Preteens and Eating Disorders
All too often, girls this age fall victim to the messages society at large is sending them: rail-thin magazine models imposing their warped definition of "beauty" on young minds, tummy-bearing fashions being marketed directly to tweens and other such misfortunes.
Your daughter needs direct, one-on-one communication not only about the symptom of the problem—the food avoidance—but also about the underlying cause of the problem. Did someone at school call her fat? Is she trying to avoid getting "fat" so she's not teased at school like other girls she has witnessed? Did she see someone on TV who she respects—like the famously skinny Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan—and want to "be like them"? Is she depressed about something? No time to beat around the bush here—a gentle, but frank and probing discussion is needed to derail a situation that can and will only get worse over time.
If this healthy child does erroneously believe that she is fat, she's in desperate need of enlightenment. As one would do when approaching a discussion about drugs or alcohol with a child, you need to sit down with your daughter for a good 30 minutes and discuss:
- what exactly obesity and anorexia are and are not.
- how an obese or anorexic condition is caused relative to poor lifestyle behaviors and choices.
- very specific good behaviors and choices she can and should make to stay healthy. This last point should include discussion on why not eating is equally as detrimental to one's health as eating too much.
Make sure your daughter understands that avoiding an anorexic or obese condition is about her health and well being—not about how she looks on the outside.