“Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes and weights.” https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/what-are-eating-disorders
Teens struggle with LOTS of things during their adolescent years and food, exercise, shape/weight could be amongst those. Below are a list of warning signs that may indicate that your teen is struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder.
1. Obsessed with Health
If your teen has a new found interest in all things health, it may be something to keep an eye on. Eating disorders love categorizing foods as “good or bad”, “healthy or unhealthy” and learning nutrition facts and diets fads may be a way that eating disorder thoughts are presenting in your child’s life.
2. Excessive/Rigid Exercise To follow point #1, if your teen is exercising more than usual or is very persistent on sticking to their exercise routine, this may be an early warning sign. Eating disorders tap into a person’s perfectionistic tendencies, natural need for routine and take over. Exercise in eating disorders is typically known as a compensatory behavior and is used to “make up” for eating something.
3. Behaviors Surrounding Food
If you notice your teen is more anxious or irritable than usual prior to a meal or is running from the dining table as soon as the meal is over. If food is going missing or you find your teen is hiding or hoarding food. If they are hiding in their room or the bathroom for a long period of time post-meal, this may be something to take note of. Anxiety before meals (or a specific meal) may be related to eating disorder thoughts or “fear foods”. Hoarding food could be a sign that your teen is bingeing late at night and hiding in a bathroom may be related to body-checking or purging.
4. Cutting Foods out of their Diet
If your teen is cutting out categories of foods - carbs, fats, dairy - or is now not eating previously liked foods, this may be because they fall into the “good or bad” category, this may also be a food they typically binge on.
5. Intense Interest in Prepping Food
Teens do gain interest in cooking, however, if your teen is persistent about being involved in the preparation of their food, making comments during the process or being strict about measuring things out - this may be a way eating disorder thoughts are presenting.
Struggling with body image is also a warning sign for eating disorders, however, most teens struggle with their body image as a lot of changes occur during the ages of 13 - 18 . Body image is a little harder to nail down as a warning sign independently, however, if coupled with a few others, take note.
These are not by any means the only warnings signs to an eating disorder or disordered eating and signs will show up very individualized, however, these are just some things to look out for and may be flags that your teen is struggling and needs to talk to a professional about underlying issues.
For more information on eating disorders visit: nationaleatingdisorders.org
To get your teen help with an eating disorder or disordered eating, please reach out today!
Stephanie Polizzi is a licensed psychotherapist (LMHC) in Scarsdale, NY at Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling.
Stephanie specializes in tweens, teens and adults struggling with anxiety, eating disorders, behavioral challenges, life transitions and trauma.