birds ate my face (_bianca) wrote in ed_ucate,
birds ate my face

I'm a Child Anorexic - BBC Documentary

Apparently a documentary screened a couple of days ago on BBC3 about children/young teens recovering in a treatment center in London. It was called I'm a Child Anorexic. It originally aired on the 29th and was repeated on the 30th.
"This disturbing film, part of BBC Three’s Coming of Age season, takes a look behind the doors of Rhodes Farm residential clinic in North London, where the patients being treated for anorexia have been getting progressively younger. Through video diaries two sufferers, Naomi (13) and the clinic’s youngest resident Natasha (12), confide their fears and frustrations as the regimen forces them to challenge their warped thinking — though not without a fight."

Did anyone get a chance to see it?

I'm hoping it will repeat sometime again in February so that those who are interested (and have access to BBC3) will be able to watch it. Or perhaps someone knows a place online where we can watch/download it? I was able to find a short clip from BBC which you can view here

There are a few articles online so I'll link and include them under the cut. Sorry for any repetitiveness. Keep in mind images under the cut may be triggering.

Natasha, Cara and Pippa
I'm A Child Anorexic

"People at school were saying that I was already skinny but I didn't think so. I wanted to see it for myself and I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and think 'oh, I am maybe'. And so that's when you stop eating and you still don't see it. You know others say you're freakishly skeletal but you don’t see it at all."
—Natasha, aged 12

Rhodes Farm is a residential clinic in North London which treats children as young as six with eating disorders. I'm a Child Anorexic films inside the clinic and follows two girls – Natasha (12) and Naomi (13) – as they undergo treatment and reveal their obsessive relationships with food.

The girls record their own video diaries and the programme is a raw and shocking insight into their beliefs about food, dieting and fat, and the terrifying power of anorexia to influence and distort the perceptions of children so young.

Many of the girls treated at Rhodes Farm are dangerously underweight when they're first admitted and have stopped eating. Founder of the clinic, Dr Dee Dawson, has seen the age of the children she treats getting younger and younger, and believes that many of them are confused about what they should be eating.

Filmed over 12 weeks, the programme follows the girls' highs and lows at the clinic – the initial tantrums as they struggle to consume the daily diet of all the foods they fear most, such as cheese, chocolate and cream, the friendships they make and the tears of sadness when they finally have to leave.

Naomi has a constant desire to dance, run or do press-ups. She never sits down for fear that it will make her fat – all behaviours they want to stop at Rhodes Farm. Her progress is followed as she tries to fight the system and avoid gaining the mandatory one kilo a week.

Natasha is the youngest patient in the clinic, and shuns the idea that the media is to blame. "I haven't got anorexia because I've aspired to look like other people," she says. "It's the image in my head that's my idol, not a real person."

The programme follows both girls' struggles to reach their target weight and finds out if their attitudes to food, fat and their own body have changed.

BBC Three

Growing Pains
By Sarah Waldron
January 29, 2007
The bony back of one of the patients at treatment centre Rhodes Farm
The bony back of one of the patients at treatment centre Rhodes Farm

As the government attacks "fashion and the tyranny of thinness" for undermining the confidence of girls, experts are seeing younger and younger children with eating disorders. But blaming stick-thin models might be too simplistic.

Rhodes Farm is a clinic dealing with children suffering from anorexia nervosa. Opened 16 years ago, it has seen the average age of clients drop and children as young as eight are now being treated.

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has pledged to tackle "the cult of size zero" by establishing a task force with fashion leaders, but for many girls at the clinic the issue is more about control.

Twelve-year-old Natasha was admitted to Rhodes Farm after her weight fell to less than four-and-a-half stone. She says the furore over "size zero" models and celebrities has nothing to do with why she stopped eating.

"I haven't got anorexia because I've been inspired to look like other people"
—Natasha, 12

"[The media's] story is people get anorexia because they want to be thin and they see other people in magazines and on the catwalk and they think 'I want to be like that'," she says.

