What eating disorder does my daughter have?

My daughter is 14 years old and gone from a healthy size 8 to a certainly not tight size 6 in the last couple of months.

She loves clothes but i have stressed i will never buy size 4 clothes, not that i have ever really, thankfully, seen this size to buy.

It started as wanting the so called 'thigh gap'.

She never weighs herself, I feel sure of this as the only scales are in my bathroom which she never goes in and they are never moved.

Breakfast: She eats a healthy diet of porridge or bran flakes with lots of fruit. Often scrambled egg too.

Lunch: is usually a couple of pieces of fruit.

Evening meal: usually fresh fish or lean meat with lots of different salad items and all sorts of nuts added.

No eating after tea which cannot be later than 6pm, never any bread, potatoes but maybe once a week a small amount of pasta or rice but it is a small amount.

She will allow herself one cup of milky coffee a day.

She will not look at a biscuit or piece of cake.

She is always cold but doesn't really seem tired.

Her skin is lovely and clear and her hair is very thick and glossy.

She has recently joined a gym which she attends twice a week with her much older sister.

Her dad is very worried about her as she does look very thin but I try to be more positive about it and try to reason that she will get a happy balance with it eventually. I also admit to telling her that what she is eating is very healthy but she needs to add

a few more calories, particularly the carbohydrate kind. The last thing I want is for her to feel I'm on her back about it.

For this last week she has voluntarily been writing all her food down at the request of her dad to make a diary of her intake and she has agreed to let her dad take this list to a nutritionist to run through it and see if there are any areas which need tweaking to maintain a healthy diet for a 14 year old girl. She is even now considering going with him after initially stating she wouldn't. This is because she feels certain there is no area to tweak.

I mention it is her dad who is doing this as I didn't want to really make a big deal of her diet at this stage, optimistically hoping she would eventually succumb to a sandwich or piece of cake but at this moment in time it doesn't look like she will be doing that any time soon.

Now I realise there is some issue with her food and appearance but is this Anorexia? It's not as though she's not wanting to eat as she is, it's just that it's only certain foods and at certain times.

Any advise is much appreciated and my apologies for this post being so long.


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10 Replies

  • Hi this reads exactly how my daughter started and sadly it developed into full anorexia. Ascertain the BMI and make sure it remains at a safe level. Keep an eye on exercise. Over exercising is common. Also keep an eye on you daughters periods. If they stop its an early indicator of a problem. I have blogged about my experience as a dad of an anorexic daughter at tomagcro.com there may be some tips there which help. Tomagcro

  • Hi - what an inspiring blog, thank you. When we were going through something similar I would not have found the energy to do this. The Friday Fight Club sounds a brilliant idea as it appears to be a great recovery vehicle. Please keep it going!

  • It certainly sounds like you are very concerned and you know your daughter better than I. I would follow your gut instinct and if you are feeling worried then seek some help. Whilst nutritionalist can be helpful, I always work with a qualified 'dietician', there is a difference and I would suggest that maybe you speak to your GP as to who they may recommend or even refer you to. If you have an eating disorder unit nearby they may be pleased to suggest someone who does some private work. ED can be a specialist area and you need someone who is really in tune with the dangers of anorexia and know where this kind of behaviour can lead.

    Young girls often want to lose weight at this age, however it is the reverse their weight should be increasing as their bones become heavier and they develop into women. As a therapist I always advocate early intervention! see if you can find a therapist locally that she will see, to talk through how and why this has started.

    Sound like your a fab Mum and your radar is telling you that something is not quite right.........good luck and keep us in the picture.

