Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Six-year-olds and eating disorders
This Canadian article, published last November, is one of the few I've seen anywhere that overtly links comments and teasing about weight with eating disorders. A significant percentage of teens with eating disorders are overweight at some point. As this piece points out, other people's responses to their weight can start them spiraling down into the hell of an eating disorder.
"Research shows that when girls are teased about their size and their shape, they stop eating," says Mary Kay Lucier of the Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association (BANA).
Notice that she did not say "when overweight girls are teased." That's the part that gets me. The act of teasing and making fun of a young girl's weight, even if it's "all in fun" (a phrase I loathe), can be enough to trigger self-starvation in some kids.
Lucier went on to say, "We've had 25 seven-year-olds in the past year come in in a state of acute starvation." I can imagine all too well what lies ahead of some of these girls. It's not pretty. Not at all.
BANA runs education programs, but its budget (like so many nonprofits') has recently been slashed. If you feel motivated to give away a little money in a good cause, download a donor form here.
Maybe the best thing all of us can do is teach our children that just as it's not OK to touch someone who doesn't want to be touched, it's also not OK to comment on anyone else's body--positively or negatively. We have better things to talk about.