Parents Fighting Eating Disorders
There is a saying that says that “having children is like having your heart permanently pinned on your sleeve”. There are many things that can cause parents to fear for their children, particularly when the children are reaching the teenage years and certain stages of development. Unfortunately, more and more parents are seeing their children afflicted with an eating disorder – which range from anorexia nervosa to bulimia to binge eating.
With all the pressures that your child may face, whether it is peers, media, siblings, the stresses of being a teenager and other genetic factors that are out of your control, it is frightening to recognize that he or she may be susceptible to an eating disorder. Eating disorders can strike any family, regardless of race, socioeconomic class or group, faith, ethnicity or culture. There is a rise in the prevalence of these illnesses in males as well.
Eating disorders pose serious health risks. These illnesses promote unhealthy behaviors that can have serious physical implications, particularly among teens. For instance, anorexia nervosa can result in malnutrition and bone loss, which can ones growth and development.
When signs and symptoms are present, parents seek eating disorder treatment to help their child or loved one.
Here are some signs that indicate the need to get eating disorder help:
- An obsession with being “thin”
- A compulsion to count calories and/or nutritional content of the food they are eating
- Weight loss that may be sudden or extreme
- Lack of appetite
- Keeping away from social occasions where food is involved, or isolating in other situations
- Bouts of dieting or consistent dieting
- Going to the bathroom during or after meals
- Spending a long time in the bathroom after meals
- Rarely admits he or she is hungry or alternatively, always hungry and eating but never gaining weight
- For bulimics, scrapes, scratches or calluses in the hand caused by inducing vomiting
- Redness of the eyes caused by broken blood vessels
- Food missing from the pantry or the refrigerator. This can also be marked by the child’s tendency to hoard or hide food in unlikely places.
- For girls, the absence of or irregular menstruation
- Frequent upset stomach
- Problems sleeping
- Bloating in the face and swollen hands or feet
- Yellowish skin
- Skin that is dry and hair that is thinning, dry or brittle
- Severe teeth problems
Promoting a healthy body image
Parents don’t generally cause eating disorders but you can watch for the symptoms as well as understand the importance of promoting a healthy body image. One important step is for parents to model healthy eating habits and behavior. Parents should avoid showing their children that they themselves are pre-occupied with their weight and appearance. Parents should also develop a healthy, loving relationship with their children and encourage open communication.
Here are other tips to help promote a good body image:
- Limit the use food as part of your discipline strategy. Food should not always be used to punish or reward a child for his or her behavior.
- Encourage exercise, but emphasize that it is for health purposes and because exercise is fun. Don’t encourage your child to exercise because he or she “needs to lose weight”.
- Limit unnecessary or extravagant compliments that are based on the child’s appearance. This may promote a value system that puts a premium exclusively on appearance and not on other aspects of a child’s personality. Focus instead on character qualities, such as friendliness, honesty, diligence or kindness.
- Focus on what your child does well – if he or she excels in a certain area or has a particular talent.
- Be alert for signs of an eating disorder.
- Educate your child about the negative health effects of an eating disorder
- Gently ask open questions without making your child feel that he or she is being judged.
Getting Help for Eating Disorders
Parents can also get treatment for anorexia nervosa, bulimia and other eating disorders. If you see your child exhibiting signs of an eating disorder, it is best to have him or her evaluated so a diagnosis can be made. That way, your child can find help or find a treatment program for an eating disorder.
Avalon Hills may be an option to get the treatment that your child needs. Avalon Hills is an eating disorder treatment center that provides a wealth of experiences that are aimed towards developing healthy behaviors and thinking that helps in overcoming the behaviors that are a part of the eating disorders.
Avalon Hills provides crucial help for anorexia nervosa, bulimia and other eating disorders. Some elements of the treatment program include individual and group psychotherapy, nutritional assessment and consultations, animal assisted therapy, psycho-educational classes, medical components and more.