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Bullying and Eating Disorders

4th Jan 2021

Sixty – five percent of people with eating disorders state that bullying behaviour contributed to their condition.*  In a world where anxiety and mental health issues are on the increase in our younger generation, this is surely something we should be looking at in order to see how we can help support our children if they experience this themselves.

Some report that it is as a result of being ‘fat shamed’ whilst others report it is their way of exerting some control over something in their lives when experiencing bullying.

With increasing access to mobile devices, it becomes easier for our teens to find ways to hide and disguise these eating disorders from us. Certain hashtags online bring up hints and tips to hide said disorders, and even encourage them, leaving us, as parents, feeling helpless and frustrated.

Bullying in itself is such a difficult topic for a lot of children to open up about as they can be left feeling as though you may be ashamed of them. Adding an eating disorder into the mix can leave them feeling even more isolated and embarrassed. It is therefore imperative that we recognise some of the signs of ‘weight based’ bullying or an eating disorder in case they don’t themselves disclose it to us.

What to look out 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?

It is also helpful to look at what we can do to help our children if we think they have fallen victim to weight based bullying or may have an eating disorder.

  1. Don’t take it personally. Help and support is available and accessible. You may feel frustrated and helpless but this is not your fault.
  2. Build up their self-esteem. Talk to them about their strengths. Help them to feel confident about themselves and their appearance.
  3. Focus on what matters. Ensure your child is aware that appearance is not the be all and end all. Show them articles and books and discuss people for their strengths and abilities that don’t include appearance.
  4. Explore other outlets for them to feel they have some control – meditation or journaling for example.
  5. Support online is available for them. They can email us via our mentoring service. They can reach out via text to Shout85258, or they can call Beat Eating Disorders ‘Youthline’ on 0808 801 0711. Make use of their digital devices in a positive manner, there is support available and accessible to them via that route.
  6. Ensure you as a family promote body positivity. If they hear you discussing your own weight, or that of another, it can feed the anxiety they hold.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

*according to the National Eating Disorder Organisation

https://giveusashout.org/

https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/

 

Lucy Howard, BulliesOut Digital Communications Officer

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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.