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Signs of Eating Disorders in Children You Might Not Recognize

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), at least 30 million people suffer from eating disorders. The rise of eating disorders among children under 12 is evident in recent years. Parents must recognize that parents must recognize the signs of eating disorders because early detection and prevention are essential to combat them. 

  1. Abnormal Weight Changes

According to clinical psychologist Stacey Rosenfeld, Ph.D., CGP, CEDS, children gain weight in predictable ways. If you notice that they do not gain weight or lose it, this could already be a sign. Eating disorders are often diagnosed by significant weight loss. If the child undergoes unexplained weight fluctuations, it can result from a change in their eating patterns. 

  1. Eating Less or Refusal to Eat Without Explanation 

Children do not express body image concerns like adults. However, they tend to parents’ attempts to eat right to maintain weight and growth. There may be times when children insist that they already ate with their friends or refuse to eat without explanation. 

Also, observe if the child tends to obsess with the portion sizes of their meals and they repetitively read the labels of their food. Also, rejecting their previously favorite foods should often alert you. 

  1. Change in Demeanor 

Being irritable and distant are typical in children with eating disorders. Often, their relationships with other people are affected, and they tend to turn down any social events they are invited to. Also, children who do well in school may get low grades once they have eating disorders. Their personality can drastically change from being happy-go-lucky to a gloomy one. 

  1. Increase in Physical Activity

Children who suffer from eating disorders may exercise excessively. Although compulsive exercising does not necessarily mean having an eating disorder, it may still occur in children. In anorexia nervosa, excessive workouts mean the child is trying to control his/her weight, that it becomes extreme. 

For children with bulimia, they may increase their physical activity to cancel out their binge eating. 

  1. Sudden Interest in Cooking or Watching Cooking Shows 

Contrary to common perception, people with eating disorders are hungry and think about food all the time. Parents may believe that their children are only interested in the food they are watching, but it can inhibit their hunger. For children with anorexia, they may replace eating with a different food-oriented activity. 

  1. Increased Focus On Appearance

Observe if your child spends too much time looking at his/herself in front of the mirror. If they begin to weigh themselves excessively, it may be a sign for you to be concerned. Although many children may lack body confidence, it is unusual for them to skip social events, avoid the beach, and continuously wear baggy clothing to hide their bodies. 

  1. Trying A Specific Diet

When a child suddenly tries a specific diet and becomes scared of a certain kind of food, it can be a red flag. It is unusual for children with eating disorders to try a specific diet to lose weight. It is also uncommon for them to think that diet justifies skipping meals at home. 

What Parents Should Do If Their Child Has An Eating Disorder

If you think that your child has an eating disorder, do not panic because help is out there. Parents must work with skilled professionals to address the needs of their children. Below are some of the things you can do:

  1. Talk To Your Child

Talking to your child is the first step in knowing whether your child has an eating disorder or not. Ask if they are okay and if there’s any problem they want to address. Be calm, and let them know you’re there to listen and help them. If they refuse to talk to you, try to encourage them to open up to another person they are comfortable with telling. 

  1. Get Help From A Specialist

It is crucial to detect an eating disorder as early as possible. There will be a higher chance of recovery once an eating disorder is caught early. Get help from an eating disorder specialist to avoid it from becoming worse. 

  1. Learn About Eating Disorders

This will help you understand why your child has eating disorders. It will help you understand the root causes and how your child will recover. Aside from that, learning about eating disorders will make your child feel that you care for them, and you do not take it lightly. 

Parents must not take eating disorders lightly, and they need to act. Parents play a crucial role in helping their children with eating disorders to recover. Throughout the process of healing, parents must be with their children’s side. 


Eating disorder Symptoms & Causes: Boston Children’s Hospital. (n.d.). Retrieved March 03, 2021, from 



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