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GD too skinny - worried sick

(45 Posts)
Karen888 Thu 28-Feb-19 02:55:00

Hi, first post- worried about DGD age 12. In last 6 months she has lost lots of weight and I am now very worried. She was never overweight and now looking very childlike when she should be starting to develop. She is eating very little (which explains weight loss) but Have others had this experience? How do you stop this in its tracks?

Urmstongran Thu 28-Feb-19 11:04:13

As your granddaughter lives in Florida I’m sure the distance fuels your anxiety too 💐

Gutenberg Thu 28-Feb-19 11:18:31

I had anorexia, starting when I was 12 or 13. I have heard that it often affects girls (in particular) who are intelligent, perfectionists, sensitive, hard workers and self-driven. That was certainly true of me. Mine started because of a cutting, unkind comment made by someone, being jilted by a boyfriend (yes, even - perhaps especially - at that age), and being unhappy with who I was. However, I took some pride in being able to manage my eating in order to lose weight - to prove that I could do it. The problem was that this got out of hand and by the time you are at this stage it is too late - you are not the person you once were and you cannot suddenly start eating again. I don't really know what would have helped me - I was at boarding school so I suspect a home life might have helped. It's important to feel respected and loved and for someone to be interested in you. One of the things that makes matters worse is that often you are seen as 'difficult' or 'a problem'. In fact, I remember to this day a teacher walking into the school sanitorium and saying 'How's the problem girl today?' - as I hid away a doughnut that I had to pretend I'd eaten.

I think another thing that may help is for an adult to admit to imperfections in their own lives - it's easy when you are young to think that everyone in your family except you has been successful and is somehow a better person than you are. That you are somehow not up to scratch. It's important to learn that this isn't true. How did I recover? Well I did avoid hospitalisation (although was down to 6 stone, from 12!) but I home-schooled for a while, I had quality time with my parents (very important to me) and, perhaps most importantly in my case, I was given a puppy. The latter helped because I suddenly had another life that I had to look after. A life was dependent on me and I was able to move my thinking outside of myself. That puppy also loved me unconditionally, without any expectations or recriminations. This wouldn't be possible for everyone, and it might not work for all but I mention it because I see it as an important part of my own recovery. Things that I think made things worse? Doctors and nurses treating me like a problem; the drugs that had awful side-effects (I remember hearing voices!); the feeling of inadequacy. Things that made things better? Individual attention; being taken out to tea (bizarrely!); walks in beautiful places; watching the sun rise; owning a puppy. It took a few years . . . I think once you come out at the other end, assuming you are one of the lucky ones who do, then you are a stronger, more compassionate person for it. I have had no recurrence and I have learnt to be happy in the moment (call it a Buddhist philosophy or Mindfulness!).

I have written all this down in the hope that it may help others. What would I recommend a grandmother to do? Well, with the agreement of the parents, I would just make sure that you show how much you love and admire your granddaughter; talk about some of the failings in your own life - perhaps a boyfriend who jilted you (easier for a grandparent to talk about than a parent!) or a time when you felt that you failed parental expectations; take her for treats - go out for a tea or a coffee (of her choice) or a shopping expedition or a walk; ask her to join you on a yoga weekend or evening; be an ally, a friend; build trust but never, ever betray that trust by talking about her behind her back, other than fighting her corner.

I don't have the answers and wish I did. Anorexia is an awful illness, needs very careful handling and is not the fault of the person who is going through it - or of those around them. Having said that - and this I know is a very sensitive area - I think that parents (particularly academic or high powered ones) can be a little distant. Fathers, perhaps in particular, don't have time to give individual attention and sometimes even if they did, wouldn't know what to do with it or how to build a close one on one relationship with their daughter. This isn't an easy thing to say and is certainly not an easy thing to put right. If this is you, ask yourself, could you say out loud 'We love you so much; you are so precious to us and we want you to be the person you want to be and we'll do everything we can to make that possible.' Could you hug and hold your daughter or granddaughter? This will come naturally to some parents but not to others. It certainly doesn't mean that they don't love just as much or as deeply but it may present a challenge to others to recognise that, so may, in these circumstances, need working on.
I hope this helps.

