In our Obsession to Combat Childhood Obesity
Child eating disorders on the rise
A study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality showed that hospitalizations for eating disorders in children under 12 increased by 119% between 1999 and 2006. More recent numbers are unavailable, but experts say the problem isn't getting any better.
Children will come in to her office already showing signs of malnutrition, dietician Page Love says. They often have low energy levels and low iron counts and are reporting hair loss because of their extreme weight loss.
Most, like Smith, do not recognize that their restrictive habits are actually an eating disorder that could ultimately be fatal.
Dina Zeckhausen is a psychologist and founder of the Eating Disorder Information Network. She sees kids in third and fourth grade who are already worried about being fat.
"There is so much emphasis on obesity," Zeckhausen said, "that there's a danger that we are going to produce a lot of anxieties in kids around weight."
Zeckhausen says that starting overweight kids on diets can trigger an obsession with food that could lead to an eating disorder.