"Many adolescents observe their parents worrying about weight and diet," said Dr. Deborah Mollo, pediatrician at CareMount Medical in Mount Kisco. "Often times, adults don’t realize the messages they convey to their kids through these actions. A parent who is frequently exercising and dieting to lose weight can unknowingly influence their child’s own self-image and eating habits." To avoid creating a 'thin at all costs' environment, parents should be careful about what they say and do when dealing with food, diet, and weight.
Even in healthy households, children can succumb to weight pressures. "A major indicator of poor self-image and a potential eating disorder is when a normal-weight teen frequently talks about dieting and exercising, and expresses a desire to be thinner," said Mollo. In serious cases, teens will engage in binging or purging by vomiting and exercising at a dangerous rate. When these warning signs become present, intervention is critical.
For some teens, talking to a doctor, keeping a food diary, and attending regular check-ups is enough to improve their attitude toward food and themselves. Other patients may use a counselor or therapist to help treat the underlying psychological and emotional issues that trigger eating disorders.
Sadly, many teens suffering from eating disorders receive reinforcement from comments like, “You look great!” from unknowing friends and family. Well-meaning but harmful 'encouragement' like this can make coming to grips with a dangerous lifestyle difficult for teens. That's why by creating a support group of parents and friends, teens can conquer self-image issues and live a healthy lifestyle.
To learn more about teen eating disorders, visit CareMount Medical's website.