“From Flab to Fab in 3 Simple Steps”
“New Research Shows Sugar is Toxic”
“How to Get Bikini Ready”
“Five Foods to Fight FAT”
“Drop a Dress Size in 7 Days!”
Have you ever thought about the impact these types of headlines have on you, your child, or your family?
In this day and age, it seems we are bombarded from every direction with messages telling us of the latest diets, detoxes and cleanses, which foods to avoid, and the myriad of products and programs that can help us lose weight and get the “perfect” body.
But what messages are all these ads and articles really sending us and our children?
Dieting is the SINGLE greatest risk factor for the development of an eating disorder, yet this is a practice that is endorsed and encouraged across almost every media outlet that we (and our children) are exposed to. Young people who engage in moderate dieting are 6 times more likely to develop and eating disorder than young people who don’t.
Females from age 14 to 25 are most at risk for developing an eating disorder, although eating disorders also occur in males and can present earlier or later for some individuals.
Some other risk factors for developing an eating disorder that parents can be aware of include:
- Low self-esteem or poor body image
- Perfectionistic personality style or a tendency to be impulsive
- Difficulty managing stress or strong emotions
- Family history of dieting or an eating disorder
- Childhood obesity, parental obesity, or negative comments from others about eating, weight or appearance
- Traumatic experiences during childhood, e.g. abuse, death in family, family breakdown
- Involvement in activities or competition with a focus on weight or shape, e.g. modelling, dancing, sports with weight divisions or significant training requirements
What may begin as a young person trying to eat healthier or perform better at their sport (e.g. cutting out “bad” foods or increasing their exercise regime) can lead to disordered eating and the development of an eating disorder in some cases.
Some warning signs that parents can watch out for include:
- Changes in eating patterns or behaviours, e.g. avoiding meals with family, skipping meals, eating alone or in secret, restricting the types of food eaten, hiding or throwing out food, overeating, food going missing from pantry or refrigerator
- Physical changes, e.g. weight loss or fluctuations in weight, increase in frequency, intensity or duration of exercise, exercising in secret, evidence of vomiting or use of diet pills or laxatives, complaints of constipation, stomach aches, coldness or dizziness, loss of periods (if female)
- Changes in thinking or attitudes, e.g. rules or rigidity about food and eating, dissatisfaction with body, placing high value on appearance or thinness, increase in weighing or measuring body parts, low self-esteem, focusing on physical flaws
- Changes in interacting with others, e.g. increased withdrawal or isolation from family or friends, concerns that others are judging them, difficulty talking about feelings
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have severe physical consequences, including death. Recovery from an eating disorder is possible, and preventing the development from dieting or disordered eating to a clinical eating disorder is even better. For further reading and resources on eating disorders please visit Feed Your Instinct.
If you are concerned that you or your child are demonstrating some of the warning signs of an eating disorder, make an appointment with a psychologist experienced in eating disorders. Families in Melbourne's west can call 97311656 to make an appointment at Hopscotch & Harmony to discuss your concerns and to get support for your family.
About the author:
Tamika Doyle is a Hopscotch & Harmony psychologist passionate about working with teens and adults presenting with body image concerns, low self-esteem and eating disorders. She aims to empower her clients to make positive changes in their lives. Tamika is highly skilled in providing evidence based treatment for anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. Read more about Tamika