The other day I heard my 13-year-old daughter complain, “I’m fat.” She's started to stay away from family meals and says she's not hungry. I’m upset that she’s already worried about her weight and that she may be developing an eating disorder. How do I know if there’s a problem and what can I do to help her if there is?
It's common for teens to be concerned about how they look and to feel self-conscious about their weight. During puberty, kids' bodies change dramatically and they face mounting social pressures, like dating, making friends, and fitting in. But when these concerns become obsessions or begin to involve abnormal behaviors or negative thoughts about body image, weight, and food, eating disorders can occur.
Someone who starts to do things that are emotionally or physically dangerous to lose weight may have an eating problem. Other signs of an eating disorder include becoming very thin, having a fear of weight gain, playing with or moving food around on the plate instead of eating it, exercising compulsively, loss of menstrual periods, or constantly talking about weight and food. Some people with eating disorders binge eat, then induce vomiting, use laxatives, or use diuretics.
If you're concerned that your daughter may have an eating disorder, it's important to get her the help she may need right away. Let her know that you're worried because of the things that you have noticed. Disordered eating can be very dangerous and can lead to a variety of health problems. Have your daughter talk to a counselor, doctor, or a mental health professional.
Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: March 2010
|Center for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia This nonprofit organization is concerned with effective treatment, specialized training, significant research, and increased community understanding. Contact the group at: Center for the Study of Anorexia and Bulimia|
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|National Eating Disorders Association The NEDA is a nonprofit association dedicated to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders. Contact them at: National Eating Disorders Association|
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Suite 803 Seattle, WA 98101
|BeingGirl This website offers answers to questions about puberty and menstruation, as well as information about music and fashion, quizzes, and games.|
|Body Dysmorphic Disorder For teens, concerns about appearances often take center stage. But if these concerns are all-consuming, cause extreme distress, and keep them from doing and thinking about other things, it may be a sign of a condition called body dysmorphic disorder.|
|Binge Eating Disorder Kids who eat unusually large amounts of food - and feel guilty or secretive about it - could be struggling with an eating disorder called binge eating disorder.|
|Eating Disorders Eating disorders are common among teens and kids, especially young women. Read about the warning signs, prevention strategies, and ways to help a child with an eating disorder.|
|Encouraging a Healthy Body Image A healthy and positive body image means liking your body, appreciating it, and feeling grateful for its qualities and capabilities. Parents can help kids develop a healthy body image.|
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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