I Didn’t Know My Daughter Had An Eating Disorder: 3 Signs That I Missed

My daughter Kira developed Anorexia at such a young age after being bullied by others at school about her body size and weight.  Anorexia is such a strange disease to wrap your head around. I have watched my daughter from the onset of this critical illness and often have not been able to understand how she doesn’t see her true beauty.  As a little girl, Kira had always been on the small side of her age group, and she was always a fussy and picky eater. I sat dumbfounded as I stared at the doctors who just told me that my 12-year-old little girl was on the verge of an eating disorder. I was at a loss for words as I looked at my little girl across the table from me and tried not to fall apart and crumble. It’s been just over two years, and I’m now ready to talk about it.

Kira  was 12 years old, 4 foot 11 inches and 116 pounds when she was diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses that include anxiety, depression, and anorexia. She had a trifecta of mental instability that feeds off of each other rendering her rational thoughts powerless against the bullies within herself. The anorexia was fueled by the growing anxiety to fit into the mold built by society and social media. The anorexia intensified the anxiety and the depression.

I blamed myself. How did I not know that my daughter was starving herself, crying herself after every meal and feeling so hopeless and alone? I wondered if I contributed to these negative thoughts with my body issues. I have struggled with weight issues for the last decade. I have terrible eating habits. The list could continue on and on – I think I just needed someone to blame and it was easy to place it over my head. But the truth is, it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my daughter’s fault. It is a disease that can completely take over your thoughts and your power. But still, one question that played on a loop over and over again was how did I miss this? How did I not see it? Now that I have had the time to sit and analyze all the small things, the warning signs were there – but they were masked as normal teenage behavior.

Here are three of the early signs that I missed.

  1. All the hidden empty packages of food in her bedroom.  I would often find granola bar wrappers, empty pop cans and other empty boxes hidden under her bed. I asked her about these, and she would shrug it off saying she forget to throw them out of a period. I had no reason to doubt her.
  2. Kira wanted to eat more frequently in her room, alone.  She would complain during dinner that she had an extreme amount of homework to complete before the next morning. We’d excuse her to do her homework while she ate her food.
  3. Kira wanted to eat healthier. She started reading the back of food packaging. Kira wanted to switch to whole grain bread instead of white bread. She suggested being a vegetarian, but she hates vegetables. As her parent, of course, I supported her decision to eat healthier. She was active in her dance school and with soccer – I thought this was all normal adolescent behavior.

It wasn’t. None of this was normal behavior. Kira was trapped inside her own feelings. She was depressed, anxious and worried that I wouldn’t understand and that I would love her less. I could never love her more than I did in that very moment as the tears streamed down her cheek and the doctors explained the very real outcomes and struggles that our family was about to face. In that very minute our life changed, it’s been challenging but every moment has been worth the fight to get Kira back to her happy self, smiling and healthy.

I won’t say that the path to recovery has been easy because it wasn’t. Kira has strayed from the path once or twice, but most importantly she found it again. Today she is healthy and that’s good enough for me. We will continue on the path one day at a time and one meal at a time. 

Anorexia is a silent and shameful disease. Your child will not tell you they have an eating disorder, watch for the warning signs.  If you suspect that your child has or may have an eating disorder, please seek medical attention from a physician.

In Canada, please visit The National Eating Disorder Information Centre  for more info.

In the United State, please click here.


50 thoughts on “I Didn’t Know My Daughter Had An Eating Disorder: 3 Signs That I Missed

  1. It is so sad that mainly girls but boys too feel like this and it is a terrible disease. Thank you for sharing your story and for sharing these warning signs. I worry about my daughter and have heard at as young as kindergarten girls are talking about size and body shape. It breaks my heart.

  2. I’m sorry to hear about Kira and the struggles you have all faced. It must have been – and continue to be – a very difficult time for you all. I’m so glad that she is now able to get the help she needs, and you have all realised the blame is not on yourselves. Thank you for sharing this important story and the hidden signs that we as parents should be looking out for.

