Tag Archives: eating disorders

4 Signs of an Eating Disorder Everyone Should Know About

Eating Disorder

When we think of people with eating disorders, we often think of women who are so skinny that you can see all of their ribs, or girls who go in the bathroom to throw up after every meal. But just because you can’t see your daughter’s bones through her skin doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a problem with food.

There are many misconceptions about eating disorders and because February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month, we want to set the record straight. Bulimia and anorexia may be the most recognized names associated with an eating disorder, but there are other signs of an eating disorder that parents should watch out for.

Ilene Wynn, a registered dietitian and coordinator of the eating disorder program at Yellowbrick, says it’s important that parents observe their son or daughter’s behavior closely to look for some subtle warning signs that may indicate an eating disorder.

Here are signs of eating disorders to be on the lookout for:

  1. Dieting
    There always seems to be some kind of diet in fashion—take juicing or veganism, for example—and sometimes, these can be taken too far. Warning signs include skipping meals and limiting food choices to one or two small quantities. It’s important to understand that each person’s behaviors will be different, but if these kinds of behaviors are ongoing, this is potentially problematic.
  1. Binge eating
    Binge eating is typically described as recurrent incidences of consuming large amounts of food, typically within a short of period of time, until one feels extreme discomfort. The tendency to binge is often driven emotionally and contributes to feeling out of control followed by a sense of guilt, embarrassment, and shame about oneself. A child or adolescent may be using bingeing to find temporary relief from an array of negative feelings. Some hidden signs may include isolation from family and friends, moodiness, irritability, change in eating behaviors, and lack of self-care.
  2. Obsessive thoughts about food and calorie intake
    Obsessive thoughts can indicate the presence of restrictive eating behaviors or alternating bingeing and restriction. Extreme circumstances occur when much of one’s day is spent thinking about food — what you have eaten, what you will eat at the next meal or snack.  Constantly calculating calories consumed and knowledge of the caloric content of most foods eaten are a sign that disordered eating and thinking is occurring. Often an individual has difficulty thinking about much else and these thoughts begin to run one’s life. It is important to note that often the obsession with food and calorie intake is not about the food at all, but rather, a way that someone can exert control to manage other negative thoughts and feelings.
  3. Obsession about healthy eating
    Officially called Orthorexia Nervosa, this behavior is all about “fixation on righteous eating” (per National Eating Disorder Association). When the obsession is unhealthy, an individual begins to focus only on eating foods that are nutrient-dense food. Eventually, this leads to obsessive concerns about what to eat and how much, and contending with any deviations from this rigidity become out of control. Those who suffer from Orthorexia may isolate from friends and family because their focus is solely upon food. The obsessive thoughts often have nothing to do with food and everything about one’s self-image.

How You Can Help

If you think that your son or daughter may be suffering from an eating disorder, there are ways you can help. Here’s some advice from Pan Tansey, director of professional relations at Yellowbrick.

  1. Educate Yourself
    Tansey says the first step before you approach your son or daughter with your concerns is to educate yourself about eating disorders. “Eating disorders are very complex and there is a lot to understand,” Tansey says.
  2. Have a conversation
    Tansey says parents must manage their own anxiety in order to approach the conversation by asking and not accusing, and, most importantly, not judging. Eating disorders often exist in a world of secrecy and shame so you may encounter defensiveness and denial. This conversation may need to be followed by many more as you set the tone for compassion and understanding. This may allow for your child to feel comfortable talking with you not just about the eating disorder behaviors, but also about stresses and concerns that are going on in his/her life.
  3. Don’t comment on how they look
    When having a conversation with your son or daughter, Tansey says it’s important that parents avoid commenting on appearance. Body image concerns are a major struggle for many young people with eating issues. Instead, try to focus on what behaviors you have observed as the cause for concern.“The most important aspect of these conversations is to listen. Let him or her know that you are interested in what they have to say and want to work collaboratively with them to approach the issue,” Tansey says. “This lets them know that they are not alone with their struggles and that you are there to help.”
  1. Seek professional help
    The final step if you believe that your son or daughter is struggling with an eating disorder is to seek professional help. Again, it is important to do your research. There are many programs and therapists that address this issue. The web sites mentioned above can provide the kind of support and information about treatment settings to help you decide what your son or daughter needs.

Yellowbrick provides intensive outpatient services for young adults who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, such as the ones mentioned above.

The prevalence of both alcohol abuse and eating disorders among college students

There are college students who drink excessively, and there are college students who struggle with eating disorders. Both problems pose threats to medical and mental health and may require professional help. Even more so, the negative consequences may multiply when the two concerns co-exist. The combination of having a drinking problem while struggling with an eating disorder can be deadly. When the only calories that are being consumed come from alcohol, college students are bound to face physical, social, and emotional problems. If you know a college student who is abusing alcohol while coping with an eating disorder, it may be time to plan an intervention.

Continue reading The prevalence of both alcohol abuse and eating disorders among college students

Young Adult Diet Trends to Watch Out For

Just as the norms of society have evolved to become fast-paced and technology-driven, diet trends of young adults have morphed in those directions as well. Parents should be aware of common diet trends and how they affect the mental wellness of young adults.

