Teens often struggle with their body image. Their bodies are changing, they are receiving attention for those changes (positively and negatively).
The body can be a source of power or a source of shame. Because of society's obsession with the female form, this can lead to many eating issues in girls. (But of course, eating issues can affect boys as well.)
For this article I'll focus on 3 types of eating issues and what to do.
1. When she eats too much but doesn't gain weight.
This may indicate an eating disorder called Bulimia. Binging is when she eats a large amount of food at one time, and Purging is when she gets rid of the food via vomiting, a diuretic, or exercise. It is difficult to know when your daughter is suffering from Bulimia, as she may make you think that everything is fine. Often people with Bulimia don't gain or lose any weight, and are often high achievers. They often binge in secret.
2. When she eats too much and gains weight.
This is the most common eating disorder. It's called Binge-Eating Disorder. (It was added to the diagnostic manual in 2013.) It's normal for teens to eat more than they used to. They are rapidly growing and need calories to keep up with them. If you have noticed more than a few pounds being put on or if your doctor has diagnosed her as overweight, do not fear. You can help her lose weight and enjoy her body.
3. When she doesn't eat enough and needs to gain weight.
This is called Anorexia. Some people are just skinny. But when your daughter is 10% below her expected weight for her height, she may be Anorexic. Like Bulimia, people with Anorexia may have personalities that make it look like everything is okay. They may be perfectionistic, have straight A's in school, and put pressure on themselves to perform well. They may also be a bit irritable and controlling.
A sudden change in her body weight may indicate another issue such as substance use or depression. If you notice a change, it may be helpful to take her to a counselor for an assessment.
Here's a few tips to help your child have a positive body image. Please note that these tips are not designed to treat an eating disorder, but to create healthy habits.
If you think your teen may be suffering from a body image concern, I strongly recommend getting a consultation with a qualified professional such as a doctor or counselor, as eating disorders are very serious and can be deadly. In working with people suffering from these body issues, I often use a doctor and a nutritionist in my treatment team.
If you think you, your son, or your daughter may be struggling with body image concerns, help is available.
Copyright © 2022 Jeannie Colvin, MFT - All Rights Reserved.
Newport Beach, CA 949-241-0042