"That's a really good story and why would they change it - it's a perfect story. But it's not the truth. Maybe for some people it is, but I know that for me it's not. I haven't got anorexia because I've been inspired to look like other people. It's the image in my head. There's no one that's my idol.

"People at school were saying that I was already skinny - but I didn't think so. I wanted to see it for myself and I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and think I am, maybe. That's when you stop eating and you still don't see it. You know others say you're freakishly skeletal but you don't see it at all."

Like many children who are admitted to Rhodes Farm, in London, Natasha had spent nearly two months on a paediatric ward trying to gain weight.

'A failure'

"In hospital they were telling me that I would die, I was thinking 'well you said that to me a week ago and I'm not dead now, am I, and I've lost more weight'. You know you push it to the limit really."

Yet left untreated, one in five anorexics will die of the starvation caused by the illness.

Once at Rhodes Farm, Natasha has to gain two and a half stone and reach her target weight of seven stone before she'll be discharged. She has to eat a daily diet of about 2,500 calories consisting of all the food she hates most - chocolate, chips, cream and cheese. It's a prospect she dreads.

"When you step on the scales and see that you've gained weight, you just sort of think you're a failure, you're huge. When I get to my target weight I know that I'm going to feel absolutely disgusting and I'll want to lose more weight."

Her dad Laurence is allowed to visit her once a week. "Natasha had always been a very happy go lucky sort of kid," he says.

"It came as a massive shock when they said she had anorexia, most of the people who know her said she was the last child they would expect to suffer from this.

"But it's such a devious disease, it carries with it so much underhand behaviour it was only when I found out that she was skipping school lunches that I really knew."

Natasha's fear of gaining weight is not unusual, says Dr Dee Dawson, the medical director of the clinic in north London.

"We know that almost all people who are starving become depressed, so not surprisingly almost all the children who come here have some degree of depression."


She also notices another worrying trend among the children she sees.

"Since I opened Rhodes Farm 16 years ago I've seen the average age of the children drop without a doubt. We're seeing younger and younger children than we used to see. It's not unusual for us to have eight, nine and 10-year-olds in here."

Anorexia is a complex illness and is not caused by a single factor. Dr Dawson has "no doubt" people are born with a genetic predisposition to develop it.

"They are children who are perfectionistic, high achieving but often lack self-confidence and have low self-esteem despite the fact they are very gifted and talented people."

But she's is also careful to explain that those characteristics alone do not mean a child will become anorexic.

"If a child like that develops lots of problems, has lots of problems in and around puberty, then they might decide dieting is a way of taking some control and when they set themselves a task they do it to the best of their ability."

Naomi, 13, was admitted to the clinic in May, but despite gaining the weight she needs, she is still plagued by anorexic thoughts. Measuring 5ft 4ins tall, she still desperately wants to be four stone.

"I know that when I get to four stone I'd want to be less than that, but that is what I want to reach at the moment. I think I'd be a lot happier and more confident in myself if I was four stone, but deep down I know that I'd also want to get lower."

Wasting away

She should have been discharged in August but the clinic wouldn't allow her home until she can eat on her own and maintain her weight. However, Naomi, is under-going a procedure known as tubing - a last resort if the patients refuse to eat.

"They got a tube and it goes from your nose to your stomach - they feed you full-fat cream, chocolate spread and peanut butter and all horrible things like that - and then they liquidise it like in a blender."

"I feel like when you're dehydrated you can feel the pain, you feel that you've done something worthwhile"
—Naomi, 13

Left alone, she constantly tries to burn off the food she's had to eat.

"I exercise any where and anytime I can. I just continuously walk back and forth or I run up and down the stairs for no reason, I stand up and exercise until I go to bed really. I don't go to sleep until 11pm and then wake up at 4 O'clock in the morning and do the same thing."

The treatment at Rhodes Farm works better on some than others and two months after she was admitted, Natasha reached her target weight and was discharged. Naomi, however, was struggling more than ever - refusing to drink even water.

