We hear a lot about dealing with teenage eating disorders and very often, the problem is swept under the carpet because of stigma, shame, and embarrassment. But look at these tips to make sure that you can help prevent this happening and also help you watch out for the warning signs.
Don’t joke about body image
Nobody really knows the cause of these disorders but a crucial factor seems to be the acceptance or not of the teen’s body image. This is often made worse by depression and low self-esteem. So the first tip in dealing with the issue is to avoid any remarks about the teen’s shape and stop making jokes.
Remember that our teenage population is bombarded with images of people who have perfect bodies and they are conditioned by that. Any remarks which heighten their feelings of having a poor self-image which makes them feel less than perfect and sexy is only making things a lot worse! Inevitably, this becomes a teenage obsession.
Setting an example
We should set the example by showing that we ourselves are perfectly at ease with our own body image. We can demonstrate that by talking of acceptance and of course showing that we are at ease in dealing with a healthy diet while not being hung up on diets or weight loss.
Talk about eating
Dining together regularly is a great way to demonstrate a healthy attitude to food which is basically for nutrition and energy. It is a great idea to mention how we can become dependent on it for emotional comfort and how the other side of that coin might turn to hatred. Teenage eating disorders should not be a taboo subject.
No junk food
One of the solutions is that we can encourage healthy teenage eating habits, encourage experimentation with recipes and encourage them to be involved in preparing meals. We should make sure that the fridge is well stocked with healthy food.
Dealing with media exposure
We are bombarded with TV commercials showing people with perfect figures and the message is very clear. Either you are this perfect shape or you don’t count! These disorders are never talked about on TV nor are any facts mentioned. We can easily reduce this exposure by making sure that the TV is off during mealtimes at least. One of the easiest solutions to implement.
Choosing the right sports
If we can, and this very much depends on a teen’s preferences, we should steer them towards sports where body shape is not so important but rather where fitness and being strong counts for more. We just need to be aware that running, ballet and wrestling are sports where there is a lot of emphasis on being the so-called right shape! These may not be the right activities for dealing with the problem.
Watch out for early signs
We should be on the alert for early warning indications that there may be a problem. There may be episodes of binge eating or fasting. But there are also more subtle signs when the teen is irritable, finds it difficult to concentrate, is lethargic and girls may have a problem in dealing with very irregular periods.
Don’t talk about physical appearance
If we are always talking about people who are overweight or too thin, then this is a bad model to follow. It can become a teenage obsession so why talk about it at home? Is it really necessary? Especially if it is in regard to our own kids.
We should be concentrating on how they are dealing with their own personal issues and be ready to highlight and to praise these when appropriate. All too often, we are not giving enough encouragement and not enough attention to truly precious human qualities such as being hardworking, dedication, generosity, tolerance, and kindness.
We have all experienced the comfort of food when dealing with sadness and melancholy. But there are limits and we should always talk about these quite openly and mention our own struggles when we ourselves sought emotional comfort in this. It can happen in teenage years or in adulthood as we all know. It can never be an effective way of coping with our emotions and feelings and may lead to other disorders.
Look for medical help
If and when you think that there may be an eating disorder developing, get the help of the family doctor and make sure that your teen has a checkup. You could ask your doctor to look for possible warning signs that you may have missed in the early stages. If the disorder is already present, there will be a need to pursue family therapy which is by far the most effective treatment available.