In the following blog, a teenager who has overcome an eating disorder reflects on what she wishes more parents knew about the condition. For more information visit Children’s Center for Young Women website, or this parent’s guide to eating disorders.
I never thought I was fat. In fact, I liked the way I looked before I developed an eating disorder and liked my body less and less as I continued to lose weight. What a lot of people, including my parents, didn’t understand is that an eating disorder functions as a coping mechanism for other problems in someone’s life.
As I met more people who suffered from eating disorders, I realized that many of us had something in common. Many felt some sort of loss of control in their life and had used their eating disorder as a reaction or way to deal with it. Although for some people bad body image did play a large role in what started their eating disorder, for a lot of people it was the feeling of losing control in their life that they discovered was the initial cause of their eating disorder.
People with anorexia nervosa feel like they are able to gain control through extreme dieting and strict rules around food. They control what they eat, and eventually the shape and size of their body. Although it is an unhealthy coping mechanism, the eating disorder gives them a sense of relief that there is one thing in their life they can completely control without anyone else being able to have an influence. …
Sometimes, parenting can be like walking on a balance beam. You lean too far either way and, well, bad things can happen.
This is especially true when it comes to teaching your kids healthy eating and exercise habits. You don’t want your child to be obese—and yet, you don’t want to say things that might push them toward an eating disorder. Since both obesity and eating disorders are on the rise, this is a real issue for parents today.
It can be particularly tough when kids are adolescents. Their bodies are changing, peer pressure and hormones rule their lives, they are exploring their independence and their identities. An offhand comment can have unexpected consequences.
I was talking about this the other day with a friend of mine from medical school, Dr. Sara Forman. She’s the director of the Eating Disorders Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, a primary care doctor and the mom of two teens. This is territory she knows well.
“You want to encourage healthy behaviors, but you don’t want to be too controlling,” she said. “Kids need some degree of guidance, but you need to know when to back off.” …
From the schoolhouse to the White House, everyone is talking about America’s childhood obesity epidemic. And while raising awareness on the issue is vital, is it possible that our obsession with the topic is causing some kids to go in the opposite direction? According to data released by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the answer may be yes.
The journal Pediatrics recently published a study that shows eating disorders in young children are on the rise, especially among children younger than 12 years old. What’s worse, the degree of the disorders may be intensifying; the study showed a 119 percent increase in eating disorder hospitalizations among preteens when compared to data collected in the mid 1990s. The fact that these numbers surfaced around the time the media took such an interest in obesity has some people wondering if there’s a correlation. …
Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Children’s Hospital Boston’s media expert and director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston.
Last week he talked about the subtleties of racial humor and if children picked up on them, or if they simply reinforced negative stereotypes. This week he advises a father on how to talk to his daughter about the recent emotional breakdown of her favorite pop star.
Q: My 6-year-old adores singer/actress Demi Lovato: She watches her Disney Channel show, “Sonny with a Chance” (with supervision), listens to her albums, and went to see Demi as her first concert this summer. But now the media are reporting that Demi just checked into rehab for “physical and emotional issues” that may involve an eating disorder and cutting issues. My daughter shares a playground and bus ride with older kids who are bound to be talking about this. There’s almost no way we can keep her away from the story, so how do I even begin explaining concepts like rehab, eating disorders and cutting to a 6-year-old?
Star-Struck-Down Dad in Boston, MA …