Preventing Your Teen from Developing an Eating Disorder
As the parent of a teenager, it is important that you are able to recognize the signs of a possible eating disorder and take active steps in preventing its development. Eating disorders are more common with girls but can develop in boys as well. Today, eating disorders are often triggered through exposure to unrealistic, edited media, and they include anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are three factors which may lead to unhealthy eating habits. There is a societal pressure to be thin that is emphasized daily by photoshopped models, the portrayal of teens in television, and social media models who are paid to post the perfect shot. Your teen does not need to be overweight to develop an eating disorder. Many healthy teenagers can develop the belief that they are fat and become fixated with losing weight. This could be the result of constant exposure to unrealistic bodies in the media.
Teens may also face pressure from their hobby or sport. Many elite athletes feel the pressure to stay thin and some develop eating disorders after periods of intense weight gain or loss during the season.
There may also be personal factors that contribute to your teen’s perception of their body and their relationship with food. Teens with high anxiety or teens who feel pressure to be perfect all the time are at greater risk of developing an eating disorder.
Pay attention to your teenager’s eating habits. If they often skip meals, go to the bathroom immediately after meals, periodically eat unhealthy foods in large amounts, or are not eating enough, these may be signs of an eating disorder. There may also be warning signs unrelated to diet, including excessive exercise, frequent negative comments about their appearance and depression.
It is important to talk to your child at an early age about their body. Teach them that food is fuel for their everyday activities. Food is not the enemy. Be careful how you talk about your own body when you are around your child or teenager, never emphasizing your weight or the need to diet. Give your child positive affirmations and tell them they are beautiful, loved and healthy. It is also helpful to provide your child with meals that are both nutritious and delicious, but give them the option to eat unhealthy every once and a while.