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Eating - My head tells me not to

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#1 ShoeLady

Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:11 AM

My DD is turning 8 in a month, and we have been having problems with dinner for forever now it is at crisis point (I think I am going to go bald I feel like tearing my hair out every night).  Every night it is a long drawn out process of a miniscule of food going into mouth getting its far wack of 40 chews, then a big dramatic swollow.  It takes a good hour of me sitting with her telling her to eat, to get on with it.  I serve her probably the amount I feed my 1 year old and he's well and truely done in about 15 minutes. In the past she has made herself throw up when she has been made eat something she didn't like.  If I don't sit with her she will hide food (sneak up & dispose of it in a pot, our bathroom bin, she has even sat on it to hide it before!!!! and she has learnt not to put it in kitchen bin cause she is caught).  She will still take it out & feed the dog if she gets a chance where I have to change baby or something.
A dietician suggested timer & if she hasn't eaten she goes straight to bed.  DD loves this, she gets out of eating.  Having said all of this she does eat ok (plenty of fruit in day, no biscuits/cakes/chips etc.  if it is something in her very limited favourite foods we have no problem.  I stopped buying bread because that is all she would eat bread, sneak it & eat a whole loaf if possible.
Last night we sat down for a cuddle and a chat after dinner, she told me she wants to eat it but her head tells her not to.  Now I am alarmed and worried.  She also said she thinks people at school, her friends & others, are talking and whispering about her.
So after writing all this I think the original question I had of is this just a defiant child or do you think there is some BIG issue going on, I am changing my question to WHERE DO I GO FOR HELP?  At the risk of again being fobbed off by a doctor, do I look for a psych or dietician again?  Has anyone had these problems & what helped?

#2 Carmen02

Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:15 AM

my DS is 8 in August and he often tells me his head tells me not to do things and he doesnt know why, Im hoping its an age thing lol my DS is an absoutely shocking eater will sit with any meal for well over an hour and would prefer to go to bed or miss out on things then eat. You have my full sympathy! Have a chat to the dietitian DS's is lovely he also has coealiacs disease so they think alot of his problems are psychological

#3 Mamabug

Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:17 AM

Contact your community health centre (usually attached to the local hospital) and make an appointment with their child psych. It is a free service this way.

Or, go to your GP and tell them what you have told us and ask for a mental health plan for a child psych which will give you Medicare rebate on a set number of appointments.

Or, if you have the money, just pay to see a child psych as a self-funded client - can cost up to $200 (well, around our area, this variies, but I'm giving you an idea of cost) and yo can't claim it through Medicare.

The first appointment is generally with just the parent/s so you can discuss the situtation, background, your concerns etc to give them an idea of what approach to use if/when seeing the child, and also to give you some strategies to start to implement.

#4 emnut

Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:19 AM

I would try a psychologist with her to start with given she is paranoid about people talking about her & her head telling her not to eat.  The other thing I would query is whether there is a sensory issue given that she will eat what she likes without a problem.

I don't think it is just her being a defiant child with the extremes she is going to.

#5 Therese

Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:20 AM

I agree with Mamabug.  I do think you need to speak to someone about it soon.  Good luck, I will be thinking of you.

#6 SarDonik

Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:22 AM

Is it possible to break the routine/cycle you are in somehow? Different foods in a different location maybe in front of the TV or a picnic out in the garden, just something that isn't the dinner routine you have at the moment. But it would probably be beneficial to speak to a therapist, not because your DD is mentally ill or anything, but they they probably have some great techniques and methods to help you and your daughter.

#7 Mummy Em

Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:26 AM

It sounds like you are concerned that she has something psychological going on. What about starting with the school psych? Also, have you checked with the teacher as to whether there is actually something going on at school? I wonder what the dynamic is like in her group of friends.

Just taking a stab, but based just on what you have written, she sounds like an anxious/self-conscious child? I wonder if she is having tummy symptoms from anxiety/nervousness in the evenings. Does she go to bed/sleep ok?

