In Britain, the story of Bethaney Wallace is currently making headlines and doing so for the saddest reasons. This is a 19-year-old girl, a successful model who died in her sleep following extreme weight loss. It is thought that she died of heart failure.
Every conversation about food turned into an argument
She had been modeling since she was 12, but at the age of 16 she developed bulimia and anorexia. Her distraught parents speak of her as losing her self-esteem and not realizing how beautiful she was. The first signs of trouble were seen when she was 16, when she would go to the supermarket with her parents, stare at the food but never eat anything at the dinner table.
If she ate, she would throw it all up deliberately. She would go to a restaurant and order only bread. She would constantly obsess about her weight and her body, thinking she was fat and not realizing that she wasn’t at all.
Bethaney would refuse to get help and every conversation about food would turn into an argument. She didn’t believe her parents when they told her that her organs would start failing. As a legal adult, there was no way that her parents could force her to get help.
How parents can recognize the warning signs of an eating disorder
If your child has lost a significant amount of weight recently, this may be the first warning sign.
Look for changes in the way the child dresses. Either the child has lost weight and her clothes are getting loose on her or she has deliberately started to wear loose clothes because of her lack of self-esteem. Later the baggy clothes could be a way to avoid detection of weight loss and other issues.
She may refuse to eat with the family or may make excuses to avoid this. She may be eating very little (as in the case of anorexia) or may be binging and purging (as in the case of bulimia) in which case keep a watch on what she buys, what she eats at home, at restaurants and so on.
Social withdrawal and becoming a loner who keeps to herself is another potentially worrying sign.
Also do not assume that it is only girls who may develop eating disorders. Though a vast majority of those with EDs are girls, boys can have these as well.