If Ana Or Mia Are Visiting – The Au Pair Has An Eating Disorder

This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)

Families usually have cooking and eating habits that they stick to. Most families have dinner together, so they cook in the evening, eat and talk about the day.

Families very often have family dishes that everybody likes, like a specific kind of casserole, a combination of veggies and meat that work for everybody and maybe even a dessert that everybody loves.

If an au pair is included the au pair should eat together with the family and get used to their food. Of course the au pair should not have to eat something that they don’t like. But usually something is being served that everybody likes. So if the au pair doesn’t like beans, they don’t have to eat the beans, but can eat the rest.

But what happens if the au pair does not eat with the family or eats unusual amounts of food, either too less or so much that everbody would feel sick afterwards? What if the au pair has an eating disorder and the host family notices the unusual eating habit?

Examples

There are many different eating disorders, so let’s look at some examples. Maybe as a host family this sounds familiar to you.

The au pair stores huge amounts of junk food in their room and eats all those things in a short time, all alone, vanishes in the bathroom quite often after meals  and comes back with bloodshot or watery eyes, has a constant acidic breath and maybe even decolored teeth. This can be a sign of a bulimic au pair and this habit is not healthy, neither for the au pair nor for the relationship with the host family. Especially children should not see eating habits that are not normal and unhealthy. A kid should not listen to a young person throwing up in the bathroom.

Another situation…

The au pair prepares breakfast for the children in the morning and does not eat with them, during lunch the young woman or man also barely touches the food and at dinner they always have an excuse not to eat, leaves before dinner all the time or goes to the gym instead of eating. The host family would notice that during the day the food is not really getting less and only the food the kids would eat is missing. They would ask the au pair, which food she or he likes so they could buy it for their new family member, but the au pair does not really respond to that.

Maybe the au pair goes to the gym very often and always for a very long time or even more than once a day. The worst case scenarios would be that the au pair loses her/his consciousness when only the children are around.

Warning Signs

If a host family is worried that their au pair might have an eating disorder, they can check if they notice any of these signs:

  • Dramatic weight loss which is sometimes concealed with baggy clothing
  • Preoccupation with food, weight, calories, fat grams and dieting
  • Elimination of food groups
  • Eating alone or excuses to avoid mealtimes
  • Anxiety about being or becoming fat
  • Denial of hunger
  • Staying home, won’t see friends or do any activities
  • Mood swings and/or depressed mood
  • Frequent weight changes
  • Shower, bath or running water after meals / bathroom use after meals
  • Hiding food
  • Unexplained disappearances of food
  • Complaints of sore throat, upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation
  • Obsessive exercising

If you notice any of those signs, you should talk to your au pair. Trust is very important in this situation. The au pair should also understand that the host family is concerned about their family member’s health and just wants to help. Contact a doctor.

If the au pair’s behavior with food is not getting better and you keep noticing signs of an eating disorder, you should think about terminating the contract and sending her/him home. An eating disorder is a mental illness and has to be treated.