Early signs of anorexia...?(105 Posts)
I don’t know if there’s a more specific area to post this (I couldn’t find one?). I think this is going to be long so please stick with me, I just want to give the full picture and not drip feed
I’m concerned DD might be showing early signs of anorexia. She’s 12 and in year 8. Her dad recently re-married and moved in with his wife and her daughter, who is DD’s age. They’ve never got along - they’re in the same year at school. This girl sends DD all sorts of mean messages when she’s hear but speaks in a babyish voice and is sweet to her face (although can break out into screaming/kicking, even at nearly 13). DD as a result has become increasingly reluctant to go to her dad’s - fairly sure she was faking having a migraine last weekend to avoid it, and has decided to stopp going midweek because she says it disrupts her routine. I accepted this at face value until she started confiding more about not getting on with ex-H’s DSD. I’m also pregnant (due in Feb) and DS moved out in September (to study, not because of anything dramatic), so it’s been a relatively big year for her.
She’s always been relatively slim and very sporty - trampolining and dance both in and out of school, a martial art out of school and part of the school netball team. This year she’s suddenly taken on much more dance after getting into a few companies, and has also started going to boxing twice a week before school, and going to badminton and volleyball at lunch. She has packed lunches and her lunchbox always comes back completely empty which it never used to. She’d often leave orange peel/wrappers/tinfoil/clingfilm in there. On weekends she doesn’t eat lunch - she has breakfast (sometimes as small as an orange, the past week I’ve convinced her to eat a (plain) croissant on most) but very rarely will eat her lunch. She used to always just eat what I made for younger DC and we’d sit around the table and eat it together. Over half term she asked to make her own, but I would repeatedly call her and remind her of lunch and she’d keep saying she wasn’t hungry and would wait for tea, or would get some crackers and take them up to her room. I found about 10-12 crackers in various places her room this morning, not even hidden. The only days when she ate a proper lunch were those when her friends were round and I made them the same as the whole family. She has packed lunches on weekends because she is at dance rehearsals all day, which if I’d known she was going to take up so much during the week I absolutely would not have allowed. (I let her do it on the basis that she quit her out of school trampolining and did just one session of her martial art a week). And again, the lunch box comes home totally empty - like the contents has just been disposed of.
Now onto tea: she does eat tea, but never all of it. She used to eat all her tea and have pudding. Now she often rejects pudding and just eats sort of half. For example, last night (after a day in which she’d done boxing and trampolining at school and had a dance class later in the evening) we had nachos with tomato sauce/lots of cheese, peas, and garlic bread. She ate all of the peas, I think two pieces of garlic bread (I didn’t manage to count but it was no more than two), and very much picked at her nachos - probably ate about half. When she got back from dance I offered her soup as a sort of supper (because she’d not eaten a lot of tea) and she said no. She also used to always have a snack first thing when she got home - not any more.
So. Am I being paranoid and overreacting? And if I’m not, what do I do? Who do I speak to? How do I manage it better? I’ve told her she has to quit 3 activities after Christmas (she said she had to do the whole term because she’d signed up - I’m skeptical so might ask the school), but she definitely does love dancing so much so I’m reluctant to make her cut down on that.
Sorry that this is so long, and please be gentle. This is really new and scary territory.
I've no direct experience with this but could you contact Beat the eating disorders charity? And then go chat to her gp?
Mmm. I’d be concerned too. But I’ve no idea of the best approach. Do you have a school nurse you could talk to confidentially or your GP. I’m not sure about talking to her about it or not. They’re such a worry aren’t they! x
GP was definitely going to be my first port of call. I’m just worried about talking to her about it - I’ve no idea how to broach it with her/ suggest it.
Not heard of the charity so thank you!
Cross post with kimlek! Would I be able to speak to the GP without her? I don’t know about a school nurse, we’ve never contacted one before.
I’m not sure about mentioning it to school before her in case a teacher brings it up with her and that’s the first she knows of the suspicions. It’s very difficult. Her behaviour hasn’t changed much (aside from avoiding her dad’s), just her appetite/ frequency of exercise
Sorry I can't offer much advice, but do you have a good relationship with any of her pals? Could you ask them confidentially about whether they know if she's binning her lunch at school? Hope you get some help
I have a 13 year old DD (originally a DSD but I adopted her when she was 8), so I was thinking about mentioning it to her and getting her to try and make DD open up, as they’re very close. I just wonder if it could be happening without DD really being conscious of it - she doesn’t talk about being fat/ unhappy with her appearance or about calories and food and things.
