How to spot if your child has an eating disorder

How to spot if your child has an eating disorder

Breakfast with Martin Bester spoke to Tabitha Hume, a registered clinical dietician-nutritionist, about the increase in eating disorders among children and body image-related issues impacted by social media.

Jacaranda FM

Clinical dieticians assist people with health and diet, focusing on helping them stay healthy and also treating illnesses.

This is according to author and registered clinical dietician-nutritionist, Tabitha Hume.

Hume told Breakfast with Martin Bester that clinical dietician-nutritionists work alongside doctors and psychologists to assist patients with diet.

This could be after a heart attack, people with obesity or people with eating disorders.

Speaking specifically about kids, Hume told Martin Bester that eating disorders among children are a huge issue.

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"Nowadays, kids look at parents and siblings eating differently, saying, 'I want to look nice and thin'."

Hume says "nice" in this sentence is an issue. It could give children the perception that only thin is nice, and seeing parents eating restrictively to be thin could be part of the issue.

It’s important to know that there are health risks when someone is underweight and when someone is overweight.

"I don't look from an attraction point of view; I look at them if they are prone to disease or sickness because of their health."

Hume says most people view food as a moral issue, saying things like "I was so naughty" when they ate something "bad" and "I've been so good" when they eat stuff which they consider healthy.

"The language we use is extremely important when it comes to food."

"All food fits."

The best-selling author also called out diet culture and social media influencers.

The trend of cutting out food groups and counting calories has become an extreme issue.

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According to Hume, counting calories can easily become an obsession and is one of the leading causes of eating disorders.

"Demonising food is bad, and so many social media influencers demonise food, and kids listen to this, and it's so bad," said Hume.

"It's all about balance."

She also added that it's important to remember that children under 16 can’t control their impulses, especially regarding food, so it's also the parent’s job to assist their children in eating healthily.

How to spot an eating disorder in children

Hume gave Breakfast with Martin Bester a few key indicators to look out for that could lead to disordered eating in children.

  • Avoidance of food is a key indicator. This could be avoiding both "healthy" foods and other foods.
  • Consistently talking about food. This includes restrictive language about things they can and cannot eat.
  • If a child uses negative language about their body.

So many things could lead to disordered eating, and if parents feel worried, they should seek help as soon as possible.

Don’t listen to people online and social media influencers telling you what to do.

You can get more information on Tabitha Hume on her website or contact her practice on (011) 702-8510

Tune in to the 'Breakfast with Martin Bester', weekdays from 06:00 - 09:00. Stream the show live here or download our mobile app here.

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