Many people view eating disorders as a problem that affects teenagers and adults, but it's important to know that younger children may also struggle in this area. While younger kids might not be dealing with a full-fledged eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, they may dabble in a combination of the two, even occasionally. This concerning behavior at a young age may increase your child's risk of dealing with a serious eating disorder in a few years' time, so it's never too early to watch for the often-subtle signs that a young child might be dabbling with an eating disorder.
Frequent Comments About Not Being Hungry
You probably have a solid grasp on your child's appetite, and might be familiar with him or her being ravenous for food after a day at school, a soccer game, or just a day outside playing with friends. It can be a concern if the child has begun to state that he or she isn't hungry, especially when this statement defies logic. For example, if your child has always eaten a sandwich and a bowl of cereal after coming home from school, but is now saying that he or she doesn't need anything, it might reveal that your child is dabbling into the world of eating disorders.
School Lunch Not Being Eaten
Older teens who are experienced with eating disorders will avoid eating and go to considerable lengths to keep this behavior a secret, including throwing out their food. Younger children may try to avoid eating, but may not always cover their tracks. If your child comes home from school with a partially eaten or even an untouched lunch more days than not, you should be a little concerned. While the child may make an excuse that he or she didn't have time to eat, this behavior could be a warning sign — especially if it's paired with the child saying that he or she isn't hungry after school.
Unusual Commitment To Exercise
Usually, it's a good sign when your child strives to get regular exercise. However, this is not typical of younger children, who may indeed get lots of exercise through sports and other activities, but seldom "work out" in the same way as teens and adults. If your young child is showing an unusual commitment to exercise, it's possible that he or she could be trying to lose weight. You can be the judge of whether weight loss is necessary, and if your child already has a healthy body weight, his or her interest in exercise could be a problem. Regardless of the age of your child, don't hesitate to talk about eating disorders and arrange help from a professional.