"I feel like when you're dehydrated you can feel the pain, you feel that you've done something worthwhile" she says. "If I can exercise even though I'm not drinking it just feels like an achievement."

BBC News Magazine
My little girl, anorexic at 12
29th January 2007

Recovered: Bryony with her mum Jacqui (above) and in the grip of anorexia (below)

Traumatised by her parents' divorce, Bryony tried to regain control of her life in the only way she knew how - she stopped eating. Her story will haunt everyone with a young daughter:

Jacqui Flicker had every reason to feel that life was good as she prepared breakfast for her hungry children last February. Her recent second marriage had provided a loving stepfather for her children Oliver and Bryony, and the family enjoyed an idyllic life in their five-bedroom detached Devon home.

Pouring a fresh orange juice for 12-year-old Bryony, her only concern was that the blonde, sweet-natured child who shone at school and excelled in life had recently appeared to be tired and withdrawn.

But when Bryony pushed away the drink and insisted she wasn't thirsty, Jacqui's world came crashing down with a devastating realisation. She says: 'Bryony promised she would drink the glass of juice later. As soon as she said that, I remembered my days as a paediatric nurse in charge of anorexic girls who would bargain and promise to avoid eating or drinking.

'I realised that Bryony's thin frame wasn't due to a sudden growth spurt, and her weepiness and inability to sleep weren't down to pre-teen hormones, as we had assumed.

'In that awful, sickening moment I realised that instead of the bright, cheerful child I knew so well, I was staring at a 12-year-old anorexic.'

A trained nurse who enjoyed an exceptionally close relationship with her only daughter, Jacqui's reaction was to sit down and talk to Bryony - who immediately admitted she had been secretly starving herself for several months.

It was perhaps no coincidence that in the year she developed her eating disorder, Bryony's parents split up and both remarried. Jacqui had then become ill as she struggled to come to terms with her ex-husband - Bryony's father - having a baby with his new wife.

Jacqui says: 'In my naivety, I almost thought that because we had discovered the problem and discussed it together, it would be something that we could tackle and overcome. Instead, almost from the moment the word was first uttered, anorexia took over my daughter's life, becoming a demon which possessed her entirely.'

Jacqui's desperate battle to stop her daughter from starving to death had only just begun. But disturbingly, she was far from alone. An estimated one per cent of girls aged between ten and 20 in Britain today suffer from anorexia — but some anorexics are as young as eight and nine.

Last year alone, another 6,000 new sufferers were diagnosed with eating disorders. Many who have managed to escape the cruel clinches of this psychological illness owe their survival to a ground-breaking clinic, Rhodes Farm in North London.

It was here, behind the high walls and in the cheerful kitchens where calories abound and tables groan under the weight of mouth-watering food, that Bryony's slow recovery began.

The clinic - and the desperate battles with the children who reside there - is the subject of a shocking and moving new BBC programme, I'm A Child Anorexic.

And Bryony - now sitting back at home in Exeter - is a 'star' pupil. But her mother is acutely aware that help nearly came too late.

Jacqui, 48, says: 'As soon as the anorexia was "outed", suddenly it seemed to develop a life of its own. I was faced with a little girl who consumed no more than a pint of water a day, and nothing more than a morsel of food.

'Bryony seemed powerless in its grasp - I could see her being consumed bit by bit, with more and more anorexia and less and less of the old Bryony.

'She had been starving herself for months. Anorexia affects each girl differently and Bryony didn't make herself sick nor was she particularly deceptive - she just refused point blank to eat and I was powerless to do anything about it.'

Yet Jacqui kept trying to help her daughter: 'I weighed her each week, but she kept dropping kilos and kilos, shrugging as if there was nothing she could do about it.

'I tried keeping a food diary, and I warned her about the medical dangers, the fact that she could damage her kidneys and her heart, stunt her growth or affect her future fertility.

