diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular, high blood pressure) has tripled since 1990!

Some of the theories as to the reason childhood obesity has increased are:

-More fast food meals that are cheaper and faster for families

-Families do not sit down and have dinner together anymore

-Children spend more time in front of the TV and video games (lack of exercise)

-Parents are worried about abductions and no longer allow children to play outdoors, walk to school or ride their bicycles

So what can we do?

Some of the things I am going to do to foster a healthy environment for my child is to increase her self esteem, teach healthy eating habits, encourage normal exercise and regular meal times (eating together as a family), and teach her not to make fun of others who are obese or underweight.

My workshop said that the highest risk factor for eating disorders in young girls is when a child has a mother, sister or friend who diets! Makes you really think.

And I hate to say it, but in regards to preventing obese children, I think parents are mostly to blame for the young children who are already obese.  Young children do not do the grocery shopping, they don't buy the fast food.  Who stocks the pantries with junk food? The parents do.

Children need good role models from us.  We need to teach our children good eating habits, healthy exercising and normal body images.

What are your thoughts??


  1. Thanks for the great tips. It’s a delightful and frightening thing to see my young daughter start to imitate me. I’ve really had to check my own behavior! For those with older kids, I thought this article was good too This one also has great tips for emotionally healthy daughters.

  2. Thanks so much for the tips and articles! It really is eye opening to hear these things and how much kids pick up on and imitate!!