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Worried about 9YO DD and eating - your best ED prevention steps please(9 Posts)
DD has always loved her food, loved cooking etc. She's a healthy, active 9YO, naturally skinny. On the whole very happy but quite highly strung - she gets herself worked up about things very easily so, for example, getting her to swallow a pill is a nightmare - she'll quite often 'choke' and spit it out, almost vomit.
I've noticed in the past few weeks her eating patterns of changed. She's saying she's not hungry more often and there have been a few incidents of her thinking she's choking on something e.g. a stringy bean and then not wanting to eat the rest of her food afterwards. As far as I can tell she has a pretty positive body image, I've never heard her talking about not liking her body (though she's decided she doesn't like her nose because someone as school said something mean about it).
I have experience of eating disorder (anorexic in late teens early 20s) but made a very good recovery and now have a healthy relationship with food. We eat good healthy meals, aren't overly strict with them so they'll have the odd macdonalds, cakes, sweets etc do plenty of exercise (hikes and whatnot as a family). I've always talked positively about my own body in front of her, never make comments about people's physical appearance, talk about their wonderful 'strong healthy bodies' etc and if we do talk about 'diet' it's in the context of making sure we have the right combination of foods to make us strong, help our bodies to grow etc
BUT I have this horrible feeling there's trouble ahead. Her appetite just isn't what it used to be, and her mood seems to have a real impact on her desire to eat. So if she's worked up about anything (which she often is) she's less likely to eat. And I've been reading some stuff about genetic predisposition to eating disorders e.g. in families where there is history of depression, alcoholism, where there is a lot of perfectionism, goal driven stuff - that is us all over. So I kind of feel we are doomed.
Also, you just can't control everything. Increasingly she'll be around people who do talk about diets and thinness etc. We were sitting on a tram the other day and a woman came and tapped her on the shoulder and said 'ooh you're very thin, it's very beautiful' - I just laughed it off with DD but I could have slapped the woman though of course she thought she was just being flattering.
My main concern though, is that I feel I have a battle on my hands with DH too. His view is very much: this is all nonsense she must be made to sit down and eat her dinner and, if she does, she gets rewarded with dessert or whatever. I feel really strongly that forcing her and hectoring her is going to make things worse but he just doesn't believe me. The maddening thing is, I'm sure he feels this is something that comes from me whereas for the past decade or more I've had a really healthy relationship with food and he's the one who has insisted over the years on rewards and punishments related to food, despite the number of times I've told him that it's unhelpful. I don't know what to do to convince him to take a different approach.
So, this is very long, I'm sorry. But I could really do with some MN support on this. What can I do now to stop this getting worse?
I feel for you. I too had problems with food as a teenager and as you probably know, the more parents try to force the child to eat, the worse it gets. I would encourage her to eat healthy food staying well away from "fattening" stuff, explaining how important it is to eat healthily at her age. Even now that I no longer have an issue with food, I simply cannot eat if upset or worried, so perhaps you could try and find out whether there is anything on her mind rather than just seeing it all as a possible symptom of an ED. Ask your DH to give you at least a chance to try and help your daughter your way.
Are you sure it's not a choking phobia and not limiting food?
neglected Thanks so much for raising the choking phobia thing - I'd never heard of it before but have done some reading since seeing your post and you might have hit the nail on the head. I wouldn't go as far as to say phobia but she certainly gets v concerned about certain things getting stuck in her throat. She once choked on a grape, a few years back - nothing too serious, a couple of slaps on the back did it but I was getting ready to do the heimlich manoeuvre and it was a scary moment. So, perhaps that's what triggered it.
Anyway, we did some cooking yesterday (thought I'd try and work with her love of making stuff) and she really enjoyed it and ate very happily, same at breakfast this morning (we're in a different time zone at the mo, moved abroad at the start of the year).
Oldmum what you say is very sensible - thank you. And actually, I think I probably overreacted yesterday just hate the thought of something like this happening to her on my watch and not being able to stop it. But actually I reckon I am jumping the gun. Sorry! And thank you for taking the time to respond
My DS is super sensitive to choking and often semi chiles with much drama and then refuses to eat rest of his meal or indeed often that same food ever again.
I try to include different textures within the meal rather than a one pot type meal iyswim and often separate the foods e.g. Something in a side dish because then if he decides one item is a 'risk' he can push it away and still eat the rest as it is separate!
I can understand your fears re ED as I have an ongoing poor relationship with food and image.
Even if there is no issue on that front for now you need to make your DH access some literature on that subject if he won't take it from you. Seems wrong that he won't listen to someone who has had an ED and recovered themselves as surely you are well placed to know the triggers? He sounds rather stubborn about it and his attitude to food isn't healthy whatever he thinks.
Yeah I mentioned it because my then 6 year old, who is also quite sensitive, choked on a chewy lolly just after her grandfather died. She then became fixated on choking and dying for a couple of weeks. Gently but adamant "yes we are going to eat a few mouthfuls" at mealtimes and then pressure off around snacks and building it up with increasing textures worked great and stuff she loved worked well. I love your idea of her cooking. If you can steadily prove to her she's ok, you'll hopefully crack it quickly.
You mention moving abroad in your reply and I definitely see a clue here. I know from experience that some children would react to such a change by refusing to eat/eat less/being very fussy. There is such a connection between food and state of mind especially in sensitive children. But you are going the right way by exploring all possibilities.
A friend's daughter (about 12yo at the time I think) had a choking phobia and it started exactly as your dd did. She was eating and swallowing strangely because she was so terribly afraid of swallowing. One day, she got bean sprout caught around her epiglottis and had a complete panic attack - ended up sedated in A&E to clear it out. All of this made the phobia worse, of course (because it came true!) and from then on she had to have liquified meals, became thinner and thinner and ended up with pneumonia. This all lasted a period of a few months. She gradually came out of it all with help and was fine from then on, but she is a naturally anxious person and from what I know she has other anxieties (not food related) that she deals with now.
I don't know what to suggest other than what pp have said about not forcing her to eat foods she is worried about and speak to the GP about choking phobia for sure.
Thanks so much all of you for posting - I really appreciate it. I do find Mumsnet amazing for stuff like this, just being able to reach out and ask strangers for their experiences.
oldmum yup, we've moved to Asia temporarily, and she was very upset about the move. Now we're here she is actually really happy (or at least seems really happy) but I suppose it has been a pretty epic three months in terms of change so some anxieties coming to the surface is to be expected. Also, a lot of the food here is very different to what they are used to.
neglected and Nello thanks for sharing those stories. Helps to begin to understand it all. DD and I are talking about it now as well, so that helps. I just hadn't appreciated what a big concern it was for her. I'll have chat with GP about choking phobia when we're back in the UK.
shurley that's v helpful, thank you. I'm not sure why but it feels like a very difficult thing to talk about the DH. We've never talked openly about my own issues with food all those years ago - in fact it was never really acknowledged by any of my family/friends. Though I know people discussed it behind my back and were worried. It was, and has remained, just a weird unspoken thing that I just gradually recovered from. I think everyone was a bit embarrassed by it, myself more than anyone else! I guess mental illness (and for me, anorexia was definitely linked to depression) remains a sensitive subject. I do though feel very grateful to have come out the other side of an ED and be able to enjoy cooking, eating etc without my head feeling full of it all the time.
Thanks again, ladies. Have a good day
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