SUPPORTING A CHILD WITH EATING DISORDERS
Lots of people have different eating habits. You might eat loads one day, be less hungry another day, or go through phases of wanting to eat more or less healthily. But that doesn’t mean you have an eating problem.
But if you’re focussing a lot on controlling what or how much you eat, or if you have urges to get rid of the food from your body, these are signs you could have a problem.
Eating problems are common and they can affect people with any body shape or lifestyle, regardless of gender, age or ethnicity. Singers Demi Lovato and Zayn Malik have both spoken openly about having eating disorders and what they did to get better.
All kinds of things can cause eating problems or disorders. You might develop an eating problem when things don’t feel right in other parts of your life, especially if you’re feeling worried, stressed or feeling out of control. Images we see online and in the media can add to the feeling that we have to look a certain way, or be a certain weight, which may not be healthy for our body. But there's no "right" or "wrong" way to look - everyone's body is different.
Symptoms of eating problems
If any of the symptoms below are affecting your everyday life, it’s a good idea to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. You might have an idea about what an eating disorder looks like, but not everyone experiences the same difficult eating behaviours, and your weight on its own does not determine whether you have a problem.
Being able to control how much or what you eat might give you a feeling of order, but it can lead to more serious issues. If you are worried at all, please reach out for help.
Some eating problems can become serious mental health conditions that need professional help to diagnose and treat. In very serious cases and without the right kind of support and treatment, they can even cause death, which is why it is so important to speak to someone if you are struggling with your eating so that you can get the help you need to recover. It might feel really difficult, but you can get through it and you deserve to get better.
Here are some examples of eating behaviours that you may be struggling with:
- losing appetite
- eating when not hungry
- obsessing about your body shape (e.g. being ‘too fat’, or ‘not muscly enough’)
- eating only certain types of things or following fad diets
- being afraid of gaining weight
- dramatic weight loss or gain
- making yourself sick
- no longer enjoying eating socially or leaving the table quickly (to be sick or hide food)
- focusing on buying or cooking food for others
- feeling secretive about eating
- being secretive about/preoccupied with food
- being self-conscious about eating in front of others
WHO SHOULD YOU TURN TO FOR MORE HELP?
Your GP – The person best placed to help and guide you to support is your GP. Book an appointment and encourage your child to speak about their current experience, if this is too much, suggest that they write everything down to allow you to open the conversation for them.
Beat is a fantastic website that includes helplines, advice, and tips for supporting someone with an eating problem. Helpline: 0808 801 0677, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NHS website has a wealth of information and guidance on types of eating disorder. This is a particularly useful page on how you can help