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Children suffer too.
Member Name: hypno06
Advantages: As a parent, none at all.
Disadvantages: Stress, a feeling of helplessness, wanting to make things better.
And that is the reason I chose to write this review in the end - because someone might identify with it, and be able to nip a problem in the bud.
I have been on and off diets since the age of 15 - I don't have an eating disorder, as such, but I am an emotional eater who has always felt as though "losing another half stone will make all the difference". This stems back to a visit to Top Shop changing rooms with my mother, at the age of 15, where I was trying on an electric blue long knitted tube skirt. Anyone who remembers the fashion of the mid-80s will recall that almost anyone trying on such a skirt will have not looked their best.....with such clingy items not forgiving in the lumps, bumps and curves department!
My mother's response (and I can still hear it as clear as anything) was "It'll be alright if you lose 3 or 4 lbs"........I was 7 and a half stone at the time, 5 ft 4 and 15......but there began my belief that losing 3 or 4 lbs will make all the difference, and so my yo-yo dieting life began.
The reason for mentioning this is because it is so common - a throwaway remark by my well meaning mother, something said not with malice, but not with thought. How often do we say things without thinking how it makes the other person feel?
Yo-yo dieting - obsessions with latest diet crazes, cutting out one food group completely, or overloading on another food group.....all in the hope we can "lose 3 or 4 lbs, and it will be alright" - has become the norm for many women. We can easily become fixated on our weight and what we eat, and although we may not see it as a problem ourselves, we may not be sending the most positive messages to those who are growing up with us.
Leading us on to my daughter.....now 15 and very healthy, my daughter has had a number of episodes in her life, eating-wise, which have given us cause for concern. People (me included previously) have often assumed that anorexia is a problem for women in their teens and 20s, people with issues, who have a belief that they are fat.
Yet one of my daughter's worst episodes was at the age of 9 and 10......and it wasn't her first. Problems with eating can start at a very early age, and if you don't know what to look out for, can go undetected for some time, leading to longer health concerns, as well as causing stress for everyone in the household.
My daughter was poorly as a baby and a toddler, and as a result we had to be very careful about what she ate. I carried out her first elimination diet at the age of 6 months. Day one - rice. Day two - rice and leek. Day three rice, leek and chicken. Day four, bad reaction, so back to rice and leek.......etc.
At the age of 2, she was so sick that she could barely stand up - a virus had led to her stomach hardening and not being able to absorb certain foods, meaning that every time she ate, she rejected the food because the stomach was hard.
At 7 she was put on a gluten free diet - anyone who has been on a diet like this will know that it is quite difficult. Packed lunches were a nightmare.....no bread, no pasta, no biscuits. My attempts at rice bread rolls took some practice to make them remotely edible, the gluten free pasta we had just went soggy, and shop bought gluten free bread is something belonging to the same family as the humble house brick......
I tried to be supportive and make everything "normal" by eating the same things as my daughter so she did not feel isolated. I chomped my way through brick-bread, and soggy pasta with her, and had hoped that everything would be ok, especially as once she became better, she was allowed to resume a "normal" diet again....hurrah for all concerned!!
Except....for the first 8 years of her life, food had been controlled for her to a large extent. If she ate the wrong things she was ill. Simple, and of course we only did what we needed to do - it wasn't a lifestyle choice we were making during that time.
But now, she could take control - and without really realising what she was doing, she took control of her eating.......
She was not fat, and has never had any comment on her being so - anyone who looked at her at any stage of her life and thought she was carrying weight would seriously need to get their eyes tested. The lack of eating was not down to being teased at school, boyfriends, or lack of, problems at home, etc.
It simply a case of "I can choose what I eat now".......so she did. Although that also meant "I can choose what NOT to eat now".
I mentioned my yo-yo dieting above, because by me being permanently on a diet, I was inadvertantly showing my daughter that food was there to be manipulated in some way. One meal for the rest of the family, the latest diet-attempt for Mum. You eat that, but I can't eat it because I am fat.....thereby inadvertantly endorsing the fact that it was OK to control what you eat. That by eating less, or eating differently through choice was a good thing.
Over time, my daughter started showing the more "obvious" signs of food control. Chewing mashed potato for several minutes, claiming "I'm full" after just two mouthfuls, numerous trips to the toilet during meal times, finding stashes of mouldy packed lunch sandwiches, untouched, in her bedroom....etc...etc....etc....