MissBax she’s had quite a few friends since she was very little, one of whom spends a lot of time at our house and we spend Christmas/holidays with so I could ask her about the lunch. I’m not sure if DD could be finding a way to hide it though, as I think this friend would have felt able to tell me. (She told me more details than DD about ex-H’s DSD being cruel without me even asking. She’s very mature.) I’ll definitely ask though.
This sounds really, really worrying - I speak as someone who has had bouts of anorexia. The thing is that anorexics are experts at hiding, disguising and minimising the lengths that they are going to not to eat, so I wouldn't assume that a word with your DD will necessarily sort this out.
What is her BMI like? If she's dumping lunch and not eating tea, her weight will be changing. If she's within the healthy range and it's not tanking madly, I wouldn't worry too much - but if she is losing steadily and underweight, that is cause for concern.
Sounds like she's lost all control and has taken to controlling her weight.
Do you have scales in the house ?
You might be able to find people on here in Mental Health that can help (parents with children who have eating disorders) but I would agree that contacting BEAT, and asking them how to handle the situation would be a great move. They will know better than the GP on how to broach the subject with DD, as it will need to be handled delicately so she doesn't get angry/feel threatened in any way. I agree it does sound worrying (also someone with a history of eating disorders). Hope you find the help you need x
I would trust your instincts. Seek advice from the charity someone further up mentioned and talk to GP before talking to your DAD.
It may not be weight related, in that she thinks she is overweight, but more to do with the control she has with food. She may feel that restricting food gives her the sense of control she lost when her dad's family situation changed. Could you contact her GP and ask for advice?
From hearing about a friends daughter it starts as a healthy eating obsession, wanting to cook own food, cutting out anything such as cakes and chocolate etc and then leading to not eating at all or very little, throwing lunch away and also doing more exercise.
I would speak to GP.
If you have scales in the house, hide them somewhere and see if she asks where they went.
I'd definitely ask her friend about your dds lunch at school, she may have not noticed that she hasn't been eating but may realise once you mention it.
for you. You sound like a brilliant mother for noticing this so quickly, especially when it sounds like you have so much going on. I hope it's not what you think, but if it is make sure you get help for yourself too.
Yes I would say you definitely have some red flags. My daughter had an eating disorder from 14-16, the first sign was her not wanting breakfast, I bought breakfast biscuits and later found packets uneaten and hidden all over but it was only with hindsight so you are on a good path for keeping a close eye. She wasn't eating lunch either but I didn't know this as she bought school lunches. She would eat dinner but then purge as I later found out.
Is she visibly losing weight? It tends to happen quickly if they are seriously restricting.
There will be some backlash on this but if you can look at your daughters web/phone history it will help. If she is heading towards ED she is possibly looking at websites/chat rooms, problem is these are generally on the dark web so you need to know how to look properly (your older teen might help with this). There is some horrific stuff out there so if you do find something be prepared, at the time the main hashtag was 'thinspiration" but that might have changed. If you think she can't access this stuff, think again they become very very devious.
Also watch her behaviour closely after meals - does she always go to the bathroom? if so, she could be purging, they also tend to do this in the shower so they can't be heard (you can check your drain for proof sounds awful but it gets that desperate).
If you are genuinely worried have a good root through her bedroom, I wouldn't normally condone this but when I became really suspicious I found slimming pills which she had got someone to order from the internet - again they become very resourceful and devious.
Don't despair you are in a good position for early intervention if she is heading down this path.
But dragging her to the GP straight away probably won't help, until you have some tangible proof she will deny everything. My daughter eventually fainted at school and had lost 3stone in two months. The faint and the weight loss gave me a reason to intervene that she could not deny.
Its difficult because its really hard to know what to do, but talking about food in a non confrontational way, doing things together will help.
Fingers crossed for you it isn't an ED, but watch closely and yes the B-EAT website and helplines are really good.
I feel for you, its an awful time when they are not happy.
