5 Causes of Eating Disorders From Childhood

Our eating behavior begins at birth and continues throughout our lives. Some eating disorders begin in childhood. Learn the top 5 causes of eating disorders.

Healthy eating is food behavior and related practices to improve, maintain, and preserve health.

Forming eating behaviors is a complex dynamic process that begins at birth and continues throughout life.

Often eating disorders stretch back to childhood. Below are 5 possible causes of eating disorders. However, this does not mean that one of them can definitely lead to problems in adulthood.

Eating disorders are a complex problem that only medical professionals and eating disorder specialists can help you solve. We will just look at the possible scenarios.

Eating Disorder from Childhood

The following are possible causes of eating disorders that formed their pattern in childhood. I would like to point out that these causes are not a guaranteed reason for any eating disorder to occur in adulthood. We are not doctors to make diagnoses, and in no case try to correct eating behavior problems on our own. Only specialists can do that!

Food as a Sense of Security

From the first days of life, babies show their feelings through crying. Many moms give the breast first to soothe the baby. First of all, let’s note that feeding on demand is a perfectly healthy approach to breastfeeding.

But the problem lies in the fact that mom can not always determine what the baby needs – food or care.

So, if the child had a need for something other than food and it was covered by food – this can be one of the factors that influence the emergence of food addiction in adulthood.

Subsequently, an adult who lacks intimacy, care, or anxiety will compensate these emotions with food because it is the easiest way to get comfort and security.

The Clean Plate Principle

The clean plate model – where parents insist that the child eat everything they put on the plate – can result in the child not learning to distinguish between hunger and satiety. The child will not rely on internal cues, but will be guided by the amount of food that needs to be eaten. As a result, there is a disruption of internal control over the food eaten and this is likely to lead to the development of health complications, weight.

A number of studies have shown that children from the age of 2 years are quite capable of regulating their daily diet and determine the necessary portion size. But often caring moms can not accept the fact that the child himself can determine whether he is hungry or not, and how much food is enough for the child to satisfy the feeling of hunger. Hence there is supplementation, and strict guidelines to eat everything on the plate.

Such a hike often affects eating behavior in adulthood – a person with this eating behavior begins to analyze the size of the food needed not by its energy balance, which is necessary, but by its quantity. Even if there is a fully balanced and energy-rich meal on the plate, and it seems to the person that the portion is small, he or she automatically starts to add to the portion until it seems to him or her visually that it is enough.

Food Manipulation

Let’s look back at the most common phrases you may hear from some parents:
“The more you eat, the bigger or healthier you’ll be!”,
“If you don’t eat this or that, you’ll get sick!”
“If you misbehave at school, you don’t deserve candy!”

Food manipulation can also include the substitution of any discomfort. If the child is very upset, fell, hit – and parents offer something tasty in return.

Food behavior in this situation is endowed with an additional function – getting rid of negative feelings and physical pain. In adulthood, such a person will often resort to the mechanism of “eating stress”, which can lead to various negative consequences.

Another important factor is calming a child in the form of “don’t cry, don’t get angry, don’t be sad – I’ll give you candy”. Here several mechanisms work at once: first of all, a ban on the emotion not to cry, not to be sad, not to be angry, and then the reciprocal persuasion to eat all this sweet works. In adulthood, the belief is accepted as a static formula, which leads to an eating disorder.

Food Encouragement

It works in much the same way as food manipulation. If parents often encourage any action with food as a child, such as “Good job! You deserve a candy bar!”, or “Clean your room, I’ll give you an ice cream “, the child may learn to use food to their advantage, deriving some secondary benefit from it.

As an adult, every good deed, can be encouraged with a favorite pastry and a “I deserve it!” belief. There is nothing wrong with the fact that sometimes a person can reward themselves for some effort or work with a favorite food or sweet. But we’re talking about out of control eating situations here. Those are different things.

Copying Parents' Eating Behaviors

And while this item is last on our list, it is far from the last, if not the first in eating behavior problems.


Very often children copy their parents in everything, and the attitude to food is no exception. Let’s take the most vivid example from many families.

Sometimes busy moms don’t have time for a full breakfast, grabbing something on the go that is also unhealthy. Getting the kids ready for school in the morning and having to get ready for work, they often don’t have enough time to eat a proper breakfast. Children see this and can further transmit it in their adult life – “in the morning there is no time for a proper breakfast”.

How to Recognize an Eating Disorder on Your Own?

I’ve described emotional eating HERE as well as the stages of emotional overeating. The first stage is always the trigger. That’s where you need to start. You need to analyze the origins that cause the trigger – why is this happening? Is my overeating a belief from my virginity, or is it an emotion, or is it a state of insecurity?

At times when you are drawn to something specific with an irresistible force, you need to analyze the craving. This can be done easily by asking yourself just three questions:

1. What is driving me at this moment? Am I frustrated, am I bored, am I lonely?
2. For what purpose do I want to consume food right now? Maybe because of a conflict with my husband or my boss, I just want some pleasant emotion?
3. Is this really my need right now? If it is not physical hunger, do I need to nourish my emotion?

It may be hard for you to analyze yourself frankly at first. The most important thing in this practice is not to criticize yourself in any way. You need to help yourself, not judge.

Most often in a depressed or uncomfortable state we do not want to look inside ourselves, to analyze painful feelings and experiences. But if you see that eating emotions harms your health in the form of deprived weight, then it is necessary to overcome these difficulties.

To turn to a specialist is already a big step towards solving the problem!

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