Should I do anything about my maybe anorexic neice

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by MidwestMom, Feb 19, 2007.

  1. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    The situation with my sister (posted in Watercooler) has made me very worried about my fifteen year old beautiful, brilliant, athletic total easy child 15 year old niece, who is one of a twin set. I didn't have much luck with my sister seeing that this wonderful child may have a problem even when we were on good terms, but now we aren't, and I need to throw out there what the situation is, and ask you what you'd do. I'm afraid that if I make waves, my sister will think I am trying to get back at her for calling the cops on me for no reason (again, see Watercooler)

    Ok, my sister has a history of anorexia/bulemia. She still worries too much about her body. She's 46, 5'4 and weighs 107 lbs. and looks very very skinny, however, if she really weighs 107, she is no longer NOT eating. But she worries about every buldge she gets (and she doesn't have any), and has always worried that her girls wouldn't be tall enough or thin enough.

    Her twins are exceptional girls, gifted students, great manners, friendly, beautiful, dream kids (she doesn't deserve Because of my on again/off again relationship with my sister (for three years she refused to speak to me and would call the police whenever I tried to find out why), I never got to be a close aunt to them. However, we had a period of about two years where me and my sister actually did keep in close touch and this is the story of A.

    A. is fifteen, five foot four, and runs three miles every morning, on top of chairing a running club for her school. She is also in traveling soccer and never sits still. My sister told me a few things that alarmed me, and I alluded to possibly checking her for anorexia, but maybe I'm being too worried because my sister had an eating disorder.
    I asked my sister if she had any old clothes that my ten year old may be able to wear. Nicole is pretty big for her age. She is in size 14s. My sister said, (I am paraphrasing), "No. I can't give you any pants because A. can still fit into a size 12 little girl's). Then she told me that A. wears 75 lbs. She is five four and weighs 75 lbs. My daughter is ten and weighs 103 and is only five feet tall and thin. On another day, my sister told me that A. hasn't had her period in over a year. She asked the pediatrician about it and he blew it off saying that very active girls (and this one is certainly very active) often don't have periods. I mentioned gently that maybe she is anorexic or excerising too much and my sister cut me off, saying, no way, she eats, she's just active. And maybe she is!!!! But I think about her a lot and shudder at how she must look without bulky clothes.

    My sister also alarmed me about her other daughter who is very well-adjusted. I'll call her K. K. is an avid dancer, does it five days a week, but is a normal height and weight--or looks normal--5'6 and 115 lbs. My sister said, "Her dancing teacher says she'd get better parts if she lost weight." I told her I thought that was a dangerous thing to say and my sister shrugged and said, "K. could lose ten pounds and it would be all right." I'm afraid she'll tell K. to go on a diet. The girl is NOT overweight. She is thin, but stocky, like her father--a little bigger boned, but in fantastic shape and a beautiful child.

    I keep telling myself that my only way to see if A. needs interventions is to call CPS, who I hate, because my sister not only won't listen to me; she'll call the cops because I contacted her. Yes, she calls the cops if I call her--she is notorious in my small town for calling our three But it's not funny. I don't know if I should just let it go and forget about it or do something. I have no knowledge if A. really has anorexia. I think she has huge red flags for it, but this is one disorder I never suffered from and maybe my sister is right and very active girls do skip their periods. My sister is actually an excellent mom who really cares about her kids, but I'm afraid that her own fear of being overweight is making her non-objective about her girls.

    What would YOU guys do? We are on terrible terms and will probably remain on terrible terms because I'm tired of her calling the cops on me just because she's angry at me (and, trust me, the cops are sick of it too). She would definitely see this as an attempt to get back at her, and I don't want that. No, there is no other relative I can talk about this to. My brother lives far away and we aren't close, plus she doesn't like him My Dad is 82 and I don't want to worry him. There are no other family members.

    I'm sure having some bad days Thanks for reading this.
  2. Loris

    Loris New Member

    I can see why you're worried. While it is true that very active girls are prone to no periods, 75 lbs is way too small. If you do call CPS, you don't need to tell them who you are. It does sound like she needs help. I hope you find a way to handle this. I'm sorry your sister is this way with you.
  3. skeeter

    skeeter New Member

    many "elite" runners do not have periods - they don't have enough body fat to have them. Once a women gets below about 10% body fat, her periods and hormones and all go to whack.

    Just remember, anorexia and other "eating" disorders are not about food, they are about CONTROL. They are about having control in at least one aspect of a person's life, while feeling out of control in all others. Often the person CAN eat, it's what their feelings are after they've eaten.

