Parenting Food and Nutrition

Anorexia: An eating disorder that affects teens!

Shikha Garg
11 to 16 years

Created by Shikha Garg
Updated on Jul 05, 2017

Anorexia An eating disorder that affects teens

Last Sunday, there was a birthday party at our relative's place.I met Ruby again after three years, she is now 15. She is a state level champion swimmer. However, everyone noticed a drastic change in her personalityof late. Her parents informed me that she is suffering from an eating disorder called Anorexia Nervosa. They said that like most teenagers, she wanted to look thin and beautiful, like the media celebrities.

What is anorexia?

Anorexia is a loss of appetite, or loss of interest in food.If left undiagnosed and untreated,anorexia nervosa can become a serious mental illness. Patients deliberately restrict the amount of food they eat, because they are afraid of being unhealthy or fat. Anorexic patients are not actually overweight, but they have an image of themselves as an obese person when they look into the mirror.

Symptoms of anorexia

It is not always easy to recognise an eating disorder immediately, which is why we as parents must be careful and observant of our teen’s habits. These are a few obvioussymptoms of anorexia to watch out for –

Gradually, Ruby started skipping meals and making excuses for not eating. She had an unhealthy obsession with food and healthy diets. She started complaining about being overweight, and was always talking with her friends about losing weight. She also spent a lot of time in front of the mirror, looking for flaws in her appearance. After eating a large amount of sweets or high fat foods, she would use dietary supplements, laxatives or herbal products for weight loss. She focused on exercise and her parents were unaware of when it all became a part of depression, disgust, shame or guilt about her appearance and eating habits.

Possible causes of anorexia

Adolescents are following a culture promoted by the media of looking thin and sexy. For them, this is a “smart, successful person”. It is not only teenagers or youngsters who think this way, this is the perception set in all our mindsby the media, and isthe negative impact of media exposure. This impact affects our self-image, self-confidence and our basic health.Our adolescents are easilyimpressed by certain professions and careers, which promote being thin and extreme weight loss such as ballet and modelling. Every teenager like Ruby faces a lot of peer pressure to be thin and sexy.

How to cope…

What are the responsibilities of ideal parents and duties towards their teen who suffers an eating disorder?Apart from being observant of their habits and actions, we must establish a healthy, open relationship with our teen. We must also instil the importance of good health, a balanced lifestyle and self confidence in them.

As parents, we need to take out time for our teens. We must show understanding and concern, rather than lecture or criticize. We must remain calm, focused and respectful, avoiding arguments. Often, when confronted, your teen will lie about having an eating disorder. Consulting a mental health specialist is important to help them. Your teen will feel more comfortable accepting their doctor’s advice. Reassure your teen that you are always there for them. It is critical that you do not force conversations. Also you must avoid criticising them on their appearance, or blaming them for their disorder.

I hope this blog has helped you understand anorexia better, as well as how potentially dangerous it can be. I request you to please avoid criticising your children about their weight and appearance. You could also consider expanding your knowledge regarding healthy diets and holistic lifestyles, or consult a dietician/nutritionist, or psychologist who could advise your family.

Did you find Shikha’sinformative blog on anorexia useful? How do you maintain a healthy relationship with your teen? Do you know anyone who has or is suffering from an eating disorder? Do share your experiences and learnings with us in the comments section below. We love hearing from you!

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