In today’s world of stick figure women and size 0 pants, it’s hard to escape the expectation that thin is best. Our daughters see it on television and in magazines. It’s a world of Photoshop, and we pass it off to our children as reality. I am scared to death that my girls will fall prey to eating disorders as I did.
I actively suffered from eating disorders for eight years. What should have been considered the best years of my life were ruined by the fact that I was torturing myself by restricting my food intake and loathing my body. Eating disorders are all-consuming. Not only do they literally suck the life out of the person suffering from the affliction, but they suck every joy out of that person’s life.
I have been recovering for 15 years, but as anyone who has ever suffered from an eating disorder knows, you are in recovery every day for the rest of your life. You have to make a choice to not be disordered. It’s similar to how alcoholics have to choose every day for the rest of their lives not to have a drink.
I hate that I know eating disorders so intimately. My goal is to make sure that my girls never go through that, and if I have it my way, none of your children will either.
We may not be able to completely prevent our kids from being enticed by such afflictions. But I can help you recognize some of the signs that your child may be suffering from eating disorders from the perspective of a child who has suffered.
These are signs that only a person who has had disordered eating would even know to look for:
Working out excessively when no one is paying attention
- Working out more than once a day
- Working out for longer than 2 hours
- Getting involved in many different sports or athletic activities
- Running the faucet to mask the sound of vomit hitting the bowl
- Puffy face
- Trouble swallowing
- Taking a shower immediately after eating to vomit while no one is paying attention
- Excessively brushing teeth to mask the smell of vomit
- Eating only soft foods to avoid choking (except for pizza and most meats which are choking hazards)
- Avoiding spicy foods that burn on the way back up
- Avoiding foods that are acidic, like ketchup and buffalo sauces
- Using smaller plates
- Moving food around the plate; playing with food but seldom putting any in the mouth
- Not eating anything all day and then eating an extreme amount
- Seeming emotionally spent and depressed
- Sleeping more than usual
There are also other behaviors that parents should watch for that might signify a potential eating disorder, but I will save those for another post. The bottom line is that eating disorders can afflict any child of any socio-economic status, any race, religion, or nationality. Eating disorders don’t discriminate. They are equal opportunity killers.
Do you recognize any of these behaviors in your child?
Deborah Cruz, @TruthfulMommy, is the creator of www.motherhoodthetruth.com. The TRUTH about Motherhood, an often humorous and brutally honest look at motherhood.