Eating disorders in teenage years is a serious mental health condition that can cause potentially dangerous behaviours that, if left untreated may persist into adulthood leading to fatal medical complications.
Research has shown that 1% to 5% of adolescent girls meet the criteria for Bulimia. The prevalence rate of Anorexia is 0.48% in girls aged 15-19 years. A study published in JAMA pediatrics in November 2022 showed that COVID pandemic led to a sharp rise in eating disorders among teenagers.
Eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa,Bulimia and binge eating disorder. Usually, a teenager who faces eating disorder displays typical behaviour and symptoms of it. Parents need to pay attention to these behaviours as earliest as possible to prevent it.
Here are 6 effective ways to achieve this:
1. Promote a Healthy & Positive Body Image:
Parents can encourage teenagers to embrace body diversity and understand that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Avoid promoting unrealistic beauty standards through media and social media platforms. Focus on promoting self-love and acceptance rather than pursuing an idealized image.
2. Educate About Nutritional Needs:
Parents can provide teenagers with accurate information about nutrition and the importance of balanced meals. Emphasize the role of nutrients in supporting physical and mental health. Encourage them to nourish their bodies with a variety of foods from all food groups rather than resorting to extreme diets or restrictive eating patterns.
3. Teach Intuitive Eating:
Intuitive eating is the practice of listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues and eating in response to physiological needs rather than emotional triggers. Educate teenagers about the principles of intuitive eating, such as honoring hunger, respecting fullness, and coping with emotions without using food. Encourage them to develop a healthy relationship with food based on mindfulness and self-awareness.
4. Foster Open Communication:
Create a safe and supportive environment where teenagers feel comfortable discussing their feelings, concerns, and struggles related to food and body image. Encourage open communication not only with you as parents but also with teachers and healthcare professionals. Offer non-judgmental support and validate their experiences while guiding them towards positive coping strategies.
5. Promote Self-Esteem and Positive Coping Skills:
Help teenagers develop strong self-esteem and resilience by focusing on their strengths and abilities. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy, pursue hobbies and interests, and build supportive relationships. Teach healthy coping skills for managing stress, anxiety, and negative emotions without resorting to disordered eating behaviors.
6. Emphasize the Importance of Seeking Professional Help:
Educate teenagers about the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and the importance of seeking help from qualified professionals if they or someone they know is struggling. Provide them information about available resources, such as therapists, dietitians, and support groups, where they can receive specialized treatment and support.
Preventing eating disorders in teenagers requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses social, psychological, and nutritional factors. By implementing these six effective strategies, you can empower teenagers to make informed choices, develop positive habits, and prioritize their overall well-being. Together, you can create a healthier and happier future for our youth.