Is Picky Eating an Eating Disorder?

When your little one doesn’t eat it is such a heartbreaking, nerve-wracking situation for a parent. A parent is supposed to provide meals for their child so they can grow. When your child isn’t eating it can cause anxiety for the parent/caregiver. It can cause feelings of frustration as well as confusion. I'm often asked how to tell if a child is suffering from an eating disorder or is just a picky eater. Let's look into it!


What Is An Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are considered mental illnesses that can take over someone’s life. Eating disorders are most common amongst teenage girls however, studies have shown that any gender at any age can develop an eating disorder. Typically people who have an eating disorder have an obsession with their appearance. They are concerned about how they look, how much they weigh, and the shape of their body. To control their appearance, they will limit food intake impacting their health and psychological being. Children who suffer from anxiety and feel frequently out of control of their world can develop an eating disorder to help them feel some control in their lives.


Red Flags To Look For

If your child decides on drastic eating behaviors, this can be a red flag. They may decide they want to eat healthier which in itself is ok. The important concept to remember is there is a preconceived notion of health for a teenager who might not be getting enough calories. The best thing to do is to speak to a nutritionist to help your child learn the importance of proper nutrition.


Another red flag is if your child suddenly starts working out several times a day. This may seem okay at first, however, wear and tear on one's body can lead to injuries including fractures or tendon tears. It is important to have your child trained by a professional who is able to make sure your child works out correctly and safely.


What is Picky Eating?

Picky eating is when a child (or even adult) refuses foods or limits their food intake to the same foods over and over. This causes concern for the caregiver that their child is not receiving enough nutrition and will not grow. Picky eaters will avoid food because of its texture, temperature, or scent. Picky eaters are not concerned about their appearance or how food impacts their body shape.



When To Seek Help

If you notice your child has not gained weight in the past month, seek professional help. There are many reasons why your child could not be eating and it is important to notify your Pediatrician. ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake) is an eating disorder where individuals will not eat because they have a fear of choking or vomiting. Their symptoms include slow eating, decreased or no appetite, loss of weight, growth delays, and/or sudden refusal to eat foods. It is important to find out why your child is limiting their food intake so that you find the proper path to begin the healing process.


It is hard to distinguish why a child is suddenly not eating. Keeping a logbook of what foods they eat and when they eat will help decipher why your child is not eating. Make your Pediatrician aware of the situation as early as possible so that you are able to help your child develop properly both physically and psychologically.


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