So what do you do when faced with a child who isn't eating? You get cross, you get stressed, you get upset, all because you have no idea WHAT to do. As a parent of a young child it is hard enough anyway to make sure they are eating healthily, and incorporating any "fads" that they might be going through, but this is something different....and at the time, there was not a lot to help us through it.
There is no point in saying - "sit there until you have eaten it". You will reach a standoff. And if they do eat it, you know they can get rid of it later...bribery, tough love, more praise, you name it, and I think we tried it.
The thing that worked best at the age of 9 or 10 for us, was a shock tactic. We went on some websites showing very anorexic girls, close to death, one with the simple headline "IF YOU DO NOT EAT, YOU WILL DIE". It was horrid. We simply allowed our daughter to read, and look, and she was in tears as she did so. She then had horrific nightmares for 3 nights on the trot. But it worked. She started eating properly again, and became healthy.
Was it the best thing for us to do? Who knows? But we were running out of ideas that might work......and this particular one did.
Sadly, we had another "episode" with my daughter at the age of 12. She had become very ill with a kidney infection that wouldn't shift. A whole year of backwards and forwards to the hospital, various treatments, missing school,vomiting, etc, led her to lose her appetite. This time was different to previous times. She had been obviously ill, and anyone in the same boat would have lost their appetite. It did, however, lead to a vicious circle......no appetite, don't eat, so no energy, so muscles hurt, so feeling poorly, so no appetite.......
We tried the "if you eat, you will have more energy" line, as being "obvious" but that didn't work - the response was "I'm not hungry, I don't want anything".
This went on for some time, affecting her sport (she is a very sporty girl, who was unable to train for 6 months because she was so weak), affecting her schooling, and certainly affecting everyone at home. She is naturally slim, but she became worryingly thin - weighing very little and having no flesh on her. She was standing on the scales most days - never a good thing.
At the end of my tether, it was her karate instructor who came up with a different tack - instead of me saying "eat and you will have the energy to do things", he said "come and do my class and you will work up an appetite".
He knew how ill she had been, and agreed that he wouldn't push her too hard, letting her sit out or reduce effort when appropriate.
What this did, is break the cycle. And she did, indeed, build up an appetite - once she had done so, we could get back to a "normal" routine.
During all of this though, I lost my dad, and turned to my "comfort eating" followed by my yo-yo dieting to try and lose the weight I piled on after his death.......I now recognise all this in being a factor in how my daughter has learnt to behave during a very impressionable time.
Thankfully, at 15, and doing her GCSEs, she has a healthy appetite, has a body many would be envious of, and is training and competing again, and enjoying doing so. Her weight of 7 stone for a 15 year old at 5 ft 2 is just right, and the scales only make a rare appearance.
That goes for me too - learning that losing 3 or 4 lbs isn't actually going to make any difference to me in life, has finally meant that we all eat the same thing at mealtimes - we all eat healthily, and eat well. So what if I am no longer a size 10......I ran a marathon this year - I am obviously fit and healthy, and that is what counts.
I see what we went through as the thin end of the wedge. I hope we have learned to recognise that this is a potential problem for us, and to talk about issues, problems and concerns, whether health related, school, family, friends, before they lead to other things.
So far, so good, but I also recognise that at 15, doing GCSEs, other pressures from many areas, in many ways we are only just entering the danger zone....
Thankfully, there is now more help and information available, with BEAT (what used to be called the Eating Disorder Association) having a dedicated area to eating problems with younger children now, with a dedicated Youthline now set up. When we were initially having problems, there was little or nothing available relating to that age group.
My daughter has helped others receive support from BEAT, and has also been able to help a teacher who was concerned about another pupil, and who didn't know how to approach the issue.
My reason for writing this review is to point out that eating disorders can happen from a very early age. Look out for the signs and get help if you need. I acknowledge fully that my daughter's problems may not be seen by some as "real eating disorders" but there is nothing typical about any of these - everyone is different and the way they take control is different, and the way it takes control of them is different.
It is also to say, please think about what you are inadvertantly teaching your children. A throwaway remark, or a desire to lose a few lbs for a holiday, could be the beginning of something a lot more serious.
I hope you have found this interesting and that anyone who is reading it who is suffering or who has suffered from an eating disorder does not find it patronising, or too simplistic, as that was not my intention.
youth helpline - 0845 634 7650
Summary: We need to think a bit more..
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