Headlines in some of the todays British tabloids concern the shocking statistics of over 100 under fives admitted to NHS hospitals in the last year suffering from anorexia.
Where the ins and outs of those headlines are not so clear, nevertheless we all know of the worrying trend for young girls in particular, but also some boys to become caught up in the devastation of eating disorders.
Being on the weight loss journey makes me even more conscious than usual about the politics of food and diets. I don’t have girl children so I don’t think I as exposed as some Mothers are to the impact of the diet police on young minds. Boys in my experience tend to deal with being fit in a more pragmatic way and one based around exercise as a way of controlling weight. Of course that too can get out of hand.
It seems that little girls are hardly out of playgroup before the group pressure and competitive edge kicks in. All those super cute clothes in baby girl sizes can so easily cross over into little sexy misses trying to be teens before their time.
Now I was a chubby child. I didn’t like it and I was conscious of it. But when I look back on photos of my 11 plus self I see a healthy pre and then teen girl. I had a healthy diet like many of us growing up. Not much processed food, fresh veg and fruit. Drinks as a child were water or milk. That’s not to say I didn’t have treats, butterscotch angel delight still holds fond memories as do sherbet dips and fruit salad sweets. My sugar addiction was alive and kicking by the time I was 7 or so but lots if outdoor activities and healthy meals kept me steady until late teenage when I had more control over what I ate.
The tragedy of eating disorders at a younger and younger she seems not just the loss of childhood and the family trauma but also the desperate searching for control in an alien and chaotic world, that the ED seems to signify.
So what can you or I do? I have no special magic wand or fancy answers. I wish I did.
But it makes me wonder if we can try to keep food simple, keep mealtimes a place for families to share more than just food and as a society do our damnedest to ensure that we don’t let either fat fascism or the diet police take over our own heads.
We live what we believe after all. Let us believe in our children’s right to have a happy and healthy childhood and to know they are beautiful and healthy whatever size they wear.
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