Anorexia Treatment Doesn't Belong in Kindergarten

scalePrepare yourself for the worst story you will read all day. There are kids as young as 5 years old being treated for anorexia. Did you catch that? Five. As in the age most American kids start kindergarten. As in just old enough to wipe their own butts when they poop. As in way too young to be thinking about how big said butt is.

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The number comes from The Telegraph, the British newspaper that found some 600 kids UNDER the age of 13 in England have been treated for eating disorders in the past three years, including 197 kids "between the ages of five and nine." So that could be just one 5-year-old. But isn't one 5-year-old too many?

We aren't just talking little kids on diets here. That's disturbing enough. But anorexia, by definition, is a serious, sometimes life-threatening illness. It's categorized by an "intense fear of weight gain or being fat" -- even when the sufferer is underweight. An anorexic experiences a "disturbance in the experience of body weight or shape, undue influence of weight or shape on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of low body weight."

In a perfect world, none of us would base our self-worth on our body size. But the influence of media and the eventual cruel comments in the cafeteria are -- sadly -- inevitable.

But not at 5. At 5, the talk in the cafeteria should still be about poop and boogers. About ABCs and 123s. At this age, kids are still supposed to be surrounded at all times by adults, adults who direct the conversation with age-appropriate topics. If kids are hearing enough weight-based talk at 5 that they're developing an actual eating disorder, the adults are to blame. The adults are saying things they shouldn't, allowing in inappropriate influences, killing childhood.

Have you seen signs of alarming weight talk among younger kids? How do you address it?

 

Image via puuikibeach/Flickr

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