Sunday, April 17, 2016

Anorexia is nothing to joke about

Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri.

Our daughter told us around Thanksgiving that her best friend said she was getting too fat. Jenna (not her real name), is only 10 years old.

Jenna is short for her age and plays soccer and does gymnastics. She isn’t and hasn’t ever been overweight. Her older sister is overweight and Jenna has said to us that she doesn’t want to get as fat as her sister is. We have not said much to her older sister, except we said she needs to eat healthy foods first.

Her best friend has been texting Jenna and saying, you’re so fat, you should go to a fat camp. Then her friend says, “I’m just kidding Jenna. I wish I was as skinny as you.”

I took Jenna to gymnastics yesterday (her father takes her because I’m usually working during her class times) and when I saw her bones sticking out around her collar-bone, I almost gasped. I guess I didn’t notice how much weight she has lost since Thanksgiving!

My husband said I shouldn’t worry about her. He didn’t agree with me that she’s too skinny. He said,”She’ll be fine. It’s just a girl thing.”
 
I said she has to have an eating disorder and we need to take her to a therapist or something. What do you think?

Signed,
Anorexic Daughter?

Dear Mom,

“Jenna” is most likely struggling with an eating disorder and needs to be seen by her doctor and a therapist. It’s a good idea for all of you to be involved with her therapy and treatment so Jenna understands that you are, as a family, serious about helping her.

The sooner, the better! The earlier Jenna has treatment, the quicker she’ll be able to gain her emotional and physical health back.

Have a family meeting and be direct with your daughters and husband. You are the only person who recognizes Jenna has an eating disorder. It’s not a fa├žade. It’s certainly not a joke.

Please sit Jenna’s friend down with you to discuss the possibility of Anorexia Nervosa and the seriousness of her health condition. It’s not a fad, or a phase, or “a girl thing.”

It’s real, complicated, and not a lifestyle choice. She needs professional help. We can’t stress it enough. Please ask her friend to understand that being jealous of Jenna isn’t something anyone would want.
People can and do die from this eating disorder and it’s nothing to ever joke about.

Joking about eating disorders is the same as joking about mental disorders. There isn’t anything amusing about starving yourself. Here are some serious medical statistics to discuss with Jenna, her friend and your family:

• Almost 70 percent of American elementary school girls, say magazines and social media pictures sway their concept of their ideal body shape. Almost half say the pictures make them want to lose weight.
• 42 percent of first- through third-grade girls want to be thinner.
• One-quarter of elementary girls diet on a regular basis.
• 81 percent of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat

We, as a culture, need to decide what type of an example we want to be for our children.

We, adults, need to stop focusing on our appearance as much as we do. We can wake up and get ready for the day and then change our focus from ourselves to others. Let’s not take up any more mental space throughout the rest of the day.

We also need to set an example regarding the seriousness of different situations and remember, saying “J/K” does NOT make it OK.

Signed,
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

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