..or it could be yours. It could be any one of our children. Children with eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. They come from nice, normal, suburban loving families, just average families, you know families like ours, where the parents nurture and enjoy their kids and the kids have happy lives and are free to be children, yet they can still develop an eating disorder.
When I typed '10 years old and anorexic', I felt like I was putting in the title of a gritty channel 4 documentary but actually what this post is about is a friend of mine called H. She is a 40 something mum of 10 year old triplets. H and her husband are fab parents, they spend lots of time with their kids - they go camping, bike riding, swimming, shopping and all sorts of fun stuff.
When I saw H about 8 weeks ago she told me that one of her triplets was getting slimmer and slimmer and that they were having problems with her eating. She was refusing to eat normal meals with the family, checking calorie contents on packets and performing rituals with her food. Now as someone with an eating disorder myself (be it the other end of the spectrum) I have heard enough anorexics share their story to know these were not good signs for a 10 year old. My friend said she had a doctors appointment scheduled in the hope this would scare her daughter into eating.
Roll forward eight weeks to yesterday and I saw H again. She sadly told me that when they saw the doctor they got referred to the paeds at the hospital almost immediately and that the specialist would not let them leave the hospital that day with their daughter. She was admitted immediately. Her weight was about 3.5 stone and she is 10 years old. That is not much more than my 3 year olds weigh. A lot less than my 6 year old weighs. How completely scary.
My friend feels like 'the worst parent ever', her words not mine and she says she knew her daughter was thin but there was no physical signs of it being a real problem, no hair loss, fainting, being sick etc. The doctor told her that her daughters heart rate was seriously slow and she could arrest at any time. Imagine being told that about your baby.
My friend can not believe she missed the fact that her little girl is anorexic. She did not realise that young, apparently happy girls got anorexia. But they do, it is sad fact. I searched for some good reliable stats on anorexia in kids but they seem pretty hard to come by, what I did find was that 29% of girls in the US in grade 10 are already dieting (age 16), 40% of the same age feel they are too fat and 6% have taken weight loss supplements without medical advice. These kind of statistics are why I feel the need to write this blog post and why I urge you to always try to show a positive attitude towards your own body image and your eating in front of your kids. Our children watch every little thing we do, we are their number 1 role model and they adore us and want to be just like us. Even if this means being warped around food.
The teen magazine Sugar undertook a survey in 2009 of over 500 girls aged 12 to 18 which showed that girls whose mums are on a diet are almost twice as likely to suffer from an eating disorder. They talk of 'thinheritence', ie parents passing on their own warped views on weight and body image to their children. This is yet another wake up call for me. I know I have a problem and I know that I need to do something about it but I just piss about and do I one day want to wake up and find that one of my children also has the same problem as me? No I do not. That is what first inspired me to start attending my ED fellowship and I know that in the last year I have grown emotionally and gained so much knowledge but my physical relationship with food and the size of my body and thus my health implications are still very bad. Yes on the outside the kids might hear me say the right things but they say actions speak louder than words.
So right now is another day. I can start my abstinence any time, it is a gift from God and I turn my food and lack of control over my food to God. Lord I pray that you help me to be free from my obsession with food and that I do not eat compulsively for the next 24 hours and more than anything I pray that you keep my children safe from this awful disease.
Please anyone reading this, be positive around your children and help them to grow up knowing that real people come in all shapes and sizes and it is important that we learn to love ourselves, flaws included. Rant over!