Eating Disorders come in all different shapes and sizes. They can be insidious, manipulative, can turn a family upside down, and have the potential to be deadly. I compare eating disorders to cancer: when the diagnosis is made, it takes an entire team, including parents, to save the life of the person affected. We wanted to address this topic in a series of video posts so we’ve asked an expert in the treatment of eating disorders to provide information on diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosis. Dr. Adrianne Altman, the Regional Clinical Supervisor at the Center for Discovery, will be featured in the first videos of the series.
Our culture places constant pressure on teens ( and adults) to lose weight. The trend in the US is towards obesity, with about a third of our population being considered overweight or obese, so the messaging about weight loss makes sense. But this constant message to lose weight can back fire. Often this pressure to be thin results in participation in fad diets, extreme workouts, and losing weight too quickly. All of these behaviors may be the start of an eating disorder, but the warning signs can be missed because the person losing weight is being complimented on their achievements.
I know I’ve taken a break from my series because new studies in adolescent medicine keep come across my inbox that are interesting and sometimes scary. For example, a recent study found that teens ages 14-18 are a high risk for being bullied. This study looked at teens that were enrolled in weight loss camps. They found some very surprising findings. Read full post »
As you can probably tell, Adolescent Medicine’s priority for overweight and obese teens is for them to learn and enjoy healthy behaviors that they can carry into adulthood, not lose a certain number of pounds in a certain amount of time.
This approach involves investment and caring for one’s body, no matter what its size or shape. It involves focusing on health rather than thinness. To do this, a teen has to value and care for their body. For most teens, especially those who are overweight or obese, this can be a very difficult task.
So you’ve been to see your primary care provider, as we discussed in Part 1, and your teen has been medically cleared. Now you are looking at the challenge of fitting activity into their schedule, and changing their eating habits. Where to start?
Start with yourself. Or rather, start with the whole family. If your whole family (except for your teen) gets 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, engages in physical activity 6 days a week, avoids soda and sugary beverages, and focuses on health and activity instead of numbers on the scale… Congratulations! My hat is off to you. For the rest of us, there is room for improvement!
If you’re concerned that your teen is overweight or obese, how on earth do you bring it up?
Weight can be a really hard topic for parents to bring up with their kids. You don’t want to hurt their self-esteem or make them feel badly about themselves- especially during the teenage years, when confidence is so fragile to begin with. Some parents do comment on their teen’s weight directly, which can cause feelings of resentment, defiance, and guilt. Others try to soften the observances by couching them in a joking manner, which is unlikely to be helpful- see Teasing About Weight Hurts.
The winter holidays are a time for family, celebration… and eating more than we do the other ten months of the year. I’m exaggerating (kind of), but there’s no doubt that our holidays are focused around foods. Right now, in the Adolescent Medicine office, there are at least three plates of homemade cookies from three different staff members, plus some salted caramels and walnut fudge.
Most people have no problem with having a few delicious cookies, but for teens with eating disorders, the rich foods flying around can cause severe distress. Teens that restrict their diets may not be able to resist a cookie or two, and then suffer intense guilt and shame. Teens that binge-eat may find themselves overwhelmed with- and binging on- the ready sweets and treats that the holidays present.
You may have a teen with an eating disorder, or you may have a relative or friend who does. These are some tips to help make the holidays easier for these teens and their families. My work was cut out for me with this post; our nurse Gail Allen already came up with a patient education flyer to give to families during the holidays, and I am simply paraphrasing her work! Read full post »
Australian researchers at Deakin University recently studied 3000 adolescents to find out if their diet influenced their mental health. Controlling for many other possible contributing factors, they found that adolescents who ate more fruits and vegetables had better mental health in the long-term than their compatriots, who shunned produce and ate more processed foods.
“Food as medicine” is a common mantra heard in some nutrition and alternative health circles. Of course, food can literally be medicine, such as oranges for scurvy or whole grains for a vitamin B deficiency. Food can also act as medicine for chronic diseases like diabetes, where a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and health proteins can reduce or reverse symptoms. Compounds in green tea, red wine, garlic, and many other foods and drinks are being researched for disease-fighting properties.
So do fruits and vegetables have a compound in them that fights depression?
Sitting as a family at the same table may seem like a daunting task in our fast paced lives. We are often racing to and from work, school, and extracurricular activities. Eating occurs when it’s convenient, which means we sometimes in the car and often on the go. Believe it or not, taking time to sit and eat as a family can have positive effects on health!
It may seem like normal sibling rivalry to hear brothers and sisters tease each other about their weight. Parents may even tease a little. How many people have been at a friend’s home and heard them make a comment to their child such as ‘should you really eat that?’ or ‘you look like you may be gaining a bit of weight’ to a teen who looks healthy to you? Commenting about weight seems like the norm in our society. Why shouldn’t it be? We are constantly bombarded with images of unrealistically proportioned models and ads for dieting products. Magazines are all retouched and Hollywood celebrities wouldn’t dream of being photographed without makeup.
The thing is, all of this negative commentary can impact our health. A recent study of teen girls found that parents’ negative talk about weight was associated with their children having unhealthy and extreme weight control behaviors. This study looked at 356 teen girls from 12 different high schools. Some of the unhealthy weight control behaviors that teens engaged in included skipping meals, smoking cigarettes, taking diet pills or laxatives, vomiting and binge eating, as well as going on a diet. Read full post »