Here in Little Rock, the eating disorder clinic for Children's Hospital sees about eight new patients a week. And the director there says, more often than not, that first day requires a trip to the hospital that can last two to three weeks.
Lunchtime's often a happy time for kids at school, but not everyone's filling up safely these days.
"Now they're coming in and they're sicker than they used to be and so they need to be hospitalized right on that day," Dr. Tracie Pasold said.
Pasold runs the eating disorder program for Children's Hospital. She says the patients filling up these rooms are no longer just teens any more.
"It's becoming an issue for them eight years old, nine years old, ten years old," Pasold said.
A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics confirms that change. From 1999 to 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders rose 119 percent for kids under 12.
"They've not been consuming enough calories to compensate for what they're body needs based on energy levels and that sort of thing," Pasold said.
Pasold says that triggers low heart rates and a trip to the emergency room. It's something, she says, preventable with earlier detection.
"It's being missed until it's progressed. If there's a trend toward focusing on body weight and shape that's certainly a red flag. Are they doing a lot of dieting, avoiding certain food categories, exercising a lot," Pasold said.
The recent report also shows more males experiencing eating disorders, something Pasold sees in Arkansas.
"Males are trying to beef up their muscles and as a child or adolescent maybe they don't necessarily know the right ways to do that," Pasold said.
She feels our country's anti-obesity push sparks eating disorders too for boys and girls, veering them off the right path when lunchtime or any meal comes around.
As for the anti-obesity campaign, Pasold just feels there's so much hype behind it that kids and teens may feel anxious about their eating habits.
She realizes this can be a very private situation, but urges pediatricians, parents, even school nurses, to look out and report anything suspicious.
Pasold's clinic sees about 30 patients on a regular basis and people from across the state, most suffering from anorexia and bulimia.