  3. Thank you for sharing Kia’s story with us, Crystal, it couldn’t have been easy. People always ask me if Stacey has an eating disorder as she’s stick thin and always looks ill. She does nothing but eat though, and definitely can’t be making herself sick or anything after meals as she tends to sit with us and play games with her little brother. I’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on her just incase though

  4. Thank you for sharing you and Kira’s story with us. It’s important for people to read stories like yours and to look into any and all signs.

  5. I’m so happy that Kira is happy and healthy now and that you spoke about it.
    I have some serious suspicions my brother has taken on that path, but our GP laughed and thought it wasn’t that bad. My mum thinks I just try to find something wrong about him. I guess, only time will show.

  6. Some great tips and advice. Thank you for sharing–and I hope your daughter is doing better. It’s hard, dealing with anorexia, and she’s lucky to have such a lovely mother as yourself.

  7. Glad that your kid is doing well now. Bullies are always be there and the many more bullies to come. Better learn to overcome it and not overthink them. Remember, bullies have their own issues too.

  8. I’m so glad that your daughter is on the path to recovery now. It is such a debilitating illness. Many years ago I was part of a dancing school and one of our students was suffering from anorexia, it was so hard to see her go through it. I really struggled to understand her actions, I understand now. Thank you for sharing your story.

  9. It’s sad to hear about Kira’s illness, but it’s wonderful that she’s now on a healthy path to recovery wit your support. Sharing this is very brave and a big help to others to recognize the signs in time.

  10. Thank you so much for telling your story- As parents we can miss things. The signs you missed I would have also dismissed as it all seem reasonable! Thank you for sharing your story to bring awareness. I’m glad you’re daughter is recovering!

  11. This is not a shameful disease at all. It’s a time in life when we are just confused with what “our own norm” is… We are struggling to fit in, to accomplish school, to figure out who we are as people. I know for a fact almost all if not ALL women go through episodes like this. I am glad you now know that Kira is/was going through this and you are there to be her rock!

  12. This is so very sad but you cannot blame yourself for missing signs! I was anorexic as a teenager and I became very very adept at hiding things. I am absolutely great now, there is hope x

  13. I have a daughter and I worry so much that she may face this journey, no matter the age it can start early and it is something us as parents do have to look out for, but sometimes though signs are not clear, but awareness and sharing that with out children be it or or girl, is worthing while! xx

  14. I suffered with anorexia and it is hard to tell as you do your utter best to hide it from anyone and want to be alone with it. So important to raise awareness though and let people know of the signs in order to help the people you love! Thank you ☺️

  15. So amazing that you have been able to be there for her through tis – eating disorders are such lonely conditions. Believe me, and those in the grip of them are able to hide them very well so no-one should be blamed for not spotting the signs.

  16. so happy for you! this sickness is horrible! I was watching a tv program last night about it and It just broke my hear!

  17. Oh my god how heart breaking for you. Do not blame yourself. and your doing fantastic by raising this important issue. xx

  18. How extremely hard this must have been for the both of you. Any illness is difficult to deal with but I am so glad she on the mend and you have done brilliantly in supporting her. Don’t blame yourself you are doing fantastic and I’m sure you have raised awareness with this post x

  19. It’s not that you don’t know your daughter, it’s just that you didn’t see this one coming. This doesn’t make you a bad mother, teens will always be more prone to this than any other age group. I’m sure you’re doing the best that you can to help her get through it now that you’re aware of what she’s going through.

  20. Don’t blame yourself or your daughter. To be honest, it would be healthier to not blame anyone and do what we can to support our children through this. I’ve never experienced this before, I can only imagine what you felt and what you both had to go through. You’re a good mother and you’re doing your best.

  21. That would be horrific to find out that your child had that. But you can’t just take all the blame. That doesn’t help either. I know it would be rough. My daughter is starting to reach that age where kids will begin to be brutal and all I can do is listen and pay attention to what is going on. It’s scary though.

  22. I’m just glad that it was picked on early before it caused damage. Even though you missed the signs, you’re still her mother and that’s enough. Parenting can be hard and it’s okay. The best part is that she’s recovering if not fully recovered.

