Managing Teen Food Addiction

If you’re concerned that your son or daughter is struggling with teen food addiction, you may be feeling confused, helpless or lost. Parenting a teen with a food addiction can be difficult, but there are many different ways you can support them as a parent on the journey to recovery.

What is Food Addiction?

People who are addicted to food have a compulsive need to eat even if they’re not hungry. Just like other types of addicts, food addicts have a very difficult time controlling their behaviors and often find that they cannot stop, no matter how much they may want to. Many people who are addicted to food use eating as a method to cope with everyday life stressors

Supporting Your Food-Addicted Teen

Family walking on railroad tracks

Image Credit: Priscilla Westra

Teen food addiction can negatively impact your teen in a variety of ways, including weight gain, depression, heart problems and illness. While food addiction is a serious problem, there are several simple ways you can support your teen and help them manage their cravings.

It’s important to note that many teens are very sensitive about issues around their diet and weight. And since they are growing and developing, teens need to eat more food than they did as children. Before you speak to your son or daughter about the possibility of a teen food addiction, carefully observe their behavior. If they tend to eat when not hungry or binge-eat while under stress, they may be struggling with food addiction. If they just eat more food overall, this may be a normal sign of healthy development.

Develop a Healthy Diet for Teenagers

If you’re concerned that your teen may be overeating, help them eat a balanced, healthy diet. This may include a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk, beans, eggs, fish, nuts, and lean meats. That helps teens to get the proper nutrients like protein, calcium, and iron for their developing bodies. Another important element of healthy teenage eating habits is to reduce sugar intake. This helps teens maintain a healthy weight and avoid the mood swings that sugar creates. Further, avoiding sugary drinks like soda and artificially sweetened fruit juices is important in good nutrition for teens. Rather, teenagers should focus on drinking 8 glasses of water a day.

Keep an Open Line of Communication

Many teens who use food as a coping mechanism are struggling with negative feelings of self-worth or depression. Ensure your teen knows that you are always available for a chat if they would like to discuss how they are doing, or how you as a parent could best support them that day. If your teen knows that they can talk to you about what’s bothering them, they may feel less of a desire to indulge in unhealthy eating habits.

Talk to Your Teen About Their Triggers

One girl left out of a group of friends

Image Credit: Paul Proshin

Like most addicts, food addicts often have certain triggers that turn on a craving. It could be walking past a food court, hearing people argue or feeling left out of a social situation. Every food addict has different triggers. Find out what your teen’s triggers are and ask them how you can help them avoid triggers or triggering situations.

Consult With a Professional

There are plenty of professionals that specialize in helping people with food addictions. If your teen needs some extra support, make an appointment to consult with a nutritionist, psychologist or doctor. They can monitor your teen’s physical health while giving them some extra help in managing their addiction. Ask your teen about their appointments and if there is any “homework” their doctor gave them that you could help with.

Enroll Your Teen in a Treatment Program

If all else fails, your teen may need intensive treatment that only an inpatient treatment program can provide. Treatment centers for teenage food addiction are able to provide your teen with around-the-clock treatment and help them get their lives on track. If nothing you have tried has helped your teen manage their food addiction, don’t be afraid to consult with a treatment center.

Teen food addiction is serious, but there are many ways that you can help your teen conquer their addiction and live a healthy, fulfilling life. If you’re worried that your teen is struggling with food addiction, reach out to Teen Rehab and we can work together to find your teen the help they need.

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