    Gill Wilson

    Eating Disorders Devon

  • I agree this isexactly how my daughter developed AN it seems the thinnerthey get the louder the voice that wants the thigh gap gets. My husband suggested a nutritionist too make sure its one who has experoence with eating disorders even though your daughter hasnt beendiagnosed yet. I took mine to the drs and we were refereed to a clinic after another month of weight loss. The calorie requiremets for a teen girl are around 2400 per day withoit extra exercise. Doesnt look like shes getting that! Also the lack of lunch is worrying this is a teen girl thing compettitve starving my duaghter had to have a word with her firends now she is having to eat lunch in front of them they are having a sandwich too. My daughter is eating much more and stabilised but is still a 6 and no periods for 8 months. Her hair is much thinner now and she has fine hair al over her body. Her bmi is still over18 so just shows that AN can take over when your bmi still 'healthy'. Good luck let us know how u get on x

  • This is how I developed my eating disorder. My eating decreased further and my exercise increased. I was diagnosed with EDNOS and into the Anorexia Athletica category. After seeing a councilor for a few months and having my goal of playing in the Scottish Cup Finals (in netball) I was determined to change my ways and it really helped I dropped to a UK size 2 which are extremely hard to find in shops! After just over a year in recovery I am now a size 8 and I have a healthy balance diet and I have a proper exercise plan which I no longer need to strictly follow!

    Get your daughter to see someone as cutting out food groups is a very popular thing within EDs. It is good that you aren't piling on the pressure for her to eat all the time as speaking from experience it just makes it worse! Good Luck and I hope she gets the help she needs!


  • Hi Tori and sorry I haven't included you in my last post, we were obviously typing at the same time :)

    I'm so glad for you that you have managed to over come your ED and are now a healthy weight, I realise it's a massive challenge for anyone so well done to you :)

    I had never heard of EDNOS and have had to look it up and yes it makes sense that ED,s are not just black and white, I suppose everybody's is slightly different but all fall under the same umbrella.

    As you'll see from my previous post I have made the first steps to try to get her to see where she needs to up her intake. Her reaction to this will tell me if I need to take further steps which if I'm honest, I'm dreading it. We are very close and I desperately don't want this to come between us.

    Id just like to add that it's good that although you are now healthy you still come on here to give advise. Thank you.

  • Thank you all so much for the replies, I do appreciate them.

    Tomagcro: I did have a very quick look at your blog yesterday but will have a proper read today, thank you. At the moment it is just the gym twice a week and she has asked to come with me to walk the dogs on an evening (this is out of the ordinary) but that's stopped at the moment as she hates this bad weather we are having!

    Gill Wilson: hmmm, thank you but I'm not sure I dare broach the word therapist to her yet. She certainly doesn't think she has a disorder and I flit from thinking she has to then thinking she's just wanting to eat healthily. I did contact our health centre for an appointment with a dietician but was told we would first have to take her to the GP who may then possibly refer her and like i thought she would she said yes to a dietician/nutritionist but no to a doctor and i didn't think it was right to push her just yet but I guess it's something I'll have to consider if there is no change anytime soon. Thanks for your advise and it's certainly stored in my head :)

    Theresa4: you're right, at a guess she's probably only getting just over a third of the 2400 per day she is meant to have and periods, well i hate to admit it but i don't think there has been any since about last November.

    I'm so glad I posted here as due to me writing this down it all becomes a lot clearer and i can see where i think this is going with her so thank you all.

    Just to let you know I did contact a nutritionist yesterday.

    We eventually agreed that initially, instead of us visiting her, i would e-mail her my daughters diet for the week which i did yesterday and she is going to get back to me today at some stage with her views and to let us know where this diet needs adjusting. I know it can't be an exact assessment as she cannot see her portion sizes and she doesn't know her weight, we don't and I don't even think my daughter does but I suppose it's the first step to trying to get her back on track.

    Maybe you're thinking I'm being daft and that my daughter will know her weight but if she does I have no idea where she weighs herself.

    So, depending on what this nutritionist says depends on what we do next and hopefully Gill, we won't have to go down the dreaded therapist route. I only say 'dreaded' as it's admitting our child has a problem and obviously I don't want there to be.

    I'm pinning my hopes on the thought that my daughter will take on board what is professionally suggested to her from the nutritionist and I will certainly let you know how we get on.

    Thank you all again for your valuable and knowledgeable advise and experience.


  • Hi there to a very distressed mum,

    I apologise for my late reply but I hav"nt been able to open mails daily recently. I can Sympathise/Empathise with you (I am not being condensing, I hope I don"t come across as such?!).

    My heart went out to both you and your daughter (whole family, as if she is suffering from Anorexia Nervosa, if you see AN in my mail this is what I am referring to.) it does become a family illness/night mare!

