- Where to Turn
for Help if Your Youngster Has an Eating Problem
- by Carolyn Costin
(ARA) - At a time when childhood
obesity is a major topic everywhere you look, we must be sure
not to overlook another problem that child-care specialists are
concerned about. Today parents need to be concerned with both
ends of the spectrum regarding weight, health and body image.
"Not only are our kids increasingly
too fat, they are also too thin or trying hard to be," says
Carolyn Costin M.A., M.Ed., director of The Eating Disorder Center
of California and the Monte Nido Treatment Center. She finds
herself working with younger and younger people these days; kids
who have problems with hating their bodies and either not eating
enough or resorting to tactics such as vomiting to get rid of
unwanted calories for fear of getting fat.
She says kids as young as six
complain about stomachs that stick out or brag excitedly about
having the chicken pox because it means going to bed without
dinner which means less calories. Kids see their moms dieting
and they want to diet too, even if they don't need to.
Recovered from anorexia nervosa
herself, Costin has been helping others in both outpatient and
residential settings recover from these disorders for almost
30 years. In her book, "Your Dieting Daughter," written
to help anyone raising a child today in this "Thin is In"
world, she tries to help people understand the mind set of those
with eating disorders. Her own patients helped her develop a
list of ten common thought patterns those suffering from eating
disorders commonly have. She calls this list "The Thin Commandments"
and tells parents they can use this as a checklist to help determine
if their daughter (or even son) has a problem.
* The Thin Commandments
1. If you aren't thin you aren't
2. Being thin is more important than being healthy.
3. You buy clothes, cut your hair, take laxatives, starve yourself.
Do anything to make yourself look thinner.
4. Thou shall not eat without feeling guilty.
5. Thou shall not eat fattening food without punishing yourself
6. Thou shall count calories and restrict intake accordingly.
7. What the scale says is the most important thing.
8. Losing weight is good. Gaining weight is bad.
9. You can never be too thin.
10. Being thin and not eating are signs of true will power and
"If these commandments are
a way of life for a child or anyone, this is evidence of a serious
problem and a potentially life threatening illness," says
Costin. "One of the things that is so difficult to understand
is the dedication to thinness beyond reason. I know how hard
it is to comprehend how someone could relentlessly pursue something
that is killing her and ruining her family."
Eating disorder recovery is a
long-term process. Treatment, including therapy, nutritional
counseling and medical monitoring, is extremely expensive with
therapy generally extending for well over five years. Research
shows that it can take up to six or more years for full recovery
to take place. Families have sold their homes to pay for treatment.
Depending on the severity of
the illness, treatment for these conditions can be handled in
* Outpatient: Individual, family
or group therapy sessions take place in a therapist's or other
professional's office - usually conducted one to three times
* Inpatient: 24 hour care in
a hospital setting which can be a medical or psychiatric facility
or both. Usually this is short term for stabilization purposes.
* Partial Hospitalization or
Day Treatment: Some programs offer treatment three to six days
a week, with varying hours and services.
Residential: Residential programs
which are highly structured can substitute for the more sterile
hospital setting when 24 hour care is necessary or useful in
interrupting the eating disorder symptoms. Many of these programs,
like Monte Nido and its sister facility Rain Rock in Eugene Oregon,
offer treatment very similar to a hospital inpatient program
but in a more relaxed environment and natural serene setting.
Eating disorders have the highest
death rate of any mental illness. In the United States, conservative
estimates indicate that after puberty, anywhere from 5 to 10
million girls and women and 1 million boys and men are struggling
with eating disorders. This illness is real.
Costin often laments that young
girls today are lacking in any training or ability to place a
value on the more soulful aspects of life. She spends time with
her patients helping reconnect them to what is sacred and to
something bigger than themselves. Girls increasingly spend time
on self absorption and criticism, and find themselves with only
one acceptable and easy to focus on goal..."I am a success
if I am thin."