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Eating Disorders


Eating Disorders


Do you often say, "I'm too fat" or "I need to go on a diet"? How often do you make these comments in front of your child? As a parent or caregiver, you can help prevent eating disorders before they occur by being a good role model. Adopt a healthy lifestyle to keep physically fit, eat more nutritious foods, let your teen help you prepare healthy meals, and stay away from crash diets. Also, it's important to model self-esteem to your teen-if your teen hears you say things like "I'm too fat" about your own body, she may end up thinking the same way about her own body.


National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, February 26-March 4,2006, is a great time to promote positive body image and healthy eating in your teen as well as to adopt these practices for yourself. This year's theme is "Be Comfortable in your Genes� will highlight the fact that body size and shape are strongly influenced by biological factors such as genetics. Fighting your natural size and shape can lead to unhealthy dieting practices, poor body image and sometimes eating disorders.


According to the National Eating Disorders Association, "5 to 10 million girls and women and 1 million boys and men are struggling with eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or borderline conditions."1 Dieting, personal or family history of obesity or eating disorders, substance abuse, and depression are factors that contribute to eating disorders. People with eating disorders also tend to be overly self-critical and have low self-esteem.


Of course, never make fun of your child's appearance. Encourage your teen to maintain a healthy weight rather than conform to a "beauty ideal." Remember, a number on a scale is not necessarily a good indicator of how healthy a person's weight is. The body mass index (BMI), which measures the amount of body fat and muscle a person has, is a more reliable indicator; an excess of body fat is always unhealthy, as is a lack of sufficient body fat and muscle. A doctor can help you and your teen determine whether he is a healthy weight.


The Nation's obsession with thinness can have devastating consequences for teens. It's important for parents and caregivers to be on the lookout for warning signs, which may include: �

  • Complaining about being fat �   
  • Skipping meals �
  • Avoiding certain foods �
  • Showing fear of gaining weight.


Physical signs include: �

  • Slower breathing rate �
  • Stop to menstruation �
  • Growth of fine hair on the body �
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation
  • Joint swelling


Your teen may feel cold all of the time as body temperature falls. Starvation, heart failure, kidney failure, or other fatal consequences may follow. If you think your teen may have an eating disorder, consult a family doctor. Ignoring the problem or thinking that it will go away on its own may only cause the child more medical problems.


Source: National Mental Health Information Center. Eating Disorders Awareness Week, last referenced 2/18/2004. .

Additional Resources:

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Women's Body Image and Health

Binge Eating Disorders

National Centers of Excellence in Women's Health, "Eating Disorders"

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