'But the anorexia convinced Bryony that I was lying to her - and ruining her life by trying to get her to eat even the tiniest scrap of food.'

After consultation with a GP, a referral to a psychiatrist and even a six-week stay in hospital in June 2006, Bryony continued to lose weight.

Jacqui says: 'It would take her over half an hour to eat the tiniest mouthful of a sandwich, and it was painful to watch. Seeing your child commit slow suicide in front of you by denying herself food, and actually watching her body disappear, is the worst torture in the world.

'I would actually have to physically stop myself from trying to ram the sandwich down her throat. I've never felt so sick and scared in my life - I would go to bed each night and dread the next day.

'Bryony would scream, scratch and bite if we tried to encourage her to eat. She started to run away - racing out of the front door and running down the road, so she would burn up calories. Sometimes I would be left searching the streets for hours, tears running down my face.

'I was utterly appalled that this was happening to such a little girl. Bryony was only just out of playing with dolls and holding my hand down the street. Suddenly, she was ravaged by a disease I thought affected only older girls.'

After losing more weight in hospital and with her skeletal body weighing a pitiful 3st 9lbs (23kg), Bryony was referred to Rhodes Farm for an 18-week residential stay - and she wasn't allowed to return home until she hit her target weight of 6st 6lbs (41kg).

Jacqui says: 'We drove there in silence and leaving her there was the hardest thing I've ever had to do - she clung to me, sobbing and begging me to take her home. But I honestly knew that this was our last chance. If I took my little girl home, I didn't know if she would even survive.'

Bryony had every reason to cry when she was shown around Rhodes Farm. Opened in 1991 as the first unit in Britain dedicated to treating children with eating disorders, it runs a zero-tolerance regime.

It aims to increase the weight of each child by 2.2lbs (1kg) a week. Food is weighed and set out on a long table, and trained staff watch the girls - who often weep as they spoon food into their mouths.

Children have to remove jumpers before they eat, to stop food being hidden up sleeves. The communal bedrooms are inspected every few days, with bags, shoes and socks checked for vomit. Those who make themselves sick or deceive the scales by drinking water before weigh-ins lose privileges such as visits from parents.

It's a draconian regime, which is needed to save the lives of pitiful youngsters like Naomi-— 13 years old and caught in the ravages of anorexia.

Naomi, who arrived at the clinic last May, says: 'My ideal weight is four stone. I know if I got to four stone I'd want to be less than that, but at least I'd be far happier in myself.'

Naomi refuses to sit - because standing up burns 40 more calories an hour than sitting down. She says: 'If I did sit, that would be the Naomi I was before - the fat Naomi and I don't want to be that. I want to be somebody different.'

Recently, she was placed on 24-hour watch after being caught exercising secretly at night - pacing her bedroom endlessly in the hope of burning calories. She says: 'I go to sleep at 11.50pm and wake up at four o'clock in the morning so that I can pace across the bedroom.'

Girls who refuse to eat are tube fed, and Naomi, it appears, is a veteran. She shrugs and says: 'I've been "tubed" nine times. They get full-fat cream and chocolate spread and peanut butter and liquidise it in a blender, then feed it through a tube from your nose into your stomach.'

Her problems include refusing to drink because she believes that even water contains calories. Disturbingly, she announces: 'When you are dehydrated, you feel the pain and it feels like an achievement.'

Eight months after being admitted to the clinic, Naomi remains at Rhodes Farm - a place where food and fat content dominates every waking moment.

Fifteen-year-old Philippa, for example, recites calories from memory as if chanting a religious mantra. She says: 'Muller Light yoghurts are 105 calories for cherry, 100 for vanilla, 113 for rhubarb. Pitta bread is 114 at Spar and 148 at Sainsbury's. Wholemeal bread is 17, apples are 50 and bran flakes 97.'

She pauses proudly and adds: 'I used to lie awake at night planning my breakfast for the next morning, and I wouldn't allow myself to go to sleep unless I knew exactly what I was going to have and how many calories it had in it. Not knowing was just such a terrifying thought.'