    While 5'4" and 75lbs sounds small, I was 5'4" and 85lbs up until I hit about age 21 (and started BC pills for messed up periods).
  4. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    MWM, if it's a small town, you might be able to talk to the counselor at their school about your concern. If others are seeing what you are seeing you can call CPS. You have nothing to lose in terms of your sister. She already calls the police on you.

    My only concern is putting the girls in a situation that will make them uncomfortable.

    Do you have a relationship with any of the three policemen in town. Could you talk to them about your concerns? They personally may not be able to do anything but could give a head's up to someone who can check on them.

    I can't imagine with weighing 75 lbs that someone at school hasn't inquired about the situation with her weight. It seems dangerously low.
  5. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts


    Sounds like this should be brought to someone's attention. Whether you can do it with-o a family rift is questionable. Your sister doesn't seem very amenable to a relationship anyway.

    Yup, I'd try to get someone to look into - very discreetly.
  6. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Actually, I'm the one living in a small town. She lives in Illinois, a state away, in a big suburb. I don't want to scare anyone or get anyone in trouble. I just wonder if the girl needs medical help, since we have so many psychiatric issues in our family. She not only runs three miles every day, she runs after school and plays soccer. I don't know about her eating habits. My sister said she tries to eat "healthy" and there's nothing wrong with that. But my sister has mentioned to me that she's afraid she has "anorexia" but then says she was only kidding. If it's normal for runners not to get periods, maybe I should just leave it alone. She is a very energetic girl who gets straight A's, does sports, has friends and goes, goes, goes. I was skinny in high school--five feet tall and 93 lbs. It runs in our family. But I wasn't weight-obsessed or an over-exerciser, and I wasn't as skinny as her. I can't imagine a high school kid fitting into my daughter's size 12 jeans. They look so small! Anyways, keep the feedback coming. This won't be easy to decide because it CAN look revengeful. I've been worried about this child for a long time, but couldn't get my sister to take it a way I just want to walk away because I know CPS ain't the greatest either.
  7. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Um... I can still fit into a size 12 with-effort... I'm hoping that when she cuts back on her sports, she will gain weight. She'd doing a lot of running. The coach should know she doesn't have her period, though. They shouldn't push her that hard. It's sad that her mom isn't intervening.
    I don't think there's much you can do, unless you make an anonymous phonecall to the school but then you'd have to lv a msg on their machine, and that shoots any confidentiality for your neice.
    I think you're stuck... can you send her gifts, cards, books? Something to stay in her life in a nice way? And then hit the big issues at some point?
    Do you ever talk to your neice on the phone? Maybe you could segue into a conversation and talk about someone else you know that you're worried about (although she may see right through that).
    Good luck!
  8. mum2JK&TH

    mum2JK&TH New Member

    Tough call. I have the same fear for myself as your sister. At 5'9, I weigh 118 lbs and I have worried non-stop this winter as I gained 5 lbs (was 112). I am healthy and no one in my family has really had a weight issue. My daughter is 11 and pretty close to 5 ft, she weighs 73 lbs. She rides competitively and we've already been told by her doctor that she'll probably be later with her period because of it.

    My fear for your neice would be that her mums worries are passed on to her. Do you know if your neice sees a doctor for regular check-ups? If she does then they will be aware. If you are really worried then maybe call the school and make the worry more general that you have seen a few female athletes at their school that seem underweight and if they have anything in place to make sure that they are healthy.
  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I can't call the school. I'm not one of the parents. It's not allowed. She HAD her period. It stopped, which does worry me. At five feet and 70 lbs, you have a thin kid, but this kid is five four and 75 and feels she has to excerise all the time and has alluded to thinking she is fat. She'll show me her "big stomach." What a joke. She's all bones. I hate to call CPS and, knowing my sister, she won't do anything. She does get check ups. I'll have to hope her doctor is sharp enough to worry. This child is way too thin, way too exercise obsessed, and way too worried about what she eats for it to be normal. My sister certainly contributed to it. She is terrified her girls will be fat.
  10. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    "My sister certainly contributed to it. She is terrified her girls will be fat."

    Tsk tsk. There's your problem. Sigh.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    MWM, I wouldn't interfere by calling CPS. I mean, what will they do, really? If they actually did intervene appropriately, with no other problems - wouldn't that be a first?

    And if your relationship with your sister is as warped as it sounds, I suspect that if ANYONE calls CPS your sister will be blaming you and calling CPS on you in return, just to get back at you.

