In the lexicon of sensationalized news stories, there are none quite as poignant as stories like this headline from the Times of London: "15st boy is taken from grandparents who lost their daughter to anorexia."
The story goes on to describe, in horrified tones, how a 10-year-old Spanish boy was removed from his grandparents' custody after they overfed him until he reached 200 pounds. The story goes on, predictably, to quote experts familiar with the case as well as those who were not about the dangers of obesity, how obesity is on the rise, etc. etc.
Buried up near the front of the piece is a crucial nugget of information, mentioned once and never referred to again. The grandparents had custody in the first place because the boy's mother had died of anorexia.
It's tragic that no one quoted in this story (and for all I know, in the boy's life) has made the connection between his mother's death from anorexia, his grandparents' feeding behavior, and his own eating. Imagine watching your daughter or your mother starve herself to death. Imagine the grief, the guilt, the disbelief and lack of understanding. Of course that has an effect on everyone's relationship to food.
Authorities took the boy away from his grandparents and put him on a diet. They report that he has now lost more than 20kg and that they'd like to return him to his grandparents' custody. The story goes on: "But they say the grandparent remain “in denial” that their feeding habits are a problem – health officials said that they even tried to smuggle chocolate biscuits to him during their weekly visits. “The problem is that the grandparents still don’t understand that they were harming the lad and seriously placing his life and future at risk,” Ms Fernández said."
What will it take for us to look at the relationship with food and eating as a whole package and not isolated bits of pathology? My heart goes out to this boy and his grandparents.