Many of you know how my daughter was over-trained as an gymnast and ended up grossly underweight (BMI 14.5). Within a few months already thin she grew 3′ and did not gain weight. This is called the Female Athlete Triad:
- No Menses
- Less intake than expended
Over the years I have educated myself, treated and coordinated care as a primary care physician with local eating disordered clinics, nutritionists, mental health providers. How humbling that I would have it happen to me even as a thoughtful vigilant medical provider.
My daughter’s experience brought a very personal eating disorder awareness to my practice I would not have had otherwise. I would like to share my journey with you to let you know that I am here to help all members of the family who want to find balance around food and a healthy body.
Eating Disorder Behavior in My Family
I realized that disordered eating and thinking is not as overt as what I had thought in the past. As a result, I painstakingly reviewed my relationship and family history with food throughout my life. I realized that both my mother and father had eating disorders as well as other members in my family. In order to be present to the needs of my daughter, I also had to look at my own relationship with food.
I was naturally skinny most of my life, often accused of being anorexic when I was a competitive runner. I became a nurse, health conscious, and have bordered on orthorexia (an obsession with healthy eating) with good intentions. I personally was frightened to have gained 80# with my 1st pregnancy and wondered if I would ever lose it. Four years ago as I grieved my grandfather’s death, I found myself severely iron deficient with heavy menses. I was so fatigued, I stopped running.
Simultaneously we worked to re-feed my daughter. Her stomach had shrunk so much it could take over an hour to finish a meal. I sat with her and ate more as I worried about her eating. It was then that I realized I binge eat myself and had been covering it up with my running. I live with social or personal anxiety and without the running to deal with this as well, I turned to food and gained 15 pounds.
I felt my thinking pulled on a track of craving food. There is a positive outcome here. With the help of my counselor, naturopath, mindfulness, & self kindness…. balance returned. Compassion for myself and our society for what we face in our times has helped me find compassion around my own eating.
What I Have Learned
1. It is not simply the parents fault (old theories blamed the mother) when a child has an eating disorder. Epigenetics play a role, like a flipping of switch.
2. Be suspicious of weight loss in any child.
3. What we say to children about food and bodies can trigger an Eating Disorder such as binge eating disorder. Teachers should never make a chart of students weight and BMI for others to see.
4. Once an Eating Disorder such as anorexia is in place it creates a state of mind that cannot change unless the person is re-fed with real food, correction of brain chemistry.
5. Striving to be healthy can lead to an extreme, as an illness. This is called orthorexia and is often referred to as an obsession with clean eating.
6. With the right help Eating Disorders can be HEALED.
Vera Vos family nurse practitioner and myself excel in recognizing and supporting patients with Eating Disorders, present and past. If you want a provider who is conscious with their approach in words and deeds, we are here.
Visit our Pohala Clinic contact page to make an appointment.