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Helping Teens with Body Image Issues and Eating Disorders

December 14, 2012

By Lori Hanson

Have you noticed that lately your teenage daughter or son is making a lot of comments about their body, or food? Is there a recurring theme to each day that includes:

“I’m too fat”
“I can’t eat that or I’ll gain weight”
“I look terrible in these jeans”
“I wish I looked like her/him”
“I wish I looked like Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus…”
“I’m just not hungry” meal after meal.
“I’ll just eat later” or “I’ll eat in my room”

For the teen boys it might be more about gaining weight, working out and lifting weights to be more buff and tough.

Adolescence is such a difficult time in life. It’s the time when you teen isn’t a child any more and they aren’t adults yet. There is a big gap in where they fit in. And other kids at school are more than mean in many instances, from mild versions of making fun of your teen to full-on bullying. All of these experiences are absorbed by your daughter or son. Coupled with what they hear at home, from their teachers, at church or community events.

The media is only one issue constantly showing thin images that makes young girls think that is how they need to look. But if your teen is around someone (maybe even you) who often talks about weight, going on a diet, or what foods they can or can’t have, it will have a strong impact. In addition, constantly riding your teen about what they are eat, or their weight will feed into concerns they have about their body.

If you are just beginning to notice these type of comments and that your teen is becoming more isolated, it could be an early sign of eating disorder behavior. It’s time to address is before it grows. But if you talk to them about what they’re feeling and experiencing don’t be surprised if you hit a brick wall known as denial. This is embarrassing for them and they may not be ready to admit it. It may also be the one area in life where they feel they have some control, and letting it go is the last thing they want to do.

If you see the behavior getting worse and your teen is beginning to lose a lot of weight, is exercising excessively, or spending time in the bathroom after meals it may be time to enlist outside help. (Many people are not aware than not all bulimics purge (throw up) so the behavior may vary. Bulimics can use laxatives, excessive exercise and diet pills to avoid purging.)

The end goal in helping your teen overcome body image issues and develop a healthy relationship to food and their body is to help them:

  • Improve their self-esteem
  • Develop a healthy attitude toward their body
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle through holistic nutrition and nutritional therapy
  • Learn proactive tools and techniques they can use to deal with the stress in their lives so they don’t feel the need to numb out and shut down
  • Feel comfortable talking. Open the door of communication for them. If they aren’t comfortable talking with you (because you’re the parent and they are a teen) find someone they can trust and are comfortable talking to

These are just a few basic steps you can take to help your teen through the adolescent years. As the New Year approaches, many people, including your teen, may be ready to reach out and get help to get back on track and feel better.

To help your teenager and get advice to you’re looking for, visit our online community where both you and your teen can attend bi-monthly support calls, special classes and get more resources you need to help the entire family.


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