Urmstongran Thu 28-Feb-19 11:35:12

What a beautiful post Gutenberg and so very sweet of you to take the time to respond so fully and bravely to the OP with your experiences and hope. You are a good egg!
💐

Nanna58 Thu 28-Feb-19 12:07:01

Definitely a cause for concern , and a trip to the GP a brilliant starting point . Those posing about eating like a horse and having fast metabolisms haven’t read your post properly, you say she has started eating very little. My eldest DGD was teased about her weight at school at 13, leading to years of anorexic misery, with spells in the Nightingale eating disorders unit. She is fine now, but it it is a terrible thing, so always best to be on the safe side.

Anneeba Thu 28-Feb-19 12:38:46

Yes, the pattern of eating is what will suggest an eating disorder. If having previously had a healthy appetite she now avoids calorific foods, this really does raise alarm bells. In the UK, for all the grand talk of extra money for young people with mental health problems, including eating disorders, it still takes ages usually after initial consultation, to access expert therapy and support, so early intervention is vital. I assume help in the U.S. is dependent on what private health care package you can afford. I'm sorry if this wretched illness is going to impact your family, it can be quite heartbreaking to witness. Good for you for raising it with her parents though, as the temptation can often be to hope it's just a passing phase. She is lucky to have you caring and may find talking to you easier than talking to her parents. Good luck.

Caro57 Thu 28-Feb-19 13:19:41

Set her checked - it may be nothing to be concerned about, in which case your mind is at rest; if there is something more serious you know you have done your best to help her and the rest of your family.
Sadly eating disorders are all too common these days BUT they are better recognised as an illness and treatment is vastly improved

grandtanteJE65 Thu 28-Feb-19 15:26:02

I quite understand why you are worried, Karen. You don't mention whether your granddaughter is interested in sports or not, if she is doing a lot of swimming, gymnastics or dancing, especially ballet that could account for the loss of weight,

I too would be concerned that this could be the onset of an eating disorder, but on the other hand it could just be part of her natural development.

Talk to her mother and try to get her to take the child to the doctor. A 12 year old should have a healthy appetite, and not be loosing weight, so something is up.

Rapunzel100 Thu 28-Feb-19 19:29:35

I’m not sure this insidious illness can be stopped in its tracks. I speak as the granny of a 14 year old who has battled anorexia for the last 18 months. When it first became obvious that my GD was losing a lot of weight, her parents thought that they could deal with it by encouraging healthy eating and not making an issue of food. I could see her fading away and looking so pale and frail. My efforts to talk to her parents were met with anger and frustration i.e. “do you not think we’re worried sick too?”. She couldn’t keep warm at all and I barely slept for worrying about her.

The turning point came when she collapsed one morning before school. She was admitted to hospital and it was confirmed that she was in the throes of a serious eating disorder. She was kept in for a few days for them to check her heart etc and was allowed home, on condition that she went straight to bed and stayed there as she had absolutely no energy to expend. She was given strict eating guidelines she had to follow and an urgent referral was made to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

My GD had almost a year out of school as she was too ill to attend. Her friends have been very supportive and said they had been worried for a long time as my GD wouldn’t eat at lunchtime, simply drink water.

MyGD is now back at school and has two hour long sessions each week with CAMHS.

I wish I could report a miraculous recovery but, sadly, this has not been the case. There are more good days than bad now, but meal times are never easy, with negotiations about what she will eat, portion size etc.

It must be very difficult for you being so far away and worrying. Please keep us posted on her progress and don’t hesitate to ask any questions at all which you feel may help.

