When Should I Worry about my Teenager’s Eating Problem?

What is the difference between normal behaviour and that which may indicate an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia?

Most teens worry about their appearance, don’t they? During the teen years and adolescence, self – image and body consciousness is rife. However, if you have noticed that your teen or tween has been fixated on weight or their eating – you are probably right to be concerned.

Body Dysmorphia

Teens with a distorted image of their bodies, see a totally different image when they look in the mirror. We might think they have lost weight, got a bit thin, but THEY see their body as “gross” and “fat”, “ugly” – “ disgusting” and no amount of reassurance from family or friends will change their perception of themselves.


Young people and teens, who are developing an eating disorder, are totally fixated on their appearance as a measure of their self – worth. Normally children, teens and young adults are only interested in their achievements, their hobbies and their friends, but kids with an eating disorder are wrapped up in thoughts of food, their weight, and how they look.

Anorexia Nervosa –

Anorexia nervosa which is the most common of the eating disorders, usually affects the high achievers, youngsters who are academically brilliant, athletes, perfectionists – they are all driven to get a skinny body, in their eyes “ the perfect body” because they have a distorted self -image. The reason anorexia can be hard to detect in these youngsters is because it DOES affect the high performers.


Youngsters struggling with bulimia, indulge in periodic and secret binges. They say they feel wonderful during these binges and some even describe it as “an out of body experience”  To compensate for all the food they eat they will purge afterwards by being sick or taking laxatives to get the food out of their body. Sometimes youngsters with bulimia may have a normal weight due to all the food they do it, or they may even be overweight.

“So, what do I Look for if I think my youngster may have an Eating Disorder?”

Children and teens with an eating disorder try to hide their eating behaviours as they know its wrong and unhealthy. However, there are still some signs that you, as a parent may notice:

Signs of Anorexia:

  • Being dangerously thin and losing weight.
  • Despite their extreme thinness, kids with anorexia usually don’t think that they are unhealthy and actually want to lose even more weight.
  • Obsessing over nutritional facts about the food they eat and counting calories
  • Spending many hours exercising to burn off calories even to the extent of doing hundreds of sit ups in their bedroom.
  • Skipping meals
  • They will avoid eating socially altogether
  • Females will have Irregular periods, thinning hair, and constant exhaustion

Signs of Bulimia:

  • Doing excessive exercise or using diet pills or laxatives
  • Going to the toilet immediately after meals
  • Spending a lot of time in the bathroom sometimes being sick
  • Having a sore throat from vomiting, sore knuckles, discoloured teeth.
  • Hoarding food in their room
  • Noticing food going missing from the kitchen

So, what can I do as a Parent?

  • Make a routine of eating healthy, balanced meals as a family.
  • Talk about foods in terms of how healthy they are, not how “good” or “bad” they are.
  • Never criticize your child’s weight or appearance.
  • Adolescence and the teen years are a difficult time for most kids, and it’s imperative to provide them with a nurturing and supportive environment.
  • Some youngsters are more likely than others to develop eating disorders. Be extra vigilant if you have a family history of eating disorders or if you know that your child is under extreme pressure to look a certain way.

Eating disorders in children, teens and young adults can be extremely serious, and in some cases, can be fatal. If you are at all worried about your child, do seek help straightaway as these problems don’t just go away.

Contact me at www.focus-hypnotherapy.co.uk even if I feel I can’t help you I can certainly advise you and refer you.

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