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
  • Self-starvation

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

Expert Tip: Try using the Happy Mat (4oz, 4oz & 10 ounces) and the Happy Bowl (10 ounces) to help measure food intake and gently teach children about portion size.

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

Happy Feeding!

Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP

Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz

Dawn Winkelmann, a.k.a “Ms. Dawn”, has treated thousands of kids across the globe by helping families overcome picky eating stages and food refusals, while adding new foods into their diet. Her high success rate is attributed to Ms. Dawn bringing her education, experience, sense of humor and her favorite feeding products to the family dinner table.

You will find Ms. Dawn’s expert feeding advice to be positive and fun for the entire family! She adapts complicated feeding/swallowing research and makes it practical and easy for parents! Get ready to learn the science behind your favorite feeding products and ways to bring happy family mealtimes back!

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