Eating Disorders in Teens and Preteens


Published:

About half of all teenage girls and one third of teenage boys are using unhealthy weight control behaviors. Whether through fasting, over exercising, skipping meals, smoking, purging or the use of laxatives or diuretics, many are engaging in harmful eating practices to conform to an unrealistic body image of model thinness that is portrayed by the media and reinforced through peer pressure. If your child ritually engages in one or more of these habits, it may not just be a sign of low self-esteem but a more serious underlying issue - an eating disorder.

Eating Disorder Warning Signs

An eating disorder is when an individual becomes so preoccupied with food and weight that they have difficulty focusing on anything else. Those who suffer from eating disorders often have extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors about food and weight issues. There are three main eating disorders - anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder - and each has different warning signs.

Anorexia is a disorder that's characterized by obsession with food and being thin to the point of starvation. Has your child lost a great deal of weight in a short time period? Does he or she wear layers of clothing to hide their weight loss? An intense fear of weight gain or being fat despite being underweight and extreme concern with body weight and shape are other signs of anorexia.

Bulimics suffer from episodes of bingeing and purging where a large amount of food is eaten in a short duration followed by self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse or excessive exercise to offset calorie intake. Does your child often go to the bathroom after eating? Do you ever find wrappers or other evidence of a large amount of food consumed in a short time period? Other common signs of bulimia are repeated episodes of binging and purging, frequent dieting and extreme concern with body weight and shape.

Eating excessively on a regular basis even when not hungry or full is a hallmark sign of a binge eating disorder. Do you ever find hidden stashes of food? Does your child often eat when they are not hungry? Other signs of compulsive overeating include the disappearance of large amounts of food in a short time period and engaging in sporadic fasting or repetitive dieting.

How to Help Your Child

Read up on eating disorders before breaching the topic so you'll be more prepared if he or she is ready to talk. If your child shows signs listed above, and you think they may have an eating disorder, the first step to getting them the help they need is to confront them, but be careful to avoid words or tone that could come across as judgmental or accusatory. Emphasize that you are approaching them out of concern and love. Cite specific examples that have raised a red flag or observations you've made such as, "I noticed that you've lost weight recently and many of your clothes no longer fit." Then allow him or her to respond. Be prepared to be a good listener.

If your child does have an eating disorder, it will be a difficult subject for him or her to talk openly about. Don't be surprised if denial is the first reaction you get. Be patient and calm, and offer encouragement and support. The most important thing you can offer to someone who may be suffering from an eating disorder is your unconditional love and support.

If your child is receptive, ask if he or she would be willing to talk to a doctor. If they don't want to talk, try revisiting the topic again soon unless you think they may be in life-threatening danger or may need immediate medical care. In the event of an emergency, always call 911.

With treatment by a qualified health professional or team of care providers, those who suffer from eating disorders can receive the help they need to avoid or put an end to the emotional and physical toll eating disorders can take. For more information on eating disorders, including a parent toolkit, visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.

Dr. Jeffrey Hutchings is a family medicine physician at Crown Point Family Medicine, which is affiliated with Presbyterian Novant Medical Group.

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July 2020

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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

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Mint Museum Randolph
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More information

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Website »

More information

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View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
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More information

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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
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420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
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, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $15

Where:
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Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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More information

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Bring the family to hear live music in Davidson this summer! Dates: April 18, May 16, June 20, July 18, Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17.

Cost: Free

Where:
Circles at 30
Jetton Street
Davidson, NC
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River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
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Sponsor: USNWC
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This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
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Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
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Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
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This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Annual Guides

G.P.S. [Go.Play.See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2019 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.

Education Guide

A comprehensive guide to independent, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.
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