    With you being such a perceptive mum, I pray if she (sorry to keep referring to her as "she") has the infliction of having such a cruel, insidious illness. @ least you have spotted the signs, hopefully early enough to do something constructive to help her. I just Pray you have and she will hopefully listen and seek help?

    This "gap" between her thighs is a sure sign, (one of many that point the conclusion that she could be heading for an Eating Disorder! If you go on line, look under Anorexia then "gap between thighs", this will give you information of how her peers maybe trying to be in competition with each other, as to who can obtain the biggest "gap" as a sign of being "Thin"! As you will find out it is oh so much more serious than that!! It is not just loss of weight it is also Muscle Wastage!

    I will tell you as brief as possible a little of my own experience with AN. I have been suffering with it for over 30 years. I was just a little older than your daughter when my mum started to bully me and call me cruel names, as I was a "chubby" child/teenager. My sister was slight, petite, and pretty. I was referred to as the Fat, Ugly "Cow" (excuse language, also I am not looking for pity!!).

    Consequently this made me feel inferior and this was the START of just a simple Diet, just to please my mum @ the time. I am talking many years ago now. My weight dropped drastically, I exercised as much as I could and I thought this would "please" my mum, seemed innocent enough @ the time!

    Unfortunately I could"nt stop counting Calories, exercising ect, basically doing all that your daughter is @ the moment.

    It cost me dearly! I became so ill and my BMI went so low I could"nt go to University as I had planned. By the time I had finished A Levels, I was just so thin, weak, and felt dreadfully ill, passing out frequently without any warning ect. AN has robbed me of so many things in my life and I Pray to God that you do thankfully have the in-sight to help your daughter before she goes down any further!

    There were no such things as Eating Dis-Order Clinics, in fact there was very little known about AN and I did"nt even know I had it at the time!

    Over the years I managed to get better only to keep relapsing. Any stresses out of my control the AN returned, that was the only way I was able to cope with difficult situations!!

    Like I said it is a cruel, insidious illness. I can"t possibly go right through it all @ moment but will cut to present time.


    My Anorexia returned with a vengeance approx 4 years ago. It has always been underlining, but managed to live with it! I lost my mother and lovely nan whom I was very close to in 2010. That is when AN reared it UGLY HEAD AGAIN!

    I could"nt control any thing in my life @ the time (2010) and became fixated with counting calories, I knew then I had re-lapsed. Anorexia was now controlling me as opposed to me controlling Anorexia, I had no choice in the matter as it is a recognised mental health illness (Please don"t take offence, I am only trying to explain the serious of AN and how it effects one individual!)

    I torture myself by not eating (I have been under Psychiatrist/Psychologist, tried CBT for many years because of AN), I just had NO control (I am not saying your daughter has AN, I sincerely Pray she has"nt but there is a voice in your head with AN that makes you believe it is your only friend and can"t live with out it!).

    By July 2012 my weight had gone under 5 stone and I had a BMI of just 12., (normal range 22) I collapsed suddenly, thankfully my husband was @ home as I passed out, having tremendous difficulty in breathing. He dailed 999, The 1st Response Team came immediately as Ambulance on way. I was rushed straight in to Resuscitation, by now my "Blood gases" were drastically low, I could"nt breathe, horrendous pain in lung and unconscious!

    I continued to deteriorate, they had to call Team down from Intensive Care Unit, as I was just too ill to even move me to ICU!! My poor husband (been married 32 years) had to stand by helpless. They brought a Portable X-ray, found out I had chronic Pneumonia, respiratory failure, Sepsis, my organs started to "Shut-down" and Septicaemia (blood poisoning).

    Team had to call for Anaesthetist to Incubate me (put me on Life-Support Machine, before I could be moved to Intensive Care. My husband was devastated to say the least as they told him, it was not looking good for me and could go either way. Could"nt even give me 50/50% of surviving!

    I against all odds obviously did survive (Consultant told us afterwards he did"nt think I would make it through the night, he gave me 25% or less).

    I spent a month there and by the Grace of God (I am a Christian) against all odds pulled through, after a while I was able to breathe unassisted and took me off Ventilator!!

