Childhood, a time of carefree play … and crash diets?

In Britain, there's an increase in kids under 10 being hospitalized for eating disorders.

Topics: Broadsheet, Eating Disorders, Love and Sex,

The first time I went on a diet, I was 9 years old. I was a scrappy kid who played Little League and ran track; I didn’t actually have any extra weight to lose, but it seemed fun in a grown-up way, in the way that slathering my face with rouge and running a pink Daisy razor over the downy hair on my shins seemed fun. My mom was on a diet, so I went on one. Hey everybody, let’s eat rice cakes and guzzle Diet Coke! It’s a par-tay!

I was so proud of this diet that I went to school and told all my girlfriends — about calories and cellulite and why blueberry muffins were deadly. I practically held court on the playground, as little girls listened with rapt attention to the hell that would happen to their thighs if they ate another Bomb pop. What strikes me about this story is: 1) Wow, that is all kind of sad. 2) Back then, the idea of diets and calorie consumption and starvation diets were foreign to kids, at least the ones I grew up around. 3) I somehow internalized the idea that it was cool to diet, something I really didn’t let go of until much later in life.

Today we get word from the UPI that, in Britain, “an increasing number of children under the age of 10 are being hospitalized with eating disorders and self-inflicted injuries.” This is what we call KGOY (kids getting older younger). This is also what we call sad.

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Here’s an interesting part of that study, too. The majority of those children under 10 are boys. “The Department of Health said more than 270 boys and 163 girls under the age of 10 were admitted to hospitals with eating disorders in the past four years, The Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.” This dovetails with the rising trend of “manorexia” and news last month that former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott of Britain suffered from bulimia. But it’s also rather startling. This isn’t really the kind of parity we were after.

Sarah Hepola
Sarah Hepola is the personal essays editor at Salon. Her memoir, "Blackout," will be published by Grand Central on June 23.

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