Teenager eating

Teen Eating Habits, Are They A Bigger Problem Than We Think?

The emotional health of teens directly influences their eating habits. This often leads to eating disorders that can often be overlooked by parents, peers, and even professionals like teachers. An eating disorder is a multi-faceted illness that can happen to individuals of all ages. However, the onset of these disorders typically begins during their teens or pre-adolescence.

Millions of young adults or teenagers are affected by eating disorders worldwide, and is a bigger problem than we think. Read on to find out more about teen eating habits, the most commonplace eating disorders, and adolescent eating disorder treatment.

Teen Eating Habits, Are They A Bigger Problem Than We Think

How Are Eating Disorders Diagnosed?

The sooner an eating disorder is diagnosed and treatment prescribed, the better the chances of complete recovery. The problem is that many teens go undiagnosed without receiving the necessary treatment. This means that the eating disorders progress to an advanced stage. In most instances, teens live in denial about their eating disorders and will hide their symptoms and behaviours. Sometimes they do not realize the seriousness of their condition or are unaware of the signs of an eating disorder.

With so much pressure on teenagers to be a certain shape or weight, it is often problematic to diagnose an issue. The problem is that teens can be malnourished even when they are at apparently normal weights. Sometimes they will eat during mealtimes in front of family members and peers but secretly restrict food intake, purge, binge, or over-exercise.  The symptoms are contingent on the type of eating disorder. It is important for family members, friends, and even the teens themselves to be aware of what the symptoms are to identify that there is a problem.


3 Commonplace Teenage Eating Disorders And Signs To Look For

One of the most prominent eating disorders among teenagers are Bulimia Nervosa, Binge-eating disorder, and Anorexia Nervosa, and if left untreated can have severe health consequences.

Bulimia Nervosa

Adolescents with this eating disorder generally purge or binge by having uncontainable bouts of overeating (binge-eating), typically followed by vomiting or purging to compensate for the overeating. This behavior involves things like using laxatives, excessive exercising, enemas, or fasting.  The binge-eating can happen several times during the day but are most commonplace during the night.

Symptoms

  • Eating abnormally large meals without apparent weight gain.
  • Hiding discarded food wrappers and containers or food.
  • Regular trips to the bathroom shortly after meals.
  • Excessive fasting or exercising.
  • Regular clogged toilets or showers.
  • Impulsive and overachieving behaviors.
  • Abnormal use of diuretics, laxatives, or other cathartics.
  • Odd eating habits.

Physical Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

  • Bad smelling breath
  • Teeth discoloration
  • Scars or calluses on the hands
  • Stomach ache
  • Absent or irregular menstrual cycles
  • Fatigue or physical weakness

Teenagers with Bulimia Nervosa regularly display an obsession with body shape and weight and a distorted view of their body image.

Teenager eating disorder

Binge-Eating Disorder

Binge-eating disorder often involves uncontainable excessive eating, usually followed by feelings of guilt and shame. In the case of binge-eating disorder, teens usually do not counterbalance the behavior like the case is with Bulimia Nervosa. They cannot control their eating behavior and usually eat in secret even when they are not hungry.

Symptoms

  • Eating when they feel unable to cope or are stressed.
  • Indulging in secret and feeling embarrassed about the amount of food they are eating.
  • Eating bizarrely large amounts of food within a short period (within two hours).
  • Experimenting with various diets.
  • Hiding discarded food wrappers, containers, and food.
  • Feeling disgusted with themselves due to their inability to control their overeating.

Physical Symptoms of Binge-Eating Disorder

  • The symptoms are generally long-term and include:
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Infrequent menstrual cycles
  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Skin disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

Adolescents with this eating disorder usually take excessive measures to control the quality and quantity of meal portions and avoiding eating altogether. They may become unusually thin but still claim they are too fat. They continue to restrict food and diet even when they’ve reached an unhealthy weight. They also have a biased view of their body image.

Symptoms

  • A biased view of their body image.
  • Discarding, hiding, or restricting food.
  • Obvious emotional changes, including irritability, anxiety, and depression.
  • Displaying obsessive behavior like counting calories and fat content in their diet.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Denying feelings of hunger.
  • Excessive exercising.
  • Developing peculiar rituals surrounding food preparation and consumption.

Physical Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Feeling tired, cold, and weak
  • No menstrual cycles
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Restricting social activities, food, relationships, and enjoyable experiences

Troubled teen

Treating Eating Disorders In Teens

Treating eating disorders in teens usually entails a multidisciplinary approach. It should include psychiatric, medical, group, individual, and family therapy, alongside nutritional rehabilitation to restore body weight and health. The aim is to modify the negative behaviors relating to excessive exercising and eating. Successful treatment is based on a wide-ranging evaluation of the teenager and family.

The regularity of medical complications during treatment necessitates close supervision by a medical professional. In some cases, medication might be necessary if the teen has any psychiatric disorders (usually anxiety and depression). Teens may have obsessive-compulsive tendencies or disorders and might have a history of self-harming behavior like burning or cutting, substance abuse, or trauma. Therefore, it is essential for a medical professional to identify co-occurring disorders to prescribe the necessary treatment.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article about teen eating habits, adolescent eating disorders, signs, and treatment has been insightful. If your child or someone you know is exhibiting any of the symptoms and you suspect there is a problem, its important to reach out and seek medical intervention. Eating disorders that are left untreated can have severe health consequences.

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9 comments

  1. Raising a teen is never easy,such information is very helpful and vital to parents with Teena to better understand their behavior. Respecting a child’s privacy doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop being concerned about their well-being, but knowing what’s going on in their lives will definitely help in the long run.
    Definitely worth reading.

    • The teen years are terribly hard. I can’t speak from experience parenting a teen quite yet (nearly there) but only from my own troubled teen years.

  2. I ralise my son eat habits is because he dont get much attention and it affect him alot .when he is bored he eats and it get worse this is very helpfull

    • I’ve noticed my kids eat a lot more when they are bored, it is something I’ve also done at times. I think that it is very useful to know the signs of eating disorders when it comes to kids, I believe the issue is a lot more widespread than many parents think.

  3. Tshegofatso Washington

    Thank you for sharing this Lynne. I hope it will help someone. I remember being SO obsessed with my weight growing up, to the point that I even considered becoming anorexic(definitely not bulimic because i hate puking). I still have issues with my weight and uncontrollable eating at times, but it’s not that bad I see. Thank you once again for this. A worthy read!

    • I know what you mean. I love my food and there are times I comfort eat big time. It is something I am trying to watch right now. When it comes to eating disorders and teens, I think it is a lot more common than people think.

  4. So much information on this article
    I have realized most teenagers take comfort in food without putting into consideration what binge eating can do
    Eventually they become obese and this will again make them stressed and eat and eat
    I wish our teens could be taught more about this

  5. I love how you explained issues teens have and the reason for why they could be having these disorders. I completely agree that society is putting too much pressure on our teens to be a certain shape. I enjoyed reading this article

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