  23. I figured that one way I can help everyone around me who might be dealing with anorexia, or any eating disorder, is to praise their achievements and physical uniqueness. I feel that has helped me deal with my demons before as well, so I am spreading love to heal everyone, including myself.

  24. I am so happy to hear she is doing so much better, that must have been very difficult. I am the child in this situation, I suffered from anorexia/bulimia from a very young age and hid it for many years my mom didn’t find out until I was about 20 years old. I was obsessed with my weight and was really good at manipulating the situation. I remember how much she suffered with this, and she blamed herself for a long it took her a while to understand it wasn’t her fault or anyone else. I am glad you daughter received help and even more happy to hear that you can talk about it now. Wishing you the best with this journey, it is long time battle that we have to continue to work on day in and day out. Hugs and warm vibes.

  25. My oldest daughter is 13, and several of the kids she knows at school have serious issues with depression and anxiety. Several are cutters. She recently came home and told me that one of her friends has mysteriously gone “on a diet” – and I was amazed because this kid she was talking about is already rail-thin. It breaks my heart to know kids this age are so afraid of their own bodies, and so desperate to fit in. I hate that they’re soaking up the societal message that they can never be pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, successful enough.

    I’m glad your daughter is doing better – that must have been so incredibly difficult for your family to go through. ((hugs))

  26. Thank you for sharing. It helps bring awareness and make others in these situations not feel so alone. It sounds horribly scary, and I agree- don’t blame yourself. I am so glad to hear she is on the path to recovery!

  27. It made me so sad to hear what you daughter went through but you should never blame yourself, it can be hard to spot. I know it must have been hard to find out your daughter had an eating disorder but well done for raising awareness x

  28. Prayers for you and your daughter. I’m so glad that you were able to catch and attack the disease (oh, how I hate that word, but that’s what they call it… I tend to think monster is more fitting as it’s more of a nasty ever present beast in your head that isn’t satisfied until you can exist solely on air.) before it manifested further. Awareness (both self and that of loved ones) is a vital part of keeping on the right path and keeping the “monster” from gaining power. You’re warning signs are definitely spot on, especially pointing out the eating alone and vegetarianism (not saying all young girls that want to be vegetarians have eating disorders, but it was definitely one of my go to covers to get out of eating).

  29. As a sufferer of past eating disorders for over 14 years (which still tries to creep up on me), I applaud you for your strength in sharing the story of you and your daughter. I never thought about the effect it had on other people around me as I was so far into my head. It wasn’t until my second hospitalization until I decided I needed to make an effort to get better. I wish there would have been supportive family and friends around me early on, but I lacked that for many years. I’m glad to hear she is doing better. It may continue to be a struggle, but once you “beat” it (for the most part), there is this automatic kick in the butt that kind of happens and you gain pride and take back a little sense of yourself when you continue to face the triggers society puts in front of us.

  30. I’m so sorry your daughter has been fighting anorexia, and that you as a family have been struggling through it. Yet I’m glad you’ve stopped blaming yourself. Good for you for talking about this issue. Perhaps pointing out these signs will help another parent recognize an eating disorder in their children.

    1. Thank you. It’s so important to talk about the hard stuff.. if we can help one other family from feeling lost and alone than we’ve done some good.

  31. I used to be a mental health nurse and it’s no ones fault, as you say it’s an illness. I hope this highlights the tell tale signs for other parents and I hope your daughter is in recovery. All you can do is support her and love her for who she is.

  32. I pray this is something my daughter never goes through. IT is something I went through as a teenager, and i know how hard it was for me and I wouldn’t wish it on my worse enemy. I am glad your girl is on the upswing.

  33. Although it’s a serious disorder(if not looked upon). But all you need to give to your child is LOVE. There’ll be always a generation gap, which we can’t shortened. All we can do is to try to think like them and understand what they want

  34. I am so happy to hear that she is on the right path! Anorexia is a scary disorder, but happy you caught it early enough to get her on the right path.

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