Q: My 10 Year Old Daughter is slightly overweight. I’ve recently noticed that she hides how much she is eating. Should I be concerned that she is developing an eating disorder?
A: The development of eating disorders in pre-pubescent girls is a common phenomenon today. A child who is slightly overweight and hiding how much she is eating may be ashamed of her weight and could be at risk for developing an eating disorder. Most girls who develop eating disorders at a young age have illogical ideas of nutrition and the reasons for their weight gain. A combination of genetic, social and familial causes must be examined. We know that there can be a genetic predisposition in families toward obesity. If that is the case, then a concerted effort should be maintained to see that family members understand their risk (for heart disease,
diabetes, etc.) and what is reasonable to do about it. A nutritionist can provide an at-risk family with nutrition
ideas, meal plans and advice.
Eating disorders are almost unknown in poor, third world countries. It is in developed, wealthy, western countries
where eating disorders are at epidemic proportions. Our media and magazines are filled with “role models” of
skinny young women and pop-stars who set unrealistic body image standards for young girls. Some families may
put too much emphasis on thinness and body image. Mothers or older female relatives who are constantly dieting, exercising or talking about their weight will send the wrong message to younger females in the household.
It is important for parents to avoid criticizing or commenting too frequently on their child’s weight or eating habits
because this could cause a child to become secretive about eating.
If you think your child is developing an eating disorder it is extremely important to bring your concern to the attention of your child’s health care professional. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to the prevention of a chronic and potentially fatal illness.