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HELP - My 13 year old is restricting food

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HELP - My 13 year old is restricting food


HELP - My 13 year old is restricting food

My 13-year-old daughter has begun food restriction for several weeks.  

I feel so helpless.  The doctor wants to medicate her, she refuses.  

There must be more helpful things to do rather than medication?

Super frequent scribe

Re: HELP - My 13 year old is restricting food

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Dear @Rainbow22,


I'm so sorry to hear that your daughter has begun food restriction - I'm guessing that this is due to body image concerns, is that correct? It would be very hard to see her doing this. How much is she restricting food?


It's good that you have noticed it and caught on early.... and that you took her to the doctor. Are you getting the impression that she doesn't want to try anything or just medication? There definitely are other options, such as psychological treatment, that may also be able to help her. Additionally, I'm not sure if you're aware, but people with eating-disorder-based symptoms are eligible for up to 40 medicare rebate-able sessions and 20 dietetic service sessions in a 12 month period; this will make accessing evidence-based services more affordable for you and your family, assuming your daughter is eligible. You can read about this here. It might be worth speaking to your daughter's GP about getting these health plans/ referrals organised for your duaghter so that she can begin receiving some evidence-based treatment.


There are also eating-disorder-based helplines that you can contact for information and support, for example, butterfly foundation, and national eating disorder collaboration. You can check out their websites and/or call their helplines for more information. Some state-specific services are also outlined in this article we have here. We have other articles on eating disorders here which you might want to explore as well.


Again, it must be really terrible to watch your daughter restricting her food intake, and it's common for parents to feel helpless in such situations. You really sound like you are doing the best you can to support her Heart.

Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: HELP - My 13 year old is restricting food

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Dear @Rainbow22,

Sorry to hear that your daughter is cutting back on her eating. I am mum to a 15 year old who has a digestive disorder and barely eats and feels sick much of the time. She does dance and is one of the leanest dancers there, and even though she's really unwell at times, she gets quite a lot of positive feedback for being so petite. We live right near the beach and it's all about bikinis etc and now people posting photos as well. I get concerned that there's a very fine line between where she's at and developing anorexia, but it's hard to know quite what to do when you're at the worrying signs stage versus the acute hospitalisation stage. A friend had some really good advice from experience with her daughter about behaviours to watch out for. My best friend had it at school and had severe personality changes, withdrew and spoke in a whisper. I noticed this in my daughter a few times and became quite alarmed but it's hard to know what to do. I just remember acute perfectionism was another trait so encouraging her to relax and chill out and be able to make mistakes might be another conversation. Also, developing some activities you enjoy doing together and are "your thing" now she is transitioning out of childhood. 

I hope this is helpful.

Best wishes,



Re: HELP - My 13 year old is restricting food

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Thanks so much for sharing your experience @Birdwings

I wanted to let you know that I edited your post to remove eating disorder methods in accordance with our guidelines.


It's so hard living in a society where being slim is promoted and seen as the standard of 'health' even when for some people it can reflect that they're facing a lot of challenges health-wise - physically, as it sounds like your daughter has, or psychologically. 


It'd be nice if society would move on from judging people for the way they look, but unfortunately it's still so common. I'm so sorry that people have been contributing to your worries about your daughter's relationship with food by praising her for being petite. 


It can definitely be really hard to know when it's something to keep an eye on, or when more support is needed. Maddy-RO mentioned the Butterfly Foundation above - if you're interested in taking a look at their website, they have some really helpful resources, as well as support groups and a helpline in case you'd like any advice or information.