Sending my very best wishes.

llizzie2 Thu 28-Feb-19 23:23:20

People are bigger and heavier these days than years ago and I think it is possible that we are accepting this to the extent where we expect children to be fatter and we may not be expecting the right thing. When we had our third year medical at school I was already 13, almost 14. I was 4ft6" and weighed 4 stone. Admittedly I was smaller than most but no one suggested I should eat more and I do not ever remember being hungry. When I left school and bought my own clothes my waist was 18" but when I went into shops for skirts there was an enormous choice. A 24" waist was considered large. Your GD could be more active than you think. Children have podgy tums because the liver grows to adult size before they do, having to deal with all the stuff the body ingests, and as the body grows it becomes slimmer and the liver less obvious. If she is healthy do not worry. If she huddles in a corner, cannot concentrate on homework etc., then something may be wrong. Try not to make her too conscious of her body because she may start to despise it.

muffinthemoo Fri 01-Mar-19 15:17:03

I think the important thing here is that the fast weight loss has been accompanied by a change in eating habits and her parents have noticed she is restricting.

I think medical advice is a good idea, OP.

Thirdinline Sun 03-Mar-19 11:32:33

I'm mindful of the fact she's in Florida where the climate means more of her body will be on display for more of the year than here in the UK too!

My best friend had a very similar experience to Rapunzel100 albeit over 45 years ago! She said that, in her counselling she was led to understand that her anorexia was her attempt to control what was going on in her family (briefly: 3 daughters close in age vying for attention from a distant father and narcissistic mother). Please don't think I'm suggesting that it's her parents' fault, every child with an eating disorder will have their individual reasons, but as a previous poster mentioned, they are often controlling something they can control (ie how much they eat) because they are worried about something outside their control. Hope this helps, it must be hard for you being the other side of the pond. Can you go and visit?

Karen888 Sun 31-Mar-19 09:53:25

An update. Thank you very much for all your supportive posts, esp from those that have experienced it. It is something I have never had exposure to so all insights are valuable. My granddaughter is having an emergency specialist appt tomorrow (after her gp arranged it after confirming she has a disorder). I am scheduled to go to US on 20th April for 2 weeks (I still work full time so cannot go whenever I wish). Other family are going out next week. My DD and SiL are frantic with worry as am I. I am trying to be as supportive as I can from a distance and praying that this is the first step to recovery. Thank you all.

EllanVannin Sun 31-Mar-19 11:42:09

So very worrying for you Karen and not the pleasantest of trips under the circumstances. Try and prepare yourself x

Rapunzel100 Sun 31-Mar-19 18:43:16

Thank you so much for the update. I’m very pleased and relieved to hear that emergency intervention is now in place. Hopefully, there will soon be a plan in place so that your DG can begin the process of recovery. You have a long road ahead but, please be assured, it can and does get better. Your granddaughter is in a very fragile state at present, both physically and psychologically - the best you can offer is your total love and unfailing support. Although you are a long way away, I’m sure your granddaughter would appreciate loving messages in between visits.

Please keep us informed of your granddaughter’s progress. The great thing in her favour is that she is surrounded by love. Sending you my very best wishes.

Karen888 Tue 24-Sep-19 14:08:04

Six months since my post, I can report that my granddaughter was diagnosed with anorexia but is doing well, gaining weight and seeing specialists every few weeks. She is not able to attend school due to the eating plan but fortunately in Florida there is the alternative mainstream option of virtual school and she is enjoying it. Thank you for all your input (this was my first post) and I am praying that progress is maintained. It has been very hard but we are all keeping a positive mindset with the support of the professional team.

M0nica Tue 24-Sep-19 14:12:06

Karen I am glad your worries about your grand daughter seem to be coming towards an end.

silverlining48 Tue 24-Sep-19 14:46:29

Its always good when someone comes back to update and am pleased things are starting to look up. My dd was 13 when she began to limit food, she got so thin it was shocking. We had a worrying couple of years but she has now been well for many years and i hardly think about it now. It’s a long hard road, keep positive.

agnurse Tue 24-Sep-19 18:55:18

That's fantastic. One of the most important things is to keep a positive mindset, as you point out. It seems counterintuitive, but trying to force someone with an eating disorder to eat more can actually lead to them restricting even more than they are already doing.

ElaineI Tue 24-Sep-19 22:56:01

DD2 is CAMHS nurse. They have currently 8 year olds in service so yes sounds like a concern. Hopefully your DD & SiL will be able to monitor and access help if required.