February marks National Eating Disorders Awareness Month, and it is the perfect time to open up more conversations about the issues that surround eating disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders are defined as illnesses that disrupt a person’s eating behaviors.
There are multiple types of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Eating disorders can, and do, affect people across ages, cultures, and races. The average age of onset of an eating disorder is 18 years old.
If you are concerned about your teen, or if you want more information, take a look at some of the most common warning signs of eating disorders in teenagers below.
Adopting a restrictive diet
Teenagers should have a well-rounded diet, full of healthy foods. If your teen is no longer eating certain food groups, out of the blue and without solid reason, this could be a sign of an eating disorder.
Making excuses to not eat with the family
If your teen is no longer eating at the dinner table, or is making excuses to not eat with family members, this could be a sign of an eating disorder.
If you are cleaning your teen’s bedroom and discover food, wrappers, or containers carefully hidden, this could indicate that your child is eating in secret or is ashamed of extra snacking they may be doing away from the kitchen table.
Statements intensely focused on body image
Listen carefully for how your teen talks about their body, and the bodies of others. Phrases that are either positive or negative can indicate a problem, and noticing an increase in body talk that is not usually normal for your teen can be helpful.
Excessive trips to the gym
Eating disorders can pair tightly with an unhealthy relationship with exercise. While extracurricular sports practices are certainly considered normal, watch for your teen keeping up excessive exercise such as running five miles before school or going to the gym at late hours of night, even if they have already worked out earlier in the day.
Remember, all teens are different and can exhibit eating disorder warning signs differently. As a parent, you know your child best. Follow your intuition and consider getting help if you feel something is just not quite right. You can check out our Get Help page to find professionals in the area who are ready to guide your teen, and your family, to healing.