It is estimated that up to 20,000 people in Ireland suffer from eating disorders.
Health professionals believe that the true number may be much higher and that the age of suffers is decreasing into childhood.
The media is blamed for the rise in this ‘phenomenon’ and it is hard to escape the pressure entirely.
A recent study in the UK revealed that children as young as FIVE years old were being treated in British hospitals for eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by reduced appetite or total aversion to food. Anorexia is a serious psychological disorder that traditionally affects more women than men.
Bulimia is an illness in which a person binges on food or has regular episodes of overeating and feels a loss of control. The affected person then uses various methods – such as vomiting or laxative abuse – to prevent weight gain.
Eating disorders are often emotionally based and are about control but not all cases are like this. No one case is the same.
In a world where treating and self-denial, yo-yo diets are often part of the modern female experience. When we refer to “guilt” and “treats” in relation to eating habits, is it any wonder that little girls are picking up on this too?
It seems like a different world for girls today: a toxic mix of celebrity culture and a multibillion euro diet and cosmetic surgery industry.
As women, we are told that fat is bad, slim is beautiful. Do we expect our little girls not to notice?
Television shows like ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ and ‘Pushy Parents’ just scratch the surface to the problems that adults are passing to their children. Toddler beauty pageants and being pushed into the limelight give kids a bad self image, robbing them of their childhood.
And of course it’s not just girls but boys too. Men can be just as uncomfortable in their bodies as women. In the past ten years the incidents of eating disorders in men has doubled.
Children of both genders pick up habits from their guardians. Eating habits are no exception. Imposing diets on young children has been dubbed “muesli starvation”.
Teaching children how to eat is as important as teaching them how to read or write. Instilling them with healthy eating habits is an essential part of their education.