Common Diet Trends

Processed & Fast Foods: The average young adult packs in a pretty hectic schedule, so snacking on processed foods, like protein bars, chips, and microwavable pizzas, usually replaces healthy home cooked meals.  Many young adults stop in at fast food chains for a quick bite, in lieu of making it to the family dinner table. Continue reading Young Adult Diet Trends to Watch Out For

Summer Shines the Spotlight on Body Image Disorders

Yellowbrick Summer Body Image, Source: Shutterstock

Hot, humid summer days at the beach motivate many to exercise and diet.  Losing a couple of pounds to feel good while sporting a bikini or to fit into last year’s shorts ranks top priority on many young adult’s to-do list as the summer solstice approaches.  In moderation, and supported with a healthy amount of self-esteem and positive body image, counting calories and incorporating routine exercise helps young adults reach their fitness goals.

Obsessing over every bite, fasting for days at a time, or taking laxatives to attempt to flush out any calories consumed, some will never reach their ideal size, even if others view them to be slender.  For these young adults, a poor body image and lack of self-worth often leads to the development of an eating disorder.  Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, as described in detail on National Eating Disorders Association, are serious mental health illnesses.

Oftentimes, poor body image and low self-worth are derived from painful life experiences which have left the individual struggling for identity and a sense of power and control in their life. Histories of neglect, loss, and trauma are common. Many eating disorders stem from a history of bullying or abuse.  Young adults may binge on food instead of coping with complex emotions.  Others feel empowered by skipping meals and watching the pounds drop from their frail frames.

Summer triggers dangerous patterns with food.  Signs like extreme weight loss, starvation, social anxiety over shared meals, self-induced vomiting, and secretive eating point towards poor body image and eating disorders.  When lack of self-confidence in one’s body image turns into an unhealthy obsession, young adults are at risk and need professional help.

The Yellowbrick Life Strategies Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) supports young adults suffering from a subpar perception of their own body image and eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating as summer shines the spotlight on body image disorders.  The Life Strategies IOP curriculum combines group and individual psychotherapy to unveil root causes of poor body image while providing education on nutrition and the opportunity to overcome social anxiety by holding support groups during meal times.  In addition, young adults explore supplemental activities like art and yoga, both known to facilitate mind-body connection and build healthy practices for wellness and self-care.

Help a young adult develop a positive body image by adopting a healthy attitude and realistic expectations toward physical appearance.  Encourage exploration of safe and healthy activities like yoga, art, cooking, or writing so that young adults may figure out their strengths and interests and build up their sense of self, physically or otherwise.  As self-worth builds, young adults may be able to release deep, complex emotions hidden by their body image disorder and move forward in recovery.

Changing Eating Habits At Home to Help an Adult Child With an Eating Disorder

Healthy Eating Habits at Home to Overcome Eating Disorders - Yellowbrick: Source: Shutterstock
Parents might not notice a skipped meal here and there, but when an adult child displays unhealthy habits pointing to an eating disorder, parents need to pay attention.  Overly obsessing about every bite, displaying severe anxiety over sharing meals with friends or family, taking laxatives frequently, or being constantly concerned about cardio exercise are signs an adult child may be having a tough time and suffering with an eating disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health gives detailed descriptions of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.

Changing eating habits at home to help, like incorporating family meal times, cooking together, taking trips to the farmers market, and facilitating discussion on nutrition, is a good start in helping an adult child with an eating disorder. When families eat meals together, children of all ages develop and maintain healthy habits and gain self-esteem.  Parents should consider their own approach toward physical appearances and relationships with food. However, trying to solve the problem at home may not be enough to sustain a long term healthy lifestyle for parents with children who have eating disorders. Eating disorders may focus on food, weight and body appearance but are about emotional sufferings in relationship to self and others.

An eating disorder may be a sign or symptom of a larger, more complex problem. For example, a young adult might binge eat to avoid feeling emotions that hurt, like anger, fear, sadness, or guilt. Many young women starve themselves, aiming to be supermodel skinny, while others binge, purge, and become addicted to laxatives. Often times, young adults with an eating disorder have faced trauma including violence, sexual abuse, or bullying.  Inner conflicts like low self-esteem or feeling scared and victimized, need to be settled so that young adults may develop a healthy relationship with their body and with food. Coming up a with a wellness plan, as a comprehensive effort, including the expertise of doctors, nutritionists, and psychologists, may be the best way to help a child with an eating disorder. This plan must include explanation of the meaning of the eating disorder struggle, often a search for how to resolve paradoxes over how to find nurturance while also being separate and empowered.

Eating disorders are deeply ingrained behavioral patterns that negatively impact the relationships one has with food and self-image. The body and mind suffer greatly from eating disorders. At Yellowbrick, eating disorders are treated with a multifaceted approach when an individual enters the Intensive Outpatient Eating Disorder Service. After an initial assessment, proper nutrition and medical interventions are made. Then, Yellowbrick clinicians focus on the behaviors associated with the eating disorder and deep psychological problems rooted in the individual. Program participants journal daily to sort through their feelings, track their nutrition, and discover the core causes of their eating disorders.  Through meaningful relationships with caring clinicians, young adults with eating disorders adapt to healthy patterns while receiving intensive support services throughout their recovery.  Learn more about how to help an adult child with an eating disorder.

Noticing the signs of an adult child with an eating disorder is the first step on the road to recovery. Addressing eating disorders early may save lives as anorexia has the highest mortality of any psychiatric illness.  Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating may be a surface symptom of a serious underlying struggle.  Coming up with a wellness plan that includes the knowledge, expertise, patience, and care of medical and mental health professionals may be the best way to help an adult child with an eating disorder.