We’re glad you joined us as we talk through eating disorders among kids today. This is an issue we feel passionate about. It is one of the most addictive struggles a child (or adult) can ever face and there is much you can do as a parent to help:
- What you model in your home in regard to food and body image is of the utmost importance. We tell parents often that your issues are often going to show up in the life of your child. If you struggle with your own body image or some type of eating disorder, get help—for your sake and theirs.
- Don’t make food an issue around your home. It is unhealthy to use food as a reward. But it is also unhealthy to focus on the fact that you are eating healthy all of the time. Eating disorders manifest themselves in a preoccupation with food and eating. Don’t further this by being preoccupied by food as a family. It is important to teach your child healthy eating, but not obsessive healthy eating.
- Give your child role models beyond the airbrushed supermodels of today. Read stories about girls and boys who are confident and adventurous—who find their identity in Christ rather than what they look like. You can do this through the media—books, movies, magazines, as well as other real role models you bring into their lives.
- Eating disorders are about much more than eating. They are about control and self-hatred. Many people who develop them are living in some type of chaotic life situation where they feel out of control. If you are going through a difficult time and your child feels that his or her life is out of control, find him someone to talk to. Give her choices in ways that are safe to help her feel more in control of her life. In terms of self-hatred, building up her or his identity in Christ will help to combat this. You can also help him or her find areas she can feel successful—whether in some type of activity, volunteering, or in relationships. And remind her or him that she is loved…and unique…and gifted like no one else God has ever created.
Finally, if you suspect that your child may have an eating disorder, get help. Talk to the pediatrician. Seek counsel from a professional counselor that you trust not only their reputation, but also their faith. Because eating disorders are often about control (and your child having some), if you try to monitor and control their eating, they’ll just try to control the situation even more. Let someone else handle that. Often a pediatrician, counselor, and nutritionist make a great team to help you deal with an eating disorder in your child. You don’t want to be fighting against your child in this situation. You want to be fighting FOR them. To find help outside of the family unit can allow you to be in their corner in this fight against food—with your primary job to be remind them of all of the good God has placed inside of them.
Signs and Symptoms:
- He sneaks food in his room.
- She eats a great deal of food at a time.
- He disappears at the end of every meal (other than the normal teenage “I just want to be in my room and be left alone.”)
- She skips meals or comes home without having spent her lunch money.
- He loses or gains a significant amount of weight.
- She becomes more secretive.
- You notice throw up when you clean the toilet.
- He starts to become obsessive about fat, calories, meal schedules, or food in general.
- She becomes fixated on her body.
- He hides magazines/catalogs to compare himself with other perfectly air-brushed bodies.
Books for Parents:
Raising Girls by Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff (more preventative)
Mom, I Feel Fat! by Sharon Hersh
Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Love Hunger by Frank Minrith, Paul Meier, Robert Hemfelt, Sharon Sneed, Don Hawkins
Books for Girls (preventative):
Mirrors and Maps by Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff (11-14 year-old girls)
Growing Up Without Getting Lost by Melissa Trevathan and Sissy Goff (15-19 year-old girls)
The Renfrew Center/www.renfrewcenter.com