#8 ally0812

Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:41 AM

i'm really sorry to hear this. as someone who struggled for upwards of ten yrs now with bulemia i would suggest a psychiatrist. has she had any trauma in her life? do try to listen as her 'head' isnt wrong, its just the way the message gets through can be confused. i hope she will be fine, all the best x

#9 Alacritous~Andy

Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:48 AM

Big hug, OP. bbighug.gif

*Standard disclaimer that this is general advice, and my personal opinion, and for proper advice, go see your GP original.gif*

Food/eating can be one of the biggest causes of tension between parents and kids.

I definitely think you are best off going and having a chat with a good psychologist who is knowledgable on eating issues (not all are, you might have to have a hunt around).  I think they would be better placed to help you than a dietician.  No offense at all intended to dieticians, but based on what you have described, it sounds like this is primarily a behavioural issue rather than a nutritional one.  

Food refusal is often linked to anxiety.  There is good physiological evidence as to why this is.  Some of the same hormone pathways that are involved in anxiety are involved in digestion.  Do you know what it feels like when you are really nervous, and your tummy gets all fluttery?  And some people find that being anxiety can give them diarrhea (where the phrase, "scared the sh*t out of me" comes from.  IBS (irritable bowel) is also strongly linked to anxiety.  So, if your daughter has a tendency to be quite an anxious child, this might be impacting on her appetite.  

Also, for a child, food is one area of their life in which they can exert control.  Ultimately, they decide what they eat, or what they don't.  If your child is feeling quite out of control in other areas of their life, sometimes this need for control can start to impact on their eating.  

A good psychologist will have LOTS and LOTS of helpful information they can take you through.  Depending on what state you are in, there are also eating disorder clinics which have a wealth of resources for tackling these issues (and may be able to provide some subsidised therapy).  NOTE: I am NOT saying your DD has an eating disorder, or that she will develop one.  That is not at all what I am implying, I am just suggesting them as a source of well-trained, knowledgable people who can point you in the right direction and provide support for you as a parent.  

I think there are some negative habits that your daughter is forming, especially hiding food and sneaking/stealing food (eg bread), and these would be worth addressing too, as they do have some potential to escalate.  

I just wanted to congratulate you on being so proactive, and caring for your DD.  Eating issues can be very difficult to tackle, as a lot of parents think it is something their kids will grow out of, so put off seeking any advice or assistance.  The best thing you can do is to act now and nip this in the bud.  

Good luck.  original.gif

#10 hawkchick

Posted 27 April 2012 - 10:53 AM

If it helps at all, my 8 year old son hardly eats at all either and if offered sweet treats etc. usually declines.

He has also said things like "the voice in my head is telling me _____" which freaked me right out. I thought he was schizophrenic when I first heard him say this. I sought the advice of a paediatrician and they said it was a common way that this age group use to explain their thought processes (not that they really did have different voices shouting in their heads).

I hope this helps, although as others have said, I am no expert and I do believe in mother's instinct...if you feel there's something not quite right, get it investigated by an expert.

Have you considered letting her choose what to have each night? Maybe get her to help cook dinner. I also think it's better to eat something than nothing (ie: toast/cereal/banana/yoghurt/apple) - common things my son eats for dinner ....sigh, I feel your pain

Edited by Blish, 27 April 2012 - 10:57 AM.

#11 findingada

Posted 27 April 2012 - 11:16 AM

I think you need to delve into yourself a bit deeper before calling in the psychs.

You have done the right think by sitting down to cuddle and chat so make it a routine to allow her to slowly let you in on what is really going on. There may be something going on at school perhaps. Friendships may be shifting around or there may be some bullying going on or it could be all in her mind.

She trusts you and you love her so that is the perfect starting platform to start to unwind what is causing the eating problems. The eating might be a reaction to something else so be careful about getting angry over it because until, you know what is going on, you could make the problem worse. I know it is stressful for you so just breathe and rehearse in your mind what you will do when the dinner time struggles happen again tonight. I really like the idea of getting her to help you cook. Try to make the meal preparation activity a fun activity an let her make some choices if appropriate. Talk about what kind of food you need to include to make meals that keep the family healthy and happy.

