Anorexia At The Age Of Five

Anorexia is an awful eating disorder as an adult so I cannot imagine what it is like for a five years old. Yesterday’s Independent reported that children as young as five were receiving treatment for Anorexia and the figures showed some alarming trends in young children today, especially girls. Image conscious celebrities, internal messages in magazines and peer pressure on children were blamed for the disorder. I can see these reasons could be influential for an teenager or an adult, but I have difficulty relating them to a five years old? Therefore, I am led to wonder how much of the disorder in children so young is caused by the environment in which they are growing up?

Last week, I heard a disturbing story on the radio of a child who started dieting at the age of 7 because her grandmother would  put her on the scales, weigh her and tell her she needed to lose weight to be pretty. Her mother described her as a slightly plump child but not fat. Regardless, the result was an eating disorder for which this 10 years old girl is now receiving both medical and psychological treatment. Her mother said she thought she was providing her daughter with the best childcare by allowing a grandparent to look after her. As soon as she found out what was happening, she found alternative childcare.

Whilst this is only one story, I wonder how many stories like this are out there where it isn’t magazine, stars, or advertising that are causing eating disorders but actually family members and friends who are part of our daily lives. I would be horrified if my children started dieting at such a young age and even more so if this was suggested by someone in my family or a friend. I would hope they would raise it with me and not with my child. We need to tackle obesity in children but not in this way.


6 Comments to “Anorexia At The Age Of Five”

  1. Bunty – how strange, I was just talking about this yesterday as I read the same story. I would be mortified if one of my niece’s were conscious of their body shapes or sizes; they live in such a different world to when I grew up in the 80s. Parenting helps to control how children grow up but they will increasingly become influenced by their peers. To be honest, being Punjabi, my community suffers more from dealing with overweight children, where a fat child is a happy child.

    But will that child be happy if they are teased at school? Will they be happy being the Funny Fat Girl in the group, that never gets a boyfriend? Or embarks on a disastrous relationship with food where you eat even when you are not hungry (I definitely fall into that category)?

    When I was at school there was one girl in my sister’s year who was anorexic and she was expelled as she was not deemed fit to sit the assessments or attend class. Eating disorders (either no food or too much food) is something that my nieces will be exposed to at primary school. At the risk of sounding Victorian, “how times have changed”.

  2. I absolutely agree that home and family play a MUCH larger role in the development of anorexia than do media and celebrities–both in children AND in teens and adults. Eating disorders have existed (albeit under different names) for thousands of years, and blaming societal beauty ideals is a bit too convenient a scapegoat.

  3. Bunty my Sis and I were discussing this topic recently too. It is a tricky one as sometimes it is hard to tell whether a child has puppy fat or is over-fed. It’s truly sad that such young children face eating disorders. It’s child abuse.

  4. I remember my neice once telling me (she was 4/5 years old at the time) that her mum told her she was too fat and that she needed to lose weight. She looked pretty skinny to me so, horrified, I asked my sister-in-law what this was all about.

    The nurse at scool has told her that my neice was over the average weight for her age group. BUT, I don’t think she’d factored in that my neice was also much much taller than everyone in her class.

    I could have strangled both this nurse and my sister in law.

    Every now and again, alomost 2 years later, I hear my neice say something about being fat to her cousin (who is younger than her!!), and I can’t help thinking back to that silly silly nurse who told my sister-in-law that her daughter was overweight. It’s really hard to know how involved to get as at the end of the day she’s not my daughter and I’m sure my sister-in-law doesn’t appreciate the comments from me. I wish I had complained about that silly nurse and she started all of this nonsense!!!

  5. OMG, I have just read about this book: Maggies goes on a diet. It is for six year olds!!!

  6. The book is a sad state of affairs – but would you really advise your girl it is ok to be overweight and that people are going to judge her for her personality? We all know that is a lie.

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