Can a 4th Grader Have An Eating Disorder?

A large part of my practice deals with kids needing to gain weight. This may include 2 year old sensitive to food textures to  18 year old whose energy for growth spurts and sport exceed their level of energy intake. Over the last few years I have also seen children who are dieting… to the point where they feel they cannot stop. This “disordered eating” can lead to an eating disorder.  Children within normal weight parameters should be gaining weight each year through their school years and many even through their high school years depending on stages of development. So when I see weight loss or even weight plateau in children of normal weight I see a red flag.

This month Parenting Magazine (July 2009) wrote an excellent article on “Starving for acceptance, why younger children are dieting themselves sick-warning signs all moms need to know,” by Magaret Renkl. She states that the average age for onset of anorexia used to be ages 13 to 17 and now it is 9-12 years.

I not only recommend this article if you are concerned about a child losing weight but also recommend seeing your pediatrician and a pediatric dietitian to assess signs of trouble and your child’s nutrition status and risk.