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Eating Disorders

Understand the Challenge
Understand the Challenge
What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are often not just about food. They tend to develop as a way of dealing with life’s challenges, as is often the case with drug and alcohol abuse or gambling. Eating disorders can lead to significant health problems. In addition to the physical effects on the body, the unhealthy behavior often spirals into feelings of guilt, social withdrawal, and increased feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem.

For many who suffer from eating disorders, controlling food intake and weight allow them to feel “in control” or and empowered. While eating disorders offer some temporary relief form very real emotional conflicts, long-term physical consequences and emotional aftermath (including feelings of guilt and self-loathing) pose significant long-term challenges as the disease progresses.

  • 25% of people with Anorexia are male. 40% of binge eaters are male.

    - Hope 4 Eating Disorders, 2008
  • Over 1/2 of teen girls and nearly 1/3 of teen boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.

    - Neumark-Sztainer, 2005
  • 40%-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life.

    - Smolak, 2011
  • Alcohol and other substance abuse disorders are 4 times more common to occur with those with eating disorders than in the general populations.

    - Harrop & Marlatt, 2010
  • A review of nearly 50 years of research confirms that anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

    Arcelus, Mitchell, Wales, & Nielsen, 2011
Signs of Eating Disorders

There are three prevalent types of eating disorders. People suffering from Anorexia Nervosa are obsessed with being thin and often eat very little. Those with Bulimia Nervosa are also fearful of gaining weight, but engage in excessive eating followed by self-induced vomiting, use of diuretics, laxatives, and/or excessive exercise to rid the calories consumed. Compulsive eaters generally overeat as a means of coping with and/or avoiding difficult emotions.

For many who suffer from eating disorders, controlling food intake and weight allow them to feel “in control” or powerful over something. While eating disorders offer some temporary relief from very real emotional conflicts, long-term physical consequences and emotional aftermath (including feelings of guilt and self loathing) pose significant long-term challenges as the disease progresses.

  • Anorexia Nervosa ("Ana")
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting
  • Distorted body image and perfectionism
  • Visiting pro-anorexia websites
  • Extreme calorie and/or fat restriction
  • Obsession with what can and cannot be eaten – “good” & “bad” food lists
  • Self-induced vomiting after meals
  • Family history of eating disorders or abuse
  • Dishonesty about eating / hiding food
  • Difficulty expressing feelings
  • Regular fasting and skipping of meals
  • Embarrassment/shame/anxiety about eating in public to the point of refusal
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, etc.)
  • Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss
  • Physical symptoms, including mood swings, depression, limited energy, brittle nails
  • Two skipped periods (menstrual cycles) in conjunction with weight loss
  • Use of diet pills or laxatives (for weight loss or due to fear of weight gain)
  • Excessive exercise/ calorie counting/ portion controlling
  • Sudden decision to become a vegetarian
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, and/or hobbies
  • Denial of hunger
  • Anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat"
  • Avoiding mealtimes or situations involving food
  • Focus on diet books and/or dieting behavior
  • Food rituals (eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, etc.)
  • Going to the bathroom shortly/immediately after meals (anxiety, if not)
  • Excessive consumption of nutritionally unbalanced meals
  • Fainting, headaches, slowed thinking, poor memory
  • A history of falling outside of recommended BMI ranges at annual physicals
  • Bulimia Nervosa ("Mia")
  • Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or finding wrappers and containers indicating the consumption of large amounts of food
  • Self-induced vomiting after meals
  • Family history of eating disorders or abuse
  • Dishonesty about eating/hiding food
  • Difficulty expressing feelings
  • Use of diet pills or laxatives (for weight loss or due to fear of weight gain)
  • Going to the bathroom shortly/immediately after meals (anxiety, if not)
  • Excessive consumption of nutritionally unbalanced meals
  • Fainting, eroding tooth enamel, and headaches, slowed thinking, poor memory
  • A history of falling outside of recommended BMI ranges at annual physicals
  • Excessive exercise/ calorie counting/portion controlling
  • Unusual swelling of the face
  • Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles
  • Discoloration or staining of the teeth
  • Schedules or rituals to make time for binging and purging
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, and/or hobbies

