Mothers who openly express dissatisfaction over their child’s body size make the biggest impact that may lead to the development of eating disorders or worsen them. Generally, however, any negative thoughts or comments whether from parents or even one’s self have a significant influence that can trigger eating disorders.

In Singapore, the number of eating disorders has been steadily rising. The Singapore General Hospital reported that eating disorder cases jumped from 130 in 2011 to 180 two years later. Dr. Rajeev Ramachandran of National University Hospital also observed a 20 percent increase in cases since 2011.

The statistics are alarming. One out of 20 anorexic patients dies. According to the president of the Singapore Association of Mental Health, deaths from eating disorders are often due to organ failure or suicide. There are children as young as 11 years old, who have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa (self-starvation), one of the more common eating disorders.

Bulimia nervosa (binge eating then vomiting) is another and there are other of the two eating disorders. Perfectionism, anxiety, and low-esteem have predisposed young people to eating disorders. But negative food and body thoughts impact them just as much.

Negative food thoughts are generally common in people struggling with disordered eating. These people may over think decisions on food, and on most accounts, their thoughts are self-judging and negative.

In understanding negative food thoughts, it’s important to remember that viewing whether food is good or bad “fuels” eating disorders such that they become an obsession.

Deciding that a food is bad leads to deprivation or guilt after eating them. Then a feeling of self-punishment sets in and this starts the cycle of starving and binge eating. Thinking certain food may make one fat leads to shame.

Thoughts toward high-carb food are generally negative, but as macronutrients, they are still part of the diet and sufficient amounts are needed for normal function. Thinking of self-punishment makes way for harmful behaviours. Some advised that distraction from harmful thoughts could be helpful such as writing in a journal.

Meanwhile, in the case of negative comments from parents, it’s important to employ family values in the treatment. What parents say have a big impact; parents are encouraged to help their children adopt a healthier lifestyle that at the same time helps improve self-esteem. MIMS