    It was the most terrifying experience I have EVER had, I say I, what I mean is us as a family my loving husband and three beautiful sons, who had to see their mother in Intensive Care the night it happened to say "Good-bye" to me!! I shudder and go cold what they went through. Lots of complications that I won"t go into!

    This was the "Wake-Up Call" that I pray has saved my life!

    I was discharged after spending over a month in the hospital, touch and go many a time!

    This is when I sought help, well I had no choice in the matter. I was taken into Psychiatric Hospital under the Care of Specialised High-Risk Eating Disorder Team for treatment for Complex Anorexia Nervosa! Between the two hospitals they managed to save my life!

    I apologise for going into such gory details BUT ANOREXIA IS A KILLER!!

    I almost lost my own life to it! I was a very lucky girl (I think of it as God saved me, He was"nt ready for me and left me here for a reason. If that reason is to prevent anyone @ all going through the torture I and my family did, I willing help anyone, in any way I possibly can, that is why I shared my experience with you in the hope I can help you, your daughter any way I can?!)

    It is 16 months on and I still attend Specialised High Risk Eating Disorder Ward, I am down to once a week now, I see Specialised Psychologist and Counsellor, Specialised Dietitian, Occupational Therapist ect. My husband had to give up work to care for me @ home, it is a long hard battle daily!

    I have to say I have many, many concerns for your daughter! She is one very fortunate young girl to have parents as perceptive as you and you have picked up on all the points you mentioned. I speak for myself here but us Anorexics become crafty and hide a multitude of sins!

    Bless you, you must be devastatingly worried that she has dropped, drastically low in weight and dress size. Do you known what her current BMI is, "Body Mass Index" this would give you an accurate indication of how serious the problem is @ present.

    You say she Does" nt weigh herself?!", I hate to be bearing of bad news but you also said your daughter visits the Gym with her elder sister. So I would"nt be 100% sure she is not weighing herself @ the Gym or a simple Chemist?

    I know this is such an sensitive/delicate subject to broach/issue to talk to her about and she would probably "Run a Mile, rather than answer you truthfully (I am not accusing her of anything what so ever, I am trying to point out, your description there are certainly "Alarm Bells Ringing!" from my experience).

    I don"t want to appear nosey in any way but is she close to her sister? Do you think that if your eldest daughter broached the subject and concerns as you can visibly see a Stark difference in her Appearance alone, she may confide in her sister , more so than parents. I don"t wish to undermine you in anyway but the last person, I could speak to @ the start was my parents:

    Your daughter is showing many signs of an Eating Disorder. I am not an expert by any means just going on my own personal experience.

    There is a good book out for you to read, which would give you a greater understanding of AN (I am not saying she has it, could be a different Eating Disorder but the sooner it is addressed and she can get help the better.) Book is called "OVERCOMING ANOREXIA NERVOSA, written by Dr Chris Freeman, Consultant Psychiatrists/ Psychotherapist and Senior Lecturer. This is one of the two books recommended by The Specialised High-Risk-ting Disorder Team, I am still under the care of.

    IF your daughter is inflicted by Anorexia here as some of the points to look out for (You have quickly picked up quite a few already, I Pray she has"nt succumb to it but if so, she is young enough, with the right help to recover fully, there is no time to waste!)

    Eating in front of you - Are you aware she may be disposing of foods, I used to line my pockets with kitchen paper "eat and put into the paper in my pocket, leave set amount of time, then go and flush it away!! Hide food down my socks to dispose of.

    I know young girls eat , then "Purge", vomit it all back later.

    She is already attending the Gym, twice a week, is this religiously, even if she is poorly?

    Walking every where as opposed to having a lift.

    You cannot possibly be with her 24/7, for instance Lunch Times @ School. Are you certain she is not skipping this meal is this is a very easy option, just to tell you she has had "Lunch" @ School!

    Not eating any Carbs @ all in her Diet!! Although presents to you she is eating/maintaining a healthy way of eating?

    Not eating anything after 6 pm, every day, is another sure sign.

    Feeling the cold, more than usual?

    Do you know if her periods have stopped, if so then this is a very serious concern!