Dr Dee Dawson, 60, the founder of Rhodes Farm, warns that the ages of girls suffering from anorexia is getting lower all the time. She says: 'We treat girls with anorexia at the age of eight or nine - and our youngest patient ever was just six years old.

'The average age of anorexic girls here is 13 or 14, but each year they get younger and younger. These children are being influenced by the magazines they read, and the sight of ridiculously thin celebrities - particularly the sick girls on the catwalk who teenagers look up to.'

She adds: 'Parents are becoming far more fitness and low-fat focused. Many teenagers have mothers who spend their lives jogging and going to the gym, complaining about GI this and that.

'Even Jamie Oliver is telling them that they can't eat chocolate now - so children are becoming obsessed with food and diet at a much younger age than ever before.

'It worries me that little girls who should be having fun and playing are becoming obsessed with their bodies and dieting instead. They say that one per cent of schoolgirls develop anorexia.

'Most girls who develop anorexia have family problems or upheavals. They are often intelligent and sensitive - perfectionists who strive to be the best at everything, including dieting.

'One in five people who develop anorexia will die - some of them my former patients, which is devastating. Some girls come back time and time again, and I never give up on them. One third who leave here continue to have problems, while two-thirds will make it in the end.

'When they come here, they are completely deluded. They will squeeze the butter out of their muffins in the morning so it runs down their arms. They scrape food into their hair to hide it, or squeeze it underneath their fingernails.

'One child even refused to feed her horse with a linseed oil cake because she was frightened the fat would seep through her skin and make her fat.'

Twelve-year-old Natasha - admitted to Rhodes Farm last August weighing 4st 6lbs - is intelligent and erudite. She says: 'You don't really mind if you die, because you are not that happy. When they were telling me I would die, I was thinking: "Well, you told me that a week ago and I'm still here, so you are lying."

'When you see that you've gained weight, you think you are a failure - that you are huge. When I get to my target weight I know I'll feel absolutely disgusting and horrible and I'll want to lose more weight.'

She shrugs and adds: 'It is very childish, I know.'

Recalling the anorexia which engulfed her with such terrifying speed last year, Bryony says: 'It was like this thing in my head that was controlling me. I wasn't scared or afraid, but something was telling me that I had to limit myself to a certain amount of food and I shouldn't eat any more than that.'

While so many of the girls at Rhodes Farm are dazzled and ultimately misguided by the images of stick-thin models and celebrities, Bryony was different.

She says: 'I didn't really want to grow up. I thought that stopping eating, or taking less food, would stop me from growing older. I just liked being a kid because it was fun and easy.

'A lot of things had happened at home - my mum and dad had remarried and Mum had been ill. When I saw pictures of myself looking really thin I knew I looked really bad, but I didn't care because nothing mattered.

'When I arrived at Rhodes Farm it was frankly a relief because they didn't give me a choice about what to eat or when to eat - and that was comforting.'

Eighteen weeks after she arrived sobbing and trembling at Rhodes Farm, Bryony was discharged to a new life and the challenge of living - and eating - normally once more. Jacqui recalls: 'I was delighted to be driving her home - I had missed my little girl so badly.

'We came home last November, but it was like driving a new baby home for the first time ever - I felt terribly vulnerable and terribly scared. I knew that anorexia could recur and there could be many setbacks, and I kept thinking: "Can we do this right?"

'We came home with a strict calorie guide to keep her weight steady, and we have to weigh her twice weekly and report to the clinic.

'Since we got her home, I've enjoyed all the "firsts". The first time we all really laughed at a family joke. Her first day back at school. The first time we all went out for a meal together.'

Jacqui pauses and adds with a smile: 'Now I watch her arguing with her big brother or chatting to her friends over the phone and I'm just thrilled the demon has gone - and she's a little girl once more.'

Daily Mail

thanks to thought4food for originally posting about this in another comm.

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