How can I tell if my teen has an eating disorder?
Real Mom Problem
“My 16-year-old daughter is crazy about her weight. I checked her Body Mass Index and she was one percentile underweight. I'm worried. She always looks at herself saying she looks fat.”
- 1. Look for signs of a teen eating disorder, such as rapid weight loss, secretive behavior, changes in eating habits, poor body image, or wearing baggy clothes
- 2. Don't focus on your teen's appearance; focus on being healthy
- 3. Talk to your teen's doctor or a counselor if you have concerns
Real Mom Solutions
Are you worried your teen might have an eating disorder? See how these moms determined if their teens were struggling with anorexia, bulimia, or other diet and body issues.
My teen has an eating disorder and it has been going on for five years now. She is learning how to cope with it. I would say the biggest clue is the secrecy. She started to change the way in which she would communicate with us. She shut down.
It depends on which eating disorder they have. The signs are different but there are some the same. Secrecy is the biggest one. There are sites out there that promote anorexia and there is a list of thousands of tips for girls to lie to their parents and still not eat. Some teens also have contests about who is the skinniest.
Talk to your daughter's coach (or teachers) about her eating and see if he or she has noticed any changes in your daughter. Along with that, I would make her sit down to dinner with you and eat her meal. Make sure she has some say in what is being served. Not in a "I want steak or lobster every night" way but in a "Let's have salad with our meal" or her choice of veggies way.
Is she spending a lot more time in the bathroom? Does she go into the bathroom as soon as she gets up from the table? Have you checked her room, in her closet, under her bed, or anywhere she can hide vomit? You need to be paying attention to this stuff.
I would take your daughter's phone NOW, and find out who she is talking to, and what they are saying. If it is internet capable, I would check the history. If she is on the computer at home, check her usage history. Look to see if she has been on any "pro-ana" and/or "pro-mia" sites. These websites promote and glorify anorexia (ana) and bulimia (mia). Talk to her coach and see what he has to say. Call her doctor, and let them know your concerns, and make an appointment for a complete physical and see if they test her nutrition levels. Talk to her dad and let him know what is going on. A child who is not eating well to the point that they have NO energy and are hyper-secretive about friends and phone conversations sends up red flags. If you can, pinpoint when it started, or what changed in your daughter's life. New friends? New boyfriend? Loss of old friends? Take a look and try to talk to her about what is possibly going on.
I struggled with eating as a teen and into my early 20s. I lost so much weight I was down to 80 pounds. I hid it from my parents well for a while. My mom caught me throwing up after eating dinner one night. She didn't yell at me when she caught me getting sick. She simply said, you cannot continue to do this. I looked at her pretty much like, "whatever mom." I continued doing it and a couple weeks later there was a large envelope on my bed and it contained reading material from the Mayo Clinic with true stories of people with eating disorders and these stories scared me to death. After reading everything, my mom asked what I thought and I told her. It actually got me to open up and be able to talk to my mom about what I was going through. It took me a long while to conquer it but I did, with the help of my mom. I guess what I am saying is YES, talk to your daughter.
I would try to talk to your daughter as openly as possible about her weight loss and if you get nowhere, get her to a doctor or therapist or both. I am someone with a former eating disorder and it usually happens to those of us with low self-esteem who also happen to be people-pleasers.
Always trust your mommy-sense. If you feel there is a problem, demonstrated by changes in behavior, it certainly won't hurt to have your daughter checked out.