Eating disorders are much more complicated than just unhealthy eating habits.
More often than not, at the center of a teen’s eating disorder is severe emotional issues that involve distorted and self-critical attitudes accompanied by behaviors about food, weight and body image.
What it usually breaks down to is the individual seeking out some form of control and that authoritative behavior manifesting itself in anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating or body dysmorphic disorder.
There are a number of ways to help and encourage a healthy road to a teen’s healing with an eating disorder, here are six tips.
A teen suffering from an eating order truly deserves a lot of care, patience and respect.
In the end, a loving attitude that comes from a non-confrontational place can really help. There’s also a lot to be said for addressing any concerns in a calm and private setting with loving and positive words and encouragement.
Avoid “Body Talk”
Although what they see in the mirror or read on a scale may be very distorted, one of the last things a teen suffering from an eating disorder needs to hear is comments about their appearance.
Avoid using words such as “fat” and “skinny” as they are already too well aware of their own physicality.
Focus on Health
A teen’s overall health (for the short and long term) should be the main concern and what drives any conversations. Ultimately, all discussions should come from a nurturing perspective.
Speak to their physical as well as mental and emotional health. Find healthy and safe ways to manage unpleasant feelings and sensations (other than looking to food or their weight).
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Promote Healthy Self-Esteem
Is the teenager in your life great at soccer or doing exceptionally well at school? Or perhaps they were just really thoughtful to their sibling this week. Any time you can promote or commend a healthy and well-rounded sense of self will help their self-esteem in the long run.
Always encourage positive and fun activities they can take part in (even if it’s just a trip to the mall) to remind them that there is a whole world out there to experience.
It’s important to turn off the criticism and come from a place that is firm yet encouraging for true healing.
Often times for teens dealing with an eating disorder, things can quickly escalate into a power struggle as they are fighting for that sense of control they once felt with food. Things can very easily backfire if a parent or mentor comes from a harsh and authoritative place.
Pick Suitable Treatment
If things have gotten this far, it’s always best to speak to a professional to help a teen fully continue on with their healing with something so fragile.
Whether that means therapy (in-patient or individual), nutritional counseling, medication or a support group, every person’s path to healing is different and individual. This means it’s best to come to that conclusion together and really be aware of which treatment option will take them down the road to a healthy, safe and happy life.
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