Life Style

Eating disorders: “You must avoid forcing your child to eat”

La Croix: It is often believed that only young girls are victims of anorexia nervosa. Is it correct ?

Philippe Gorwood: No. In recent years, boys are more frequently affected by eating disorders, although it is estimated that eight women suffer from anorexia nervosa for every man. The disease is not expressed in the same way because it is linked to the image of the ideal body.

A young anorexic girl will go in search of a very thin body, like the models. A silhouette made from scratch by retouching software, therefore, impossible to achieve. Male mannequins are square, with prominent musculature. Suddenly, the boys will add to the dryness of the body, the hunt for fat, the search for muscles. Physical activity often takes precedence over calorie restriction.

Are there any risk categories?

PG: Young athletes, for example. Especially in disciplines where weight is important, such as cycling. Look at the cyclists of the Tour de France: to gain speed, they maintain very low weights, not natural. Followed by dieticians, they apply very specific diets.

→ ANALYSIS. Anorexia, bulimia: the signals that should alert

What are the consequences of eating disorders?

PG: They can have a long-term impact on health, for example by promoting osteoporosis. But they also lead, in the medium term, to a high mortality rate: of the 350 patients that we receive at the clinic, three or four will die before the end of the year.

→ READ. Study opens new hopes for anorexia nervosa

Among the two main causes, the first is complications related to cachexia (major weight loss). In their desperate strategy to lose weight, patients often take laxatives or diuretics. The sudden drop in their potassium level in the blood leads to heart rhythm disturbances or even heart failure. The second cause is suicide.

What attitude should families adopt?

PG: For parents, one of whose jobs is to feed their children, watching their teenager lock themselves into endless weight loss and put themselves in danger is extremely scary. Some respond with rejection or authoritarianism, which makes the problem worse. Above all, you should avoid forcing your child to eat.

→ TESTIMONIALS. How they supported an anorexic child

Because it is not he who poses the problem but the disease that affects him. He doesn’t do it on purpose and it’s not just a matter of willpower. Restoring quality, affectionate and supportive family communication allows us to unite our efforts to fight the disease together.


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