Saturday, 22 October 2011


People with Prader-Willi Syndrome - who have insatiable appetites - sometimes display traits of another eating disorder.

It’s called pica, and it comes from the Latin for magpie, a bird known for voraciously eating food and nonfood items alike.

Pica is eating stuff that really shouldn’t be eaten. Like paint chips, soil, soap, candles, and stones. Or a McDonald’s breakfast. 

We all do it to a certain extent as very small children, when we put everything we touch in our mouths as we explore the wonderful new world about us. I once ate a worm sandwich, but that had less to do with exploration and more to do with my brothers and a bet. My recollection remains fairly vague as I seem to have scrubbed out the more unpleasant details from my memory banks.

But some people with Prader-Willi Syndrome, driven by their hunger cravings, display pica-like behaviours not just as a child but throughout their life, eating non-food items and unprepared foods such as raw meat, or frozen pizza.

My daughter has only really had one problematic pica-like experience (described in the post Bones. The clue’s in the title).

But it’s something we have to be aware of. At the moment, she still accepts that I’m in control of what she eats, and doesn’t sneak stuff. But it’s not impossible that one day, when I’m not watching, she could rifle through the little food waste bin in the kitchen and scoff down - say, for example - some of the raw, fatty bits I’ve cut from the chicken I’ve prepared for that night’s meal. 

Imagine it. Imagine being so hungry you’d rifle through a bin of scraps. Or eat dirt, or sand, or tin foil, or Blu-Tack.

So the next time someone tells you they’re starving, tell them they’re not. They’re really not.

Video is Radiohead - Morning, Mr Magpie

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