  • Compulsive Eating
  • Difficulty controlling portion size
  • Eating when bored, stressed, tired, sad, and angry
  • Frequently eating in response to cravings
  • Eating alone due to embarrassment
  • Feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt
  • Periods of eating much more rapidly than usual
  • Exhibits low or hyper self-esteem
  • Excessive food consumption
  • High sugar consumption
  • Excessive consumption of nutritionally unbalanced meals
  • Large amounts of missing foods
  • A history of falling outside of recommended BMI ranges at annual physicals
Parent Guide
Ask your kids about the amplif(i) presentations they saw at school.

What choices did the speaker make that they can or cannot relate to, what did they learn?
 

Tell your kids what your family’s position is on healthy eating habits.

Talk to your spouse, agree on your family’s position, and share that with your kid. Make that position very clear and always remain consistent, don’t waiver.
 

Listen more than you talk.

If your kid is willing to talk, listen without judgment, no matter how irrational she or he may sound.
 

Be a role model for healthy eating, exercise, and body image.

Avoid negative comments about your own or anyone else’s body. Even the most subtle comment about the body can do significant damage.
 

Expect denial, defensiveness, and anger as you work with your kid.

People with eating disorders are hurting, and this hurt often creates irritability, fear, anger, and defensiveness. It is important to listen without interrupting or judging.
 

If you believe your kid is suffering from an eating disorder, communicate your concerns.

Share your memories of specific times when you felt concerned about your kid’s eating or exercise behaviors. Explain that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional attention, and that you want your kid to feel supported by someone he/she trusts.
 

Understand that eating disorders are challenging, but treatment is do-able.

You must stay positive, affirmative, and firm in your conviction that recovery can be achieved. Understand that eating disorders present a complex set of challenges that typically require intervention from a team of professionals. Neither parents nor youth are likely to be able to solve this illness on their own. Please ask for help.
 

Don’t “insist” that your son or daughter has an eating disorder.

Instead, seek the advice of someone you trust like your family physician or psychologist. Perhaps you may use your kid’s annual physical as a way to explore the extent to which a problem is present. It would be a good idea to alert your doctor ahead of time about your concerns.
 

Focus more on their health, relationships, and future than on current weight or appearance

Work to avoid power struggles or comments that might foster feelings of guilt or shame. Convey feelings of respect and concern about your kid’s need for professional assistance. Emphasize that you want your kid around and healthy for many years. Our kid must hear we love them just the way they are.
 

Don’t blame yourself.

Instead, take steps to be the most effective and supportive parent that you can be. Remain calm as you set firm limits insisting that your teen not skip meals or eat alone. Avoid power struggles in which you may be viewed as the "food police." Be ready to accept the advice of the doctors if they believe that a hospital stay is required to safely address the disease. Be especially firm if your kid pleads with you to leave him/her alone or promises to change on his/her own.
 

Seek assistance from professionals with specific expertise in treating eating disorders.

Ask your kid to explore concerns with a counselor, doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional who is knowledgeable about eating issues. If you feel comfortable doing so, offer your help to make an appointment or accompany your kid on their first visit. A nutritional counselor will be helpful in designing meal plans that address nutritional deficiencies and facilitate success. The services of a behavioral/mental health professional will be invaluable in managing impulses to eat or avoid eating as well as in addressing emotional difficulties that often underlie eating-disordered behaviors.

 

Emergency Resources

notMYkid is not a counseling or treatment agency. We are here to offer support, information and options. Destructive youth behaviors do not discriminate and have impacted many lives. A number of resources are available, and will assist you in finding the help necessary to make informed and empowered choices.

Teen Lifeline

602-248-TEEN (8336)
or 1-800-248-TEEN (8336)

National Teen Helplines

800-273-8255
800-784-2433
800-621-4000

Community Information and Referral Services

602-263-8856
(800-352-3792 within
area codes 520 and 928)

Maricopa 24-Hour Crisis Hotline

602-222-9444

Across Arizona
1-800-631-1314

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