Eating Disorders

Oops, we missed Eating Disorder Awareness Week, the last week of February. The groups at greatest risk for eating disorder includes ballet, gymnasts, figure skaters, fitness instructors, type 1 diabetics and yes my own personal favorite, dietetics majors. While runners are not on the official list, I have counseled many who fit into one of the disordered eating categories below.

For more information on exercise bulimia see,0,6101736,full.story

Anorexia: extreme weight loss, poor body image, & irrational fears of weight gain
Anorexia Athletica: the excessive use of exercise to control weight
Binge Eating: consuming large amounts of food at least twice weekly followed by feelings of shame and   embarrassment
Bulimia: binge eating at least twice weekly followed by vomiting and or use of laxatives
Night eating: lack of appetite in the AM followed by consuming > 1/2 of calorie intake after 8 PM
Orthorexia: an obsession with the perfect, healthiest diet
Pica: the desire for non food substances include clay, starch, lead and ice
Purge Eating: self induced vomiting in the absence of binge eating to prevent weight gain

The most successful therapy is prevention.  Intervention programs work about 50% of the time and 1 in 3 relapse within 7 years.  The long term effects on the cardiovascular, skeletal and hormonal systems are significant and sometimes irreversible.  How can you prevent eating disorders in your family members?

1. Do not use food to reward, bribe or punish. This gives food power, a tool used for negotiating, not nourishment and enjoyment. Children who have been rewarded with food will have a greater tendency to use food to motivate and reward themselves as they get older. Children who are forbidden or penalized with food may sneak it or consume excessive amounts in the absence of the controlling parent.

2. Eat together at the family dinner table. Meals are healthier and you can model good eating habits. Lack of control, poor self esteem and poor communication are common in disordered eating. Increased family time can help reduce some of these obstacles.

3. Do not talk about food in terms of good, bad, thin and fat foods. All foods can fit when the portion sizes are reasonable.

4. Do not talk about your body, or those of others as being fat or skinny and definitely don’t label your children’s weights. Instead of “my stomach is pudgy after all that bad chocolate cake” say “I’m going to work on my level of fitness more”.

5. Tweens tend to put on weight as they go through puberty, its natural and hormonally related. They will outgrow it so do not put undo emphasis on body image. Make sure they continue to stay active, limit computer, TV and video games and have plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables available for them to snack on.

6. Be a role model. Don’t skip meals, do order an ice cream sundae from time to time, and run because you love the way exercise makes your feel, not because you just ate a bag of M&Ms.

If you have a concern about your eating habits or those of family members seek help. Treatment for eating disorders is multidisciplinary and typically includes a physician, psychologist, a Registered Dietitian and Family Counseling specialist.  Raising Healthy Eaters is a great blog for parents and they are currently doing a 3 part series on the topic of eating disorders. For more information go to

Categories: Nutrition & Wellness

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1 reply

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