Talking to Teens and Tweens About Eating Disorders

Talking to teen and tweens about eating disorders is something that all parents should do with their children. Many schools and teachers also take an active role about talking to teens and tweens about eating disorders because of the severity of these mental illnesses.

When talking to teens and tweens about eating disorders, it is important that parents explain the workings of different types of eating disorders, why teens and adults develop these issues, signs of an eating disorders as well as the basics of proper nutrition. Many teens will develop an eating disorder because they feel they need to lose weight and feel out of control about the way their body is growing and developing from childhood to their tween and teen years. However, it is up to parents to teach their children about good nutrition because that is truly the best way to maintain a healthy weight. Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia actually create more difficulties when trying to lose weight because it slows down the individuals metabolism and makes it harder to lose weight. There are a few basic principles parents and educators need to keep in mind when talking to teens and tweens about eating disorders.

Eating Disorders:

According to eating disorder statistics, eating disorders are known to affect 8 million people throughout the United States alone with over 90 percent of them women. Unfortunately, that makes teen girls at some of the most at-risk individuals likely to develop an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. Eating disorders are known to start mostly during the teen years but can begin as early as age 8. That is another reason why it is so important for parents to begin talking to not just their teens, but their children that are tween age as well. That age between childhood and teen (11-12) are pivotal years in a person's development, and when tweens are at their most impressionable stage. They may not understand the health risks they are taking with an eating disorder, but might just already be feeling the pressure to be thin. Eating disorders account for some of the most deadly mental illnesses and developer of other mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. 

There are health risks that are both short term as well as long term that comes with developing an eating disorder including digestive issues, organ failure, tooth decay, early onset of osteoporosis, heart disease/failure, lack of energy, headaches, malnutrition and so much more. More individuals die as a result of these types of eating disorder side effects than any other mental illness. 

Causes of Eating Disorders:

Often times, eating disorders are the result of outside trauma and stress rather than just being used to lose weight. This is why girls without being overweight will begin to micro-manage and control their weight to an unhealthy level by refusing to eat, or by vomiting up their food on a regular basis. Family pressures, school pressure and other traumatic life events will often cause a person to seek to control other aspects of their life since there is so much going on in their life that they cannot control. Teens, tweens and young adults might also be pressured by the ideals set forth by society to look a certain way and to weigh a certain amount. Falling into this pressure, teens and tweens begin the behaviors akin to an eating disorder. Soon these habits and behaviors begin to overtake their life and become a full-fledged eating disorder. 

Signs of an Eating Disorder:

  • Being secretive about eating habits
  • Vomiting frequently after meals
  • Significant weight loss
  • Low self-esteem
  • Refusal to eat
  • Irritability
  • Loss of menstrual period
  • Frequently getting sick (compromised immune system)
  • Signs of malnutrition
  • Excessive exercise
  • Obsession with weight and appearance
  • Depression/anxiety

Eating Disorder Prevention and Treatment:

Often times an eating disorder requires psychological treatment or therapy and even in-treatment care. There are residential treatment centers that specialize in the assistance of eating disorder recovery for teens, tween and adults of all ages that need professional help in overcoming this mental illness. However, the best way to treat an eating disorder is to act on prevention. If your teen or tween starts voicing concerns about how their friends are dieting, or they feel fat, self-conscious, etc. it is a good idea to sit them down and talk about the dangers of eating disorders. Teaching your teen and tween about proper nutrition, healthy eating and proper exercise, your teen will be more likely to be happy, healthy and fit and will face a much lower risk of an eating disorder.


Related Article: Overview of Eating Disorders >>