Do you suspect your child has an unhealthy relationship with food? Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes.
Jaime Taylor, D. O., director of Adolescent Medicine at Beaumont Children's, and her team see young patients with eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating and others. The most common is anorexia, with a median age of onset at 12 or 13.
Adolescence is a common time for eating disorders to begin. Typically, it's because that's a great time of change, specifically body change, for young women and young men.
Dr. Taylor suggest parents look for a few key warning signs if they suspect their child may have an eating disorder:
- an increased anxiety around food
- displays a change in behavior around meal times
- is uncomfortable eating in a large group
- weight loss
- always wearing baggy, or oversized clothing
- fear of becoming fat
- mood changes: anxiety, depression.
Eating disorders do not discriminate.
"If you asked me to describe a typical eating disorder, I wouldn't be able to," says Dr. Taylor. "They look different on everyone. Also, if you think it’s just a problem that affects girls, think again. Boys can develop eating disorders, too."
If you suspect an eating disorder, as a parent you need to tactfully communicate with your son or daughter and let them know you care. You might say, ‘I'm really concerned about the changes I've seen in your eating. I'm worried you're not feeding your body enough to continue to grow and develop the way you need to.’
Parents should contact their pediatrician to discuss their concerns. Eating disorders can be treated.
Focusing on on positive body image and teaching young people about media literacy leads to greater self-confidence and a decrease in likelihood to develop disordered eating.
If there's something that doesn't seem right about your child … and everybody else around you says, 'No, I think this is OK,' but you still have that nagging feeling, consult your physician. You know your child best.
Left untreated, eating disorders can lead to serious health issues.