In today’s society, we are inundated with pictures of celebrities with so-called perfect bodies. There is a great deal of pressure placed upon everyone – particularly young children and teens – to have a “killer” body. Unfortunately, many of these celebrities have unrealistic bodies that are very difficult to obtain, let alone maintain. They are very thin; they obsessively workout; and they have the resources to eat the lowest-calorie food on a daily basis.
So, what does this constant bombardment of the perfect body do to the psyches of young people? Especially those who desperately want to fit in at school and be considered beautiful? In some instances – despite our best efforts – eating disorders develop: disorders that can ruin and even end the lives of beautiful, young girls and boys. We all want what is best for our kids and we want to protect them from the harms of society, including self-inflicted harm.
Here are some common eating disorder warning signs that parents should keep watch for:
- Rapid, unexplained change in weight;
- Fear of eating with family or friends (wanting to eat only in private);
- Change in eating patterns;
- Disappearing immediately after meals;
- Excessive exercise;
- Finding hidden food, food wrappers or missing food;
- Newly developed mood swings.
What to do if you suspect your child might have an eating disorder?
One thing not to do is go on the offensive and attack your child’s mental state. Psychologists and health experts believe that approaching the situation calmly – and with concern rather than anger – is a good first step at broaching the issue. This is a complex issue and may be consuming your child’s every waking thought.
The recommended next step is take your child to the doctor and receive an evaluation from an eating disorder specialist. The sooner such a disorder is diagnosed, the better the chance of full recovery.
Another thing you should practice is to refrain from placing blame on anyone in particular, whether it be yourself, your child, your child’s friends or your child’s school. Blaming someone doesn’t help, but can make things worse. Delicately work with your child and the situation. Talking to teachers and coaches can help – as long as it is done in a way that will not embarrass your child or make matters worse.
Resources are available.
Becoming educated on eating disorders is truly beneficial to you as individuals and as parents. No one has all of the answers. The National Eating Disorders Association is a great source of information. Check out their website here.