These days, news stories often focus on the "obesity epidemic" in America, with particular emphasis on childhood obesity. However, as detailed in an NBC News article published yesterday, parents need to be on the lookout for signs of anorexia, even in their overweight children. The article notes that as parents try to guide children towards healthier eating and exercise, they may also be inadvertently sending a bigger message, one that pushes kids towards unhealthy behaviors.
Essentially, kids get the message that there is something wrong with the way they are. When they start losing weight, they then receive approval from parents, pediatricians, and their peers. As they start to see how their weight loss affects how others treat them, they may have a tendency to focus too much on taking the weight off, rather than on making healthy choices.
Unfortunately, because these children are overweight, parents and doctors are less likely to recognize the signs of anorexia than they otherwise would be. When kids are eliminating excess fat and moving towards a healthy weight, there may seem to be no need for intervention. However, it is essential that parents monitor what their children are eating and how much.
Obese children with anorexia are in a particularly dangerous situation because the disorder usually goes unrecognized for such a long time. By the time parents realize there is a problem, these children have often caused serious damage to their bodies. The kids themselves often do not realize they have a problem because they, too, are subject to the stereotypes of anorexics being rail thin and bony. Hopefully, as the war on childhood obesity continues, parents, doctors, teachers, and kids will receive better education about anorexia and learn to recognize it before it is too late.