    Your sister really sounds like a severe control freak - which, of course, is a whole lot of the problem. And yes, she sounds like she's passed it on to the girls.

    So, back to the problem - I agree, I would be concerned too. But you're further away from the problem than a lot of others. I know you don't want to be, but you simply aren't seeing the girls often enough or closely enough to have any credibility with anyone you spoke to about it- it would be too easy to blow off what you said, or put it down to petty revenge instead of a genuinely concerned aunt.

    A's coach - MUST be aware. Couldn't NOT be aware. The missed periods - it happens more times than not, when someone exercises a lot. It IS a matter of body fat, but it's also linked to exercise, especially vigorous exercise. Female competition tennis players often stop their periods while in heavy training or heavy competition. The coach would know if this likelihood and should be alert to it, as something to keep an eye on, rather than a red flag on its own.

    Runners are often small and wiry, especially marathon runners. I guess that's why the Ethiopians are such successful marathon runners. If it could be argued (even if it's not true) that she's small and wiry because she's made for long distance running, then you would have an even harder time getting heard.

    One thing will make the difference. A big thing. If she IS anorexic rather than simply wiry, her skeleton will be suffering. An athlete who eats well but runs it off will have a very healthy skeleton - a bone density study of an athlete will show it. An anorexic, however, will be losing calcium. Eventually bones will break easily. And THAT is something the coach will not want.

    A is a star performer, by the sound of it. If she has inherited her mother's controlling nature, then running could be her way of holding that control. It could be what is PREVENTING full-blown anorexia. The coach will not want to risk a star performer. He would be watching any concerns very closely. And the coach handling it - much more likely to be successful. If the coach rang CPS, he is more likely to be heard.

    I would leave the problem with those outside the family who see this girl on a regular basis. The school and the coach will not want an anorexic kid on their conscience; they will blow the whistle if it starts to look bad.

    As for K - that's a harder one. All you can do is hope that K has enough common sense to ignore demands to lose weight. You really can't do anything else besides sit back and watch the train wreck. If you work through the likely outcomes of all your possible courses of action - I see nothing positive, nothing productive as an outcome. It could make their problems worse, if A were kept from running, for example. She might focus on not eating to a more intensive extent. You can't do this for them - unless they are forced by someone else (and even then success isn't likely) they have to recognise the problem for themselves before any chance of improvement is likely, if this IS anorexia.

    People used to think easy child 2/difficult child 2 was anorexic, because she is so very slim. She's chubbed out a bit now (so she looks more normal) but is still very slim - 5'6" and weighing 100 lb NOW. She used to be so skinny she could suck in her tummy and you could see her spine - from the front! THAT'S when we really got the accusations of her being anorexic. And if I'd had a concerned but estranged sister - I'm sure we'd have had calls from CPS over it. But if she obsessed about her weight, it was to say she hated being skinny.
    At about that time we got a visit from a young friend who has fascio-scapular muscular dystrophy. This girl has muscles that simply haven't had a chance to develop. She exercises as much as she can, walks and swims, eats what she has the strength to but simply is not capable of growing muscle. What she has, has to work hard and do a lot. And the girl, next to easy child 2/difficult child 2 (who was assumed by others to look like an anorexic) made easy child 2/difficult child 2 look obese. This girl was literally half the thickness of easy child 2/difficult child 2 and the same height. legs like matchsticks, body looking like she'd blow away in a mild breeze. She also wore a lot of loose, flowing clothing to hide her body - another hallmark of an anorexic. In the case of young friend,she did this because she was embarrassed about the lack of development of her upper arms. She wore a shirt when swimming, for example. Every dress she designed for herself, she made it to cover her arms.

    Our friend has a genuine medical reason for looking anorexic. She also hates being skinny but accepts she has no choice. She deals with it by studying fashion design. Her healthy lifestyle has kept her alive when her parents were told she wouldn't live long past ten years old. She's now twice that and apparently stronger all the time.

    MWM, I know your heart is torn for these girls, but you really can't do anything which would help these girls. Not at this stage. As I said, it's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Or like watching a junkie in the gutter. You can't help because they have to be able to accept any help and they can't do that if they don't accept there is a problem. And you can't even talk to them about it - even if you were on good terms, this is a hard subject to raise with someone who is in denial.

    Hang in there. Do your best to build bridges with no catches, so you're at least available to them when they ARE ready to accept there is a problem.