    Isolating herself, spending time on her own , perhaps in her room "away from

    Preying eyes or not wished to be questioned".

    Wearing baggy clothes to cover her actual body frame?

    Not wanting you to see her in under ware ect.

    Are you aware she (sorry to keep referring to her as this) may be abusing Laxatives that can be bought over the counter!!

    Is she a "Perfectionist or Obsessing about certain things

    If you asked her "Does she see in the mirror, what you and husband see?"

    All my mirrors are neck up, only one full view one is in sons bedroom, mirrored Wardrobes but I"ve even got these covered with Voile. Can"t bear to see myself from tip to toe!

    Us Anorexics have a very distorted view of our selves, we DO NOT SEE what others see, we still see ourselves much bigger.

    Picking up larger sizes in Clothes shops, ie you said she is now small size 6, does she still reach for the size 8 first?

    I really admire you for refusing to buy her a size 4, there are lots of places on-line but thankfully, they don"t stock size 4 in High-Street Stores.

    I am in a size 4, which is too large for me, for the past 25+ years, I have had to buy childrens clothes,

    Does she seem "withdrawn" and does"nt wish to engage in conversations, especially concerning food.

    It is an excellent Idea that you husband came up with, asking her to keep a "Food

    Diary". Although she was"nt interested to go along with your husband @ first to discuss with a Nutritionist, by going along she can "Justify any difficult questions herself being there to defend herself.

    I apologise for this Mail being such an extensive one, I could go on with lots more facts ect.

    Your daughter has been blessed with the most caring, loving parents possible. Anything can "Trigger" AN or any other Eating Disorder off, so please do not blame yourselves in anyway. You have recognised there are problem areas. In my humble opinion (before she goes down any more), I think you are going to have to address your worries and concerns you have for her, eating habits and severe loss of weight!

    If she objects profusely, that there is not a problem and tries to assure you "Everyone" in her year or all her friends are "watching their weight", you will be able to tell by her re-action, how much she may be hiding from you!

    Expect a lot of denial and justifying her reasons for loosing weight.

    I know for "Fact" this "Gap between the thighs" is one sure sign of Alarming Warning Bells". Like I said have a look on-line re this.

    You know your daughter better but feel early intervention to address these problems are imperative to @ least maybe talk to your GP, who could point you in the right direction for help in our Area. It would be helpful if your daughter agreed to go with you.

    I am sorry if I seem to be accusing your daughter of many things, I am just trying to show you the Signs/Symptoms that lead me to believe this is not a phase and Pray you have found out if she does indeed have an Eating Disorder. Your daughter can get the right help before it becomes any worse.

    Wishing you as a family all the luck with helping her. Praying she will not be in denial about it, and she receives the correct help to guide her. Apologies again if I have rambled on!

    You are all in my thoughts and Prayers. If you wish to PM me please feel free to do so and I will endeavour to answers any questions you may wish to ask me.

    My heart sincerely goes out to you as a family.

    Good Luck, Best Wishes,

    God Bless, Lynn X

  • Hi Lynn, I'm not sure how to pm you. If this is a pm will you pm me back to confirm please? Thank you. I do want to reply to your post but would rather chat privately as things have taken a turn for the worse.

    I would just like to say your story pulls at my heart strings and also scares me. I know that wasn't your aim, you were telling it like it is and i am not offended by anything you've said, you sound a lovely, caring lady. :)

    Thanks, Emily's mum

  • Hi

    Sounds similar to our daughter. At 14 you have a great chance of getting Emily into recovery. It will get worse before getting better AND it WILL get better - we never thought it would for us. Please get to your GP and insist on a referral to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service before the AN gets too strong. The key advice we had was to love your daughter and strictly control the illness. Our daughter's Illness wanted to make her become the illness and we had to fight the illness to bring our daughter back. We are winning and so can you. As a family please direct all your anger and frustration at the illness and summon up as much love for each other as possible. Mums and Dads often feel different things towards this, as in many other things!, so remember that there are no rights or wrongs and the pain is often the sign of shared love. See what support groups are in your area for carers as you will need to lead the battle to win the war. You can win and my most positive thoughts go out to you.

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