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Bullying and Eating Disorders

17th Jan 2022

Bullying at school can begin at a very young age and children in higher weight bodies are 63% more likely to be teased than their slighter peers.*

January can be a tricky time for those struggling with their weight. Often the focus is placed upon adults, with weight loss and quick fix diets filling newsfeeds and timelines.  But for children, the return to school after Christmas can be a difficult one. Particularly if they are self-conscious about their weight, have been struggling or are being bullied as a result.

Often a holiday from school can act as a respite for a child suffering from bullying behaviour, and as the return to the school routine looms, their behaviour can become erratic and noticeably different.

If you think your child is struggling with being bullied because of their weight and you are concerned that is affecting their relationship with food, here are some indicators to look for:

  1. Is your child coming home from school talking about their weight?
  2. Is your child suddenly more concerned with their appearance?
  3. Have they recently lost a lot of weight?
  4. Have you noticed a difference in want they wear to school, do they try and wear baggier clothing for example?
  5. Are they suddenly asking about calories in food?
  6. Have you noticed a change in their eating habits – eating more or less, or not wanting to eat in front of you anymore?
  7. Is there a noticeable difference in their exercise routine?
  8. Check the search function on their devices – what websites/key words are they searching for?
  9. Monitor their use of apps – are there any hashtags/accounts of concern?
  10. Are they making increased or more frequent trips to the bathroom, in particular during or after meals?

If you think your child is suffering from weight-based bullying or may have an eating disorder, it is important to talk to them about it and the below may be helpful.

Your child, however, may not want to talk and may become withdrawn, moody, or snappy. They might not accept they have a problem. But talking about the condition is so essential for their recovery so it’s important to keep trying:

  • They may find it difficult to talk about their feelings – especially if they’re feeling scared and as a result, may become angry. Be patient and listen to what they’re trying to say.
  • Don’t take it personally. Help and support is available and accessible. You may feel frustrated and helpless but this is not your fault.
  • Stay calm – do not judge or blame them. Just focus on how they are feeling.
  • Avoid talking about their appearance – even if it’s something nice. They won’t want to hear it.
  • Avoid discussing weight problems – even other peoples.
  • Build up their self-esteem. Talk to them about their strengths. Help them to feel confident about themselves.
  • Explore other outlets for them to feel they have some control – meditation or journaling for example.
  • Support online is available for them. They can contact our Mentors here. Help them to use their digital devices in a positive manner. Support is available and accessible to them via that route.
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and diet are key to feeling strong both physically and mentally. No foods are ‘bad’ foods. Some just provide our bodies with more nutrients than others. Applying that mindset can help to shift the anxiety away from the focus on their body and the food they put into it.
  • Most importantly – if you think your child has an eating disorder – seek professional help. The sooner you seek help, the better the support you will gain for both your child and yourself.
  • Further help and information can be found on the NHS website.



Written by Lucy Howard, BulliesOut Head of Content and Media



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Need to talk?

If you are being bullied or are concerned about someone who is, you can receive help and support from one of our trained Mentors through our e-mentoring service.

If you would like a Mentor to email you, please contact: mentorsonline@bulliesout.com

If you would rather speak to someone over the telephone, you can call Childline on: 0800 1111

For any community-related issues, such as anti-social behaviour, we would suggest contacting your landlord, the local police or your local environmental health department (where applicable), as we are unable to deal with these types of complaints.