  12. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Margurite, you're so right. I've thought about all that. I do think A. has some anorexia. She really does seem to think she has to watch her weight, which is alarming. As for bone density, that's interesting. My sister is 46 and has osteo. She told me to go for a bone density test because it's hereditary. I went and mine was normal. I think it's because of all her years of anorexia. Yes, she is a control freak, and she's always right, never wrong. I'm going to let it go. I don't know if or who would help the girls, especially A., but it can't be me. I think CPS may take it wrong on her side too and falsely accuse my sister and her hub of not being good parents and, in the big picture, that's not true, and I don't want to destroy the family. I'll pass it on to somebody else. I laughed (hard) when I read that she'd probably call CPS on me. SHE WOULD! I'm surprised she hasn't thought of that Ten calls to the cops (at least), and not one to CPS! She must not have thought of it, and, although we have nothing to hide, I don't want to encourage her to make something up.
    If A. doesn't gain, and if she keeps insisting she's overweight, somebody will eventually catch on, maybe even my sister...thanks.
  13. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member

    I have a 30 yr old niece who has been anorexic a long time. when she was younger, her folks hospitlized her til she stabilized. she is doing it again...way too thin. she exercises to exhaustion. no one can tell her different and she is too old to interfere. she gets mad if you mention it. when she gets sick, the docs will have to help her.
  14. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Janet, I feel guilty not at least trying to intervene, but what if I'm wrong? I am so hated in the family and my sister isn't going to think I just want to help. She doesn't see the anorexic thinking ("I am fat") because it's normal thinking to her, and she's so bone skinny that my grown kids have asked me if she's sick. My sister weighs what Karen Carpenter did when she died, and is the same height (although, I don't think my sister looks as skinny as some people think she does). Anyways, there isn't much I can do other than call CPS, and the social workers at CPS are likely to make things even worse for the child. I hope this is addressed before it really gets out of control. Right now, she's still eating, even if she sticks to Yogurt and apples. The thing that scares me is that her personality (and her twin too) are profiles for anorexia--both get upset if they don't get straight A's or aren't recommended for honors classes, both feel they have to excel at everything (they do!) and both are very self-conscious about their appearance (they should NOT be as they are very beautiful girls). Plus my sister has always harped on excercise, which is a good thing, but not if it spirals out of control. I'm afraid that A. got involved in running due to an eating disorder, not the other way around. I hope I'm wrong, but I've decided not to interfere either way.
  15. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Gosh, I wish you lived here... I'd drag them to my husband ofc... he's a chiro and although he's a health food fanatic, he's really anti-vegetarian when it comes to kids--says they don't get enough protein. He's pro-exercise but very careful about it. If you can validate your sis and neice, as in, "Yes, exercise is a great thing... and there's this new protein drink that's great for performance!" that might help.
    What if you shippied some protein performance stuff as a gift? Would they be receptive or would they freak?
    This is so frustrating.
  16. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    My sister would call the I'm serious. Every time she's mad at me, and half the time I don't know why she is or even THAT she is, she calls the police and says I'm "Harassing" her. Needless to say, the three cops in our town who know us think my sister is a nutjob. Nah, I'm going to leave it alone. She would have to hear it from a professional and so far she won't take her daughter to see anyone except the family doctor.
  17. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    MWM, an idea - you did good to follow your sister's advice and go for a bone density scan. If you're on good enough terms, I would call her to thank her because now you have such a strong sense of relief that you are OK. However, ask her if there is a chance SHE has inherited a greater risk than you and possibly passed it on to her daughters? Maybe, given the mum's early osteo, getting the daughters checked out with a scan while they're still young enough for good treatment to strengthen their bones, would be good follow-through?

    Just drop the idea to her, keep grovelling about how glad you are she advised you to do this. Hopefully she will get her girls scanned (or in the process of trying to, A's behaviour will be sufficiently odd to set off your sister's alarm bells).

    A's running is hopefully keeping her spine stronger than it would be otherwise, despite any possible anorexia. A's coach should be in favour of a scan - the mum could suggest it to the coach if she wants a good ally.

    Anorexia is very much about control. If A can be convinced that she needs, for her health, to take certain supplements or eat at least some of certain foods, this is still exerting control over her own diet. It may be enough for her, give her another way of coping.

    Beyond this, you have to sit and wait. Say nothing about your concerns of anorexia (it would make the problems worse, not better).

    But it sounds to me like your sister has given you at least this toehold in the door.

  18. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    We're not on good That's the problem.
  19. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Sigh. So sorry.
  20. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    You can't do any more, then, except watch the train wreck. here's hoping the brakes get slammed on in time by somebody.

    It's a very difficult position to be in. I don't envy you. Just keep telling yourself, over and over, "I can't fix everything, I can't fix everything..."