Our “top tips” when talking to your doctor about eating disorders:
- Call your doctor’s office prior to your appointment and let them know your concerns; it will save precious time with the doctor during your appointment.
- Understand that basic vitals are far more important than most “labs”. For example, standing and resting heart rate, as well as blood pressure, should always be taken.
- Always ask your doctor to review your child’s growth chart. Again, this will often be more informative than most labs. And remember: children need to gain weight as they grow. Weight loss or even lack of weight gain should be a cause for concern!
- We recommend that any weighing at your doctor’s office be done “blind”, that is, not shared with your child. This comes from years of experiencing at watching an exam be taken over because a child acts out in anxiety over their weight. Some parents worry that not sharing weight data will cause the same reaction. But in our experience it’s usually better not to share weight data. Chances are your child will have already weighed themselves anyway and so the only ones who don’t know are the doctor and the parents! And bear in mind that, ultimately, weight is merely a comparative marker against another point in the past; it doesn’t tell you much about your child’s actual health at any given time. So while weight by itself is not very informative, a declining trend in weight should be very concerning, especially in children who should still be gaining weight as they continue to grow (yes, even if they are judged to be at or above “normal” weight for their age).
- Plan follow-up visits to your physician on a weekly basis for at least one month in order to obtain multiple sets of vital signs. Do not accept “return in one, two or three months!”
- Ask your doctor about a referral to a pediatric specialist in the medical treatment of eating disorders. After all, if you thought your child had diabetes or cancer would you settle for a referral to a psychologist or nutritionist? Of course not. Eating disorders are medical illnesses of the brain, and require specialized, multidisciplinary treatment at a program specifically designed for the particular developmental needs of children.