The pressure to fit a perfect body mold is at an all time high, and for most people the images seen in advertising and on television are nothing close to reality. Teenagers are especially susceptible to body image issues and may also be unaware of how dangerous eating disorders can be. If you’re concerned that your teenager may have an eating disorder, here are ten signs and symptoms to look for:
There’s nothing wrong with being dedicated to a goal, but there’s a strong correlation between perfectionism and eating disorders. Teens who believe they can do everything perfectly may also believe that they can make their body perfectly meet societal images of beauty. If your teen is a relentless perfectionist, she may be especially susceptible to eating disorders like anorexia.
Eating in Secret
If your teen tends to eat after everyone has gone to bed and rarely enjoys a meal with the family, this is a glaring red flag. Eating in secret can be a sign of a number of binge eating disorders. Bulimia is often associated with binge eating and then vomiting. If your teen is eating in secret, it may be time to intervene. It’s worth noting that Bing Eating Disorder is a disorder in which a person frequently binges but does not purge. This can lead to heart problems and rapid weight gain, because the amount of food people eat during these binges is truly staggering and potentially dangerous. While most eating disorders afflict primarily women, boys are especially susceptible to Binge Eating disorder.
Diets are dangerous, especially for teenagers, and it’s not uncommon for an eating disorder to spring from a diet gone awry. If your teen frequently diets and does not need to, this is a red flag that she may be heading down the road to an eating disorder.
We’re all bombarded with media images of what is supposedly beautiful, but teens with eating disorders are particularly vulnerable to these images, and may actively seek them out as “thinspiration.” If your child seems to have plastered her walls with emaciated models or is watching lots of television, this could be the first sign that she may develop an eating disorder.
Defensiveness About Eating
People on normal diets typically don’t feel the need to make excuses about not eating, and may actually be proud of themselves for avoiding tempting snacks. People with eating disorders, however, become quickly defensive when asked about eating habits, so if your child is making bizarre excuses for avoiding meals, she may have an eating disorder.
Participation in Certain Sports
Sports are wonderful and can raise childrens’ self esteem as well as encourage healthy eating habits. Some sports, however, make teens especially susceptible to eating disorders. These include ballet, gymnastics, cross country running, and wrestling. If your child participates in these sports, there’s no need to pull him or her out, but it does mean you should keep your eyes open for signs of disordered eating habits.
Increasingly Body Conscious
Perhaps one of the most obvious signs of an eating disorder is an overall increase in body consciousness. Teens with eating disorders tend to make more frequent comments about their appearance and weight. They may also comment on other people’s weights and judge people for their dieting successes and failures.
Playing With Food
Playing with food is normally the domain of preschoolers and toddlers, but if your child has an eating disorder, she may develop bizarre habits with her food. She may drag her food around on the plate to make it appear that she has eaten more than she actually has or may cut her food into tiny bites before eating. Any weird food habits that come on suddenly can be a sign of an eating disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder.
Changes in Appearance
Once an eating disorder has taken hold, your teen’s body will begin to rebel against dangerous eating habits. Signs that this is occurring include yellow teeth (from vomiting after bingeing), extremely pale or even yellow skin (from lack of nutrients) and a fine coat of hair growing all over the body. Your child may also begin to lose the hair on his or her head and may frequently complain of being cold.
Changes in Fashion
Teenagers are susceptible to any tiny change in fashion, but if your teen has suddenly and dramatically changed her style, it may be time to worry. Some teens may start wearing baggy clothes to cover their weight loss. Previously modest teens might also begin wearing extremely skimpy clothing to “show off” their weight loss.
Eating disorders are life threatening and anorexia has a mortality rate of up to ten percent. If your teen shows several of these symptoms, he or she needs professional help to establish healthy self esteem and good eating habits. You can help your teen do this by having healthy self esteem and good eating habits yourself, and by never insulting your teen’s appearance or weight.
The Beauty Myth-Naomi Wolf