Help February 2015

The slippery slope to eating disorders

Helping children deal with the pressures of dieting

Family members of a child with an eating disorder are often baffled by how fast the child’s behaviour escalates from what at first seemed positive, healthy habits to a dangerous situation.

Why would anyone suspect that, for example, giving up junk food and eating more vegetables, or being more active and exercising regularly could ever turn into a nightmare?

These actions are usually seen as good model behaviours that reflect a child’s increased consciousness of, and motivation to follow, a healthy and disciplined lifestyle.

So, when should proud parents become concerned about their child’s habits?

“I Had No Idea” is the theme for this year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week in the United States. Launched by the National Eating Disorders Association, the campaign runs from 22 to 28 February.

Its goal is to promote the importance of early detection and intervention, and to recognise the diverse experiences of people affected by such disorders.

Meanwhile, Beat, the UK’s national organisation to battle eating disorders, will mark the country’s Eating Disorders Week—from 23 February to 1 March—with a quirky fundraising campaign called Sock it to Eating Disorders.

Based on the idea of asking the nation to put on silly socks and donate £1 to the charity, Beat’s suggestions for raising money include:

  • Organise a silly socks day at work or school
  • Decorate your socks in Beat colours of pink and blue
  • Take part in a sponsored event in your silliest socks
  • Make your own socks and sell them to friends and family
  • Encourage your sports team to wear silly socks during a match

Beat’s approach is a fine example of how you can use—forgive the pun—off-beat means to address even very serious issues, so helping ease some of the stigma associated with mental health.

Although people develop eating disorders in different ways and at different rates, the associated complaints are more or less visible. Very often, early signs and symptoms are ignored or missed.

Due to the complex mix of experiences and observations, there are many myths about dieting which is healthy and that which is not, accompanied by a variety of explanations and broad speculation regarding why and how some people take habits too far and become ill.

Still not completely understood, eating disorders are the manifestation of serious emotional and physical problems that can be life-threatening.

Most of these disorders start with some form of restricted eating and increased exercise. Next comes a struggle with self-image, followed by extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviour focused on being in control and different.

It is by correcting the myths and, at the early stages, challenging the related actions and thoughts that the onset of a serious eating disorder can be significantly reduced. Further, years of struggle to recover from the illness can thus be avoided and, ultimately, lives saved.

TELL Counseling, in joining this important campaign, will present a talk on dieting issues as part of the Exceptional Parenting Program lecture series at Wesley Center, Minato-ku on 25 February from 10am to noon.

TELL Counseling will challenge the myths about eating disorders and focus on how to help children who go on unhealthy diets. Come to the lecture to hear fascinating and compelling accounts of eating disorders, and learn how adults can help children deal with the pressures of dieting.

TELL’s Exceptional Parenting Program
Chie Sawa