Every au pair we’ve ever had (all 11 of them) went on some weird kind of diet. These diets included protein drinks, Slimfast shakes, grapefruits, Diet Cokes for breakfast & lunch and — my personal favorite — rice and bread. (Going without butter was where ya really saved on calories!)
Thankfully, most of these diets were short-lived.
I understand where the impulse to try these weird diets comes from– many au pairs put on a few extra pounds as they get adjusted to the American diet and to the size of a Mocha Frappucino.
These diets have raised some issues for me as a host mom, worrying that our au pairs aren’t getting proper nutrition and are developing unhealthy eating habits. I have also worried about the role model this might set for my kids, I’ve felt that my fabulous cooking was being spurned, and I’ve resisted buying strange foodstuffs for strange diets — but all of those are issues for another post.
What I’d like your thoughts on is when the food situation turns from weird to grim — when you suspect or discover that your Au Pair has a bona fide eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia.
We got an email from a host mom who is very concerned about her au pair. She writes:
We have a terrific au pair. I’m concerned that she may have an eating disorder. Her eating disorder is not affecting her work (as far as I can tell). And it is not affecting her energy level or overall health– yet.
Because of our living situation (and since I buy the food) I’ve noticed how little she eats at real meals, how she gorges on items like ice cream, and how some foods just disappear from the cabinet. Also, she seems to be getting unhealthily skinny.
Our au pair is a rather private girl, and she’s never talked at all about her weight, or about dieting. I have been trying not to make a big deal about it (I don’t tell her to ‘eat her vegetables’) but I do think I should be doing something.
Any ideas how to respect her privacy but still address the concern?
If this were my au pair, I think the first place I’d turn would be to our LCC. I’d hope that she would have some training from her Agency on how to help an au pair get help. (Perhaps she would also have some experience and information about local treatment options.)
I’m assuming that other host parents have been in similar situations because eating disorders are more common among young women of au pairing age.
Has anyone got some experience they can share?
Photo: Alas / Hope is the thing with…from Celeste