Eating disorders are becoming more prevalent in the pediatric population, and being aware of the different diagnoses and treatment options can help parents get the support they need. This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, which is an international event to help fight the myths that surround eating disorders. Here are a few tips to help educate families on three common eating disorders.
ARFID: Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) is more serious than picky eating. It is an eating and feeding disorder characterized by a child not eating enough calories to grow. The food a child consumes is based on sensory choices (appearance, taste, texture, smell or presentation). Other common symptoms to look for include:
- Spending an extensive amount of time to eat (at both home and school)
- Feeling too tired to eat, fatigue and feeling cold
- Complaints of constipation, stomach pain and ‘feeling full’ around mealtime
- Having a general lack of interest in food or family/school mealtime
- Refusing to eat certain textures of food
- Chronic fear of gagging, choking and/or vomiting
- Often calling in sick to school due to a weak immune system
Expert Tip: Feeding products like the Happy Mat can help children with ARFID become more adventurous eaters since the visual presentation of food looks fun!
Anorexia: Anorexia nervosa in children is characterized by poor weight gain or difficulties maintaining an age-appropriate body weight. In addition, many children and teens have developed a distorted body image due to negative comments from adults about their lack of eating or being bullied at school. A few additional characteristics of anorexia are:
- Verbal comments that they are “fat” despite their weight loss/gain
- Verbal complaints of lethargy but denies feeling hungry
- Avoids mealtimes or school functions/holidays involving food
Expert Tip: Teaching parents and therapists to use caring language and encouraging expressions can help children and teens overcome and heal from anorexia. For more tips and feeding therapy techniques, check our book Making Mealtime ezpz.
Bulimia: Children and teenagers that binge eat (eat to excess) and then force themselves to throw up in order to gain attention or prevent weight gain. Children diagnosed with bulimia are generally at normal weight (instead of under weight with anorexia). Some other signs to look for are:
- Recurring cuts on their knuckles, tooth sensitivity and/or dental problems (from inducing vomiting)
- Lack of control when eating meals or snacks
- Trips to the bathroom after eating (to vomit)
- Breath smelling of vomit
- Skipping meals and hoarding/hiding food in their room
Together we can provide a community of support and hope for families struggling with eating and feeding disorders. Join us in celebrating National Eating Disorder Awareness! #ezpzfun #NEDAwareness
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 28 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating tendencies. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning feeding products.