Her eating behaviour might just be a side issue because the main game is figuring out if there are any external influences that could be causing her to behave the way she does.  If you decide to keep going with a nightly chat routine, I think you need to be careful not to lead the conversation but just listen with lots of comforting cuddles. If the conversation wanes, don't ask questions that assume anything (like "How is Amy? You and Amy are good friends aren't you?" or "You like your teacher don't you?"). Questions like "was it raining at lunchtime?" and try to see if she keeps the conversation going or very gently try to keep it going with a few more questions. If she doesn't want to keep it going, just give her cuddles and sit in silence cuddling. Keep the routine going each night and see what happens. Chat to her teacher, help out in the classroom if appropriate, and keep a safe line of communication open with you at all times. You need to be her rock and the one she knows will love her unconditionally. When you get an idea of what her school day is like (how the teacher is interacting with her, how her friends are interacting with her, and how other children interact with her), you might get a better idea if the problem is being driven by internal perceptions or external problems causing her stress.

#12 Summers

Posted 27 April 2012 - 11:39 AM

Perhaps she has a form of sensory dyspraxia related to taste / eating? I have a very bland set of 'safe' foods that I can eat as a result of this because my head can't handle certain things, such as mixed spreads, some 'wet' foods that are not fruit, etc. basically intense picky eating but it's due to the sensory elements of eating. Not sure if this is what your daughter has though. Mine is co-morbid with my ADHD. Does your daughter have this or is she on the spectrum? Sensory issues (food related) are not uncommon in these scenarios.
I hope you get some insight soon.

#13 ShoeLady

Posted 27 April 2012 - 12:37 PM

Thank you for your replies.  I definately need to find help but just working out exactly what/where, as I've discussed this in the past with CHN & Dr's & they have just given it a brush off with the "she'll grow out of it" or "this is a behavoural thing".  We've had her help in the kitchen, even grown the vegetables to go into the meal, and all is fine until it comes to actually eating it.  Because I've got 2 others & another on the way I don't want to be making different meals for her, then have to start for the others also.  DH is FIFO, even when he is here he is of little use in this situation - he will finish he dinner then go park himself in front of tv & ignore the situation.  The whole process is so frustrating and heartbreaking, even a bribe of ice-cream doesn't work!!!  My DS1 is SO easy, put food in front of him & watch it disappear in seconds, then he starts asking for seconds whilst eye-ing off his sisters hardly touched meal LOL.

Summers - i was very interested in reading about sensory dyspraxia, she seems to have a variety of texture (although has always been really funny about meat so a possibility)in there so hadn't put much thought into that, maybe something needing looking at.  She has always been extremely full on so ADHD could be a possibility I guess, we have never had her tested.  Sugary products set her off in a huge way.

Alacritous~Andy - thank you for your honest opinion, no disclaimer needed original.gif as this is exactly what I fear, that we maybe leading down the road to a serious eating disorder, and we could be working on fixing the gate long before the horse has bolted.

Mummy Em - Sleep & bedtime is a whole other issue.  This is also a long struggle, she's quite happy to play/read in her bedroom for half the night, but doesn't just go to sleep.

ally0812 - she hasn't had any trauma, I am hoping I can work with her so this doesn't develop into something like bulimia, I may not understand bulimia well enough - but I hope early intervention is the best prevention?  I hope you are keeping well, and sincerely thank you for your reply.

I have left a msg for our CHN to contact me, I will speak to her to get contact details for a psych, and won't let her fob me off this time.

#14 TopsyTurvy

Posted 27 April 2012 - 01:03 PM

Just another uneducated opinion but...

You say you have a 1yo, could this be in part an attention seeking thing.

The image of you sitting with her for an hour every night really struck a cord with me.  Not sure if you have other children, but could it be that she feels like as your family has expanded so to your one on one time with her has receded.  

You say she eats reasonably well at other times and it may be an entirely subconscious thing she is doing, but maybe over time she has realised that not eating dinner = mummy paying her lots of attention.  

Just another thing to be considered.

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