The 15-year-old girl went on a diet after her mother said she was fat. The mother herself, who is in her late 40s, also watched her weight. Despite being slim, she avoided eating carbohydrates and exercised rigorously.
Psychiatrist Lim Boon Leng from Gleneagles Hospital recounts: “Wishing to please her mother, the girl lost a dangerous amount of weight and had to be hospitalised.”
Dr Lim treated the teenager who had periods of anorexia and bulimia, which are eating disorders. Her Body Mass Index dropped to 14, indicating she was severely underweight. A BMI in the healthy range is between 18.5 and 22.9.
The girl’s condition led to “stressful dynamics” in the family, adds Dr Lim. Her recovery was delayed as it was difficult to convince her to put on weight when her mother insisted on continuing with her own strict diet and exercise routine.
When the girl’s father asked his wife to stop for their daughter’s sake, it led to frequent arguments
But, doctors say, mothers have an important role in helping their daughters navigate the same societal pressures surrounding women and thinness that are felt by both.
Here’s how mothers can help their children improve on their self-esteem and change their mindsets towards their bodies: