Is Your Teen Struggling With Food? This Expert Explains Why Your Teen Might Have An Eating Disorder (And How To Stop It)

Eating disorders are serious health conditions that affect both physical and mental health. According to the Mayo Clinic, these conditions include problems in how you think about food, eating, weight, shape, and eating behaviours. While anyone can develop an eating disorder, these often start in the teen and young adult years. As a parent of a teenager, one needs to be vigilant about their child’s diet and educate them about eating disorders to reduce their risk of developing these and promote a healthy and nurturing relationship with food.

“One cannot think well, live well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well,” Saakshi Singla, Child Development Expert and Therapist, quotes Virginia Woolf, as this statement “encapsulates the importance of food and nutrition in our physical, mental, emotional, and brain health.” The expert adds, “Yet this isn’t something we discuss with our teenagers. And so, many of our children, while on their journey to adulthood, get lost on the way and develop a complicated and unhealthy relationship with food. This can lead to various kinds of mental health issues and eating disorders.”
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Factors Contributing To Eating Disorders In Teenagers

Factors contributing to eating disorders include genetics, environment, low self-esteem, and body image issues. The expert adds that “social media, fashion, and entertainment industries often promote unrealistic beauty standards, fostering comparison and competition.”

Other risk factors include academic pressure, high stress levels, and prevalent diet culture. Sometimes, the parent’s relationship with food may also put the child at risk of developing an eating disorder. The expert explains, “Regrettably, parents unknowingly perpetuate the diet narrative by discussing their cleanses, weight loss goals, ‘clean’ eating habits, or speaking negatively about their bodies.”

It is important for children to have a healthy relationship with food.

It is important for children to have a healthy relationship with food. Photo Credit: iStock

Types Of Eating Disorders

It is crucial to educate both ourselves and our teenagers about the following eating disorders:

1, Anorexia Nervosa:

Anorexia nervosa is marked by weight loss or maintenance through extreme dieting, starvation, or excessive exercise.

2. Binge Eating:

This involves frequently consuming an unusually large amount of food in one sitting.

3. Bulimia Nervosa:

Bulimia nervosa includes symptoms such as purging, taking laxatives, exercising, or fasting to prevent weight gain after binge eating.

4. Orthorexia:

The expert shares that this is a “newer eating disorder, defined by an obsession with healthy eating. Those with orthorexia are intensely focused on consuming only ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ foods and may become anxious or distressed when they cannot follow their strict dietary rules.”
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Tips For Parents To Guard Their Teens Against Eating Disorders

To nurture a compassionate bond with food and guard against eating disorders, adults need to guide teenagers on a journey of self-discovery and self-love. Teach your teenager to “embrace food and nourishment with curiosity and gratitude,” the expert shares, adding that they should “listen to body cues, celebrate uniqueness, and relish diverse flavours.”

A simple and uncomplicated healthy relationship with food can cultivate lifelong nourishment, self-care, and vitality in your children.

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