Is it an eating disorder or a battle of the wills?

When their daughter was little, my cousin and his wife gave her bottle after bottle of milk even when she was capable of eating solid foods. They also let her eat baby food till she was three or so. Her favorite snacks were croutons and popsicles, and her preferred breakfast some years later was frozen waffles.
I mention all of the above because I believe it has led to their current problems with her, now that she is in high school. She won’t eat any meat except pepperoni on a cheese pizza, and wil eat no fruits or vegetables of any kind. She will eat a bit of grilled cheese and a few fries if taken out to eat, then will expect some ice cream. She became severely anemic and they’re making her take iron pills now. Her mom also makes her eat fresh spinach leaves but allows her to wash each one down with a mouthful of soda.
So…would you call this a disorder or a battle of some kind? I have no kids, but I just don’t see how things can improve unless she bottoms out first.

Isn’t an eating disorder thought of to be a psychological problem? In the sense that people with anorexia or bulimia honestly see themselves as fat, or as needing to have control?

I guess this is more of a battle. They haven’t “trained” her tastebuds to appreciate the taste of vegetables, fruits, grains, etc. In that respect I’d consider them to be poor parents. But the fact that she agrees to eat spinach if she washes it down with soda gives the impression that she knows she has them over a barrel, and is taking advantage of it. Which again, is poor parenting AFAIC.

I’m curious as to how she has managed to live for this long, if she doesn’t eat fruits and vegetables. Shouldn’t she have scurvy or rickets?

Just a note: I understand iron can be dangerous for kids if they are taking too much in (a la vitamins). I’m assuming this was ordered by a doctor or something, right?

Teenagers (expecially guys- probably because they arn’t too busy being anorexic) eat like this all the time. Ever look at what kids in college eat? It’s not pretty. I know a guy that lives nearly exclusivly on cereal and oranges. I know another guy that eat Mama Celeste frozen pizza and orange soda. I know a vegetarian who will only eat three kinds of vegetable. Heck, for a while I was surviving on ramen and salsa.

It’s not particularly healthy, but what can you do? As long as she is eating something it’s pretty unlikely for her to develop major problems because of her habits. Any vaguely varied diet in this age of enriched processed food is going to sustain you, although probably not very well. You’d be surprised how many smart, functional, ambitious people eat terrible diets.

One day her body will start craving what it need. Either she’ll listen or she won’t. You havn’t mentioned how far into high school she is, but usually when kids move away from home their eating habits change dramatically. There is a good chance hers will change for the bestter.

Meanwhile, the more her parents and other people hound her about her choices, the more stubborn and resentful she’s going to get. Nothing makes a kid more defient than having their life micromanaged. Forcing her to eat fresh spinach leaves only makes it less and less likely that she’ll ever reach over to the salad bowl voluntarily. She has to understand for herself why good nutrition is important, and not feel like it is just another arbitrary parental contraint. I know it is hard to let a kid make bad decisions, but the only way she is ever going to realize why it is important for her to eat well is if dawns on her one day “hey, I’m tired and sick all the time and it sucks, maybe I better start eating better”.

I appreciate all the feedback.

Tsubaki : I don’t know how she’s made it all the way to 16 unless she’s taking vitamins. And I do think the folks have been very lazy.

occ : the parents both have nursing degrees, so I think it was their decision. Ironic, isn’t it?

I don’t know, have you ever tried to get a 3 year old to eat what you want them to eat? I swear my daughter lived on breast milk and noodles, with the occasional still-frozen pea thrown in, until she was 2 and a half. But she eats just fine now. My 2 year old lives on yogurt these days, but I’m not too worried, yogurt is pretty good food, and I know that he’s healthy, and will eat other things eventually, just like my daughter did.

Now, it’s true you don’t just give little kids twinkies or whatever all the time because that’s what they’ll eat, but it’s hard to get kiddos to even try stuff if they don’t want to. Milk and baby food doesn’t sound that bad for a toddler. And I don’t really see what’s wrong with waffles for breakfast.

Now, after around three, you can sometimes have more success–“You can’t have dessert unless you eat three bites of everything on your plate.” But I don’t see that this girl’s current nutritional problems came from her eating habits as a toddler, which don’t seem that bad to me. IANAD, but I’d say one of two things is going on here (maybe both at once). It’s possible she has a mild food allergy, and certain vegetables or whatever disagree with her, which she interprets as their not tasting good. Just an anecdote, but one girl I knew had run-ins like this with her parents over food and nutrition and her refusing to eat, and after several doctors and much frustration it was discovered she had celiac disease. She never could figure out why she hated to eat and most food made her feel sick, and that’s why. I’m not saying that’s what this girl’s problem is, just that things like that do happen.

The second possiblity is the control issue you mention. Certainly her parents seem to have reacted very forcefully, and she may just have reacted stubbornly to them.

Absolutely right, even sven.

It certainly seems to me that if she’s nutritionally compromised, the parents need to take her to the Dr., to rule out things like allergies or other medical conditions. Desperately bribing her to eat spinach and forcing her to take vitamins isn’t going to do anything but make her more stubborn, and it won’t address the problem if there’s a physical cause at the back of it.

Coming from the standpoint of someone who’s recovered from an eating disorder, I would say that this sounds more like a battle than an e.d. A good resource for info on eating disorders is:

Sounds like a battle of the wills to me. Even sven I assume you meant most guys right?