Eating Disorders usually are only ever discussed or thought of in terms of adolescent girls. Boys were certain not discussed as having eating disorders at school, or even thereafter! Actually, come to think of it, anything to do with mental illness is not openly discussed anywhere!
Imagine the surprise when the doctor says “Does he have a cognitive condition relating to this? (“This” being a continuous battle to not be underweight – which we are not mentioning with the child in the room.)
So – let’s see some statistics… The first thing Google shows is the “Australian Butterfly Foundation – support for eating disorders & body image issues.”
The statistics shown as follows:
• 1 in 24 Australians has an eating disorder (that is approximately 1 million people).
Then, the more surprising statistic…
• 30% of Australians with an eating disorder are male!
What? Boys have eating issues too?
Yes, that’s what it means! Boys have eating issues too!
Ok, as the dust settles on that slightly perturbing fact… slowly sense and reality are sinking in!
Hindsight is an interesting thing! Especially when anxiety related complaints are concerned. Living in the moment it is sometimes difficult to make the connection. No one wants to mention it!
Now for the tricky part:
The signs of anxiety fueled food issues are obvious if you know what to look for.
As a Toddler – A referral to the Occupational Therapist for food aversion and Food Jags! After the allergist has given you a list of foods to avoid. Now you know what to avoid but a small boy just wants no food! Several months of supervision from pediatrician, nurse and OT and perhaps now the end is nigh!
As a preschooler – Mum returned to study/work and a small boy enjoys his day at preschool painting, coloring, playing in the sand pit. Oh, no! Someone forgot you must wear your shoes in the sand pit as you don’t like the feel on your feet. Anxiety up! Pumpkin soup for lunch and you just want a cheese sandwich which no one will make for you. No eaten lunch and it fails to be documented. No eaten lunch any day you attend and No one thinks to tell dad and he does not know to ask. He just assumes you have eaten and gives you afternoon tea (cheese sandwiches). You just want to be home! Weight loss begins to appear. It is put down to a growth spurt. Dietitian advice very active child needs more dinner and breakfast.
Kindergarten – new people, new routine, and new baby brother. Anxiety increases and eating issues recommence. Kindergarten teacher makes a rule one sandwich eaten before going outside for lunch play. Hot chocolate and protein powder added to breakfast. Again doctor discusses appropriate eating and healthily growth rates.
Grade 2 – enter a dyslexia, dysgraphia and formal anxiety diagnosis. Finally, seven years later a plan covering understanding allergies, asthma and how they affect eating habits, also how they are treated, in child friendly language. Anxiety reduces to normal. Weight and height meet acceptable growth rates, or just!
Now – a plan is in place to meet all future contingencies… except the wicked vomiting bug that, 3 years later has the child off the weight chart again. Leaving on the bus in the morning happy and well, and returning as white as a sheet with his dad carrying him. He collapsed vomiting at school. They said he needs to see a doctor. His dad says “Do they think i dont feed him, or something?” New school, new language, anxiety high and again he is struggling to eat. The difference is this time he knows that he must eat!
Visiting the doctor my husband is worried. I am not worried about the doctor we just need help to get this bug gone so.we can establish his health. I know what I need from this new country and new doctor. Thankfully the doctor understands me when I say “This is not our first rodeo! We have done this at 3, 4.5, and 7 years old too. He cannot shake the tummy bug. 4 days and he is still unwell. Then we have a fairly extensive plan for healthy weight gains.
The doctor orders the right test and guesses the medicine needed from our previous experiences. He correctly identified the bug and medication required so we don’t need to change it. Ordering a stronger dose of vitamins to help him on his way to being healthy again.
So, now we know! Boys have eating issues too! 💕
In Australia, if you or some you know has an issue with eating please contact your doctor or call the helpline.
Australian Butterfly Foundation – support for eating disorders & body image issues , https://www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/our-services/helpline/
Australia 1800 334 673
Lifeline available 24/7,Telephone 13 11 14
You can read more about how to help your child with a confident body image here.