How to Help Your Teenager:
Eating Disorders and Body Image Issues
I’d like to introduce you to Jamie Doak, who is a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate and an EDIT™ Certified III – Eating Disorder Treatment Clinician who works with adolescents in Denver, Colorado. She was a Counselor Intern under my supervision at Positive Pathways from September, 2014 through May, 2015. She is a knowledgeable and compassionate therapist, and you can contact her with any comments or questions, including how to get started with individual sessions (see bottom of article).
– Dr. Dorie
Teenage girls who diet are often depicted as shallow and vain, and are made fun of in many movies and TV shows. However, dieting is a warning sign that an adolescent has a negative body image or is developing an eating disorder. One in three teenage girls engage in fad diets, fasting, or take diet pills or laxatives to lose weight – and nearly half of 1st-3rd grade girls say that they wish they were thinner (Source: National Eating Disorders Association).
Other signs that your teenager may have negative body image or is developing an eating disorder are:
- Dramatic weight loss or drastic fluctuations
- A preoccupation with weight, food, food labels and dieting
- Excessive drinking of fluids or denial of hunger
- Avoidance of meal times or situations involving food
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Self-induced vomiting or abuse of laxatives
- Excessive, rigid exercise regimen
- A change in dress, such as oversized clothing to cover the body or revealing clothes to flaunt the weight loss(Source: Elizabeth Easton, PsyD)
If you think your teenager has an eating disorder, there are ways that you can help:
- Intervene Early. The sooner you are able to talk to your teenager, the sooner you will be able to figure out the level of care your teenager needs whether that is changing up how your family talks about food and bodies or finding a therapist who can provide some treatment strategies for your child.
- Ask Questions and Listen. Avoid accusing your teenager of having an eating disorder or implying that there is something wrong with the way they are eating – this will likely cause your teenager to become more secretive. Instead, ask questions and listen to their answers. “I noticed you’ve been skipping breakfast recently. What’s going on?” “I heard you talking to your friend about going on a liquid fast. What interests you about that diet?”
- Be Supportive and Get Help. If you are worried about your teenager’s health after having a conversation with them, get help. Talk to your primary care doctor and seek a therapist who can talk to your teenager about the symptoms of their eating disorder and other issues that might be contributing to it. While parents and guardians will always be the primary support systems, sometimes adolescents hear information better from someone who is not in their immediate family.
The important thing to remember is that it is not your fault that your teenager has an eating disorder and it is not theirs either. Positive body image and a healthy relationship with food is possible for your teenager and you are the most important partner in their journey to recovery.
Looking for guidance with body image? JAMIE DOAK, MA, LPCC (the author of this blog article) is an EDIT™ Certified III – Eating Disorder Treatment Clinician who works with adolescents in Denver, Colorado. You can contact her with comments or questions, or to become a client! – EMAIL JAMIE
Interested in a FREE consultation with Dr. Dorie? Dr. Dorie is passionate about her method of Eating Disorder Intuitive Therapy (EDIT)™ to help people overcome eating disorders and addictions. She provides customized counseling for eating disorders and alcohol / drug addiction at her Positive Pathways treatment center in Evergreen, Colorado – and EDIT™ eating disorder training and certification for coaches and clinicians worldwide. CALL 303-494-1975 – EMAIL DR. DORIE – GET CERTIFIED