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Children and anorexia

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008 Children and anorexia

Dr Dee Dawson, who runs Rhodes Farm, a “refeeding” unit for under-17s blames “healthy eating” messages. “We are told to eat five fruit and veg a day, and that butter is bad. Chocolate bars are banned from school vending machines. Children pick up these messages and go on diets that turn into eating disorders. Some die. Others stunt their growth and damage their long-term health.”

A Channel 4 documentary this week focuses on anorexia in the young, by following a painfully thin eight-year-old called Dana through treatment at Rhodes Farm. There, she is required to put on a kilo a week and stop exercising until she has reached a healthy weight. Bryony, who also appears on the programme, left Rhodes Farm two years ago.

Shortly before her daughter Bryony became ill, Jackie Flicker had been at a talk where someone described the typical anorexic. “Perfectionist, intelligent, artistic - I remember thinking Bryony ticked all the boxes,” she says. And at the time, Bryony was beginning to cut back on “unnecessary” foods - biscuits, crisps and other snacks. Yet her mother didn’t make a connection.

Like many people, Jackie thought anorexia was an illness that struck in the mid-teens; it didn’t occur to her that her pre-pubescent daughter could - and would - fall victim. Bryony was only eleven.The number of children under 10 admitted to hospital with one has increased by nearly 50 per cent in the past two years, and last year a study found that 70 per cent of seven-year-olds wanted to be thinner.

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