I've found this website really helpful in the past
Follow your instincts, be kind and gentle and do try to talk about her need for control rather than her eating, to start with. She will deny all and just get more sneaky if you're not careful. Might be an idea to check she's keeping her teatime food down, too.
the school bully is now her step sister. Everyone's worst nightmare. Poor, poor kid.
As well as getting help for this worsening mental health issue, her father needs to get involved and stop the bullying. If he won't then she cannot visit and the bully cannot visit her. You need to protect her.
Definite red flags here.
I agree with the other poster that this seems to be about control in terms of being able to be in control of one thing in her life.
I know that you're obviously very concerned but please tread carefully in case she reacts negatively. It can be a relief for some to know that someone knows and it can be compromising for others than may lead to more secretive behaviours.
What are the nature of the mean comments from the stepsister? Are they weight, image or figure related?
Thanks for all the kind responses, and reassurance that I’m not just being suspicious, although ideally that would be the case I’ll definitely look at the charity mentioned, it sounds fab. And I agree about not going in heavy handed - that was definitely going to be how I’d manage. I’m quite worried about bringing it up with her as I can’t tell if she even realises she’s doing it, and don’t want to send her into a spin.
The step sister situation has been so so tricky to deal with. I have no idea how involved to be - I’ve spoken to her dad a few times but he’s a bit oblivious and I don’t want to seem like I’m interfering. They moved in together before getting married (about 7 months ago) and I tried to suggest they wait a little, because of the issues between step sister and DD. The step sister very much seems like a sweet good girl, and her mum dotes on her. DD also reckons she can and does cry on demand, when it suits her. I think DD’s had a variety of attacks - DD’s friend says she burst into tears at school recently because the step sister had been saying things about how DD’s dad loves step sister more and doesn’t want DD any more, and also saying that DD has ruined the step sister’s life. Until I forced DD’s dad to intervene (I told him she wouldn’t come unless he spoke to his step daughter) there was also an issue with the step sister stealing DD’s stuff and then crying when DD accused her and asked for it back, so DD would get in trouble. Apparently the step daughter always likes to be the centre of attention too - probably why she doesn’t like DD being around. I don’t think anything about weight/appearance though.
And I’m not actually sure we do have any scales in the house funnily enough. If we do I don’t know about them. I’ll ask DH when he’s home but I’m fairly sure we don't!
Oh - and there’s been no really visible weight loss, but she’s always been really quite slim so it’s hard to tell. I think she’s possibly lost a little but it’s so hard to see. We’re all quite slim - I used to get comments all the time but have never had an eating issue.
Can you sit down with her dad and tell him how upset she is becoming from her step sisters behaviour? He may take it seriously if you tell him face to face, although he should do anyway(!), explain to him that his own relationship with her will suffer with her in the long run if he doesn't intervene quickly.
It's very difficult to tell if she's losing weight this time of year as they all have those baggy hoodies on in this cold weather. Any weight loss can easily be covered up with layers of clothing. Maybe keep an eye on her jeans and see if you notice them becoming loose on her.
DearMrDilkington there is nothing I’d love more (I’ve tried to do this many times) but he’s quite busy and awful at replying to my messages. I recently asked if we could meet to chat about how DD’s coping with all the changes and he totally blanked three messages before sending some poor apology about not seeing my messages earlier and being really busy for the next few months but we could talk on the phone another example of the behaviour is the step daughter’s messages which I have seen - horrible things with swearing, mostly about DD being a waste of space, unwanted, irritating. This girl also got a 15 year old boy she knows to harass DD with sexual comments (she’s 12!) which just made DD so uncomfortable and stressed. Sadly DD tried to actually show her dad once (at my suggestion) but the step daughter had deleted them off her phone, cried and claimed DD was making it all up because she hates her and was making fake accounts. Because ex-H doesn’t know technology, he just took his step daughter’s word for it (who has two Instagram profiles or something so used that as evidence DD was making fake accounts to send hate to herself) which breaks my heart on DD’s behalf it’s also unfortunate because he should by now know the impact he could have - DS (18) won’t talk to him or see him because of various issues, including those with his wife and daughter.
I’m going to check how she is after tea tonight, and she should be home in fifteen minutes so I’m going to prepare her favourite after school snack (toasted hot cross bun and butter) such scary grounds.
In that case, I'd stop her going to her dad's. It's doing her much more damage than good, he sounds like a waste of space.
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