Disordered Eating Tip Sheet for Teens and Their Parents

04/14/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

In anticipation of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and because I have been working with so many teens and speaking with parents of teens lately, I decided to write up a little tip sheet to help guide some thinking about not just eating disorders, but the much more common phenomenon: DISORDERED EATING.

Things to consider:

1) Full blown eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder are somewhat rare, but disordered eating can get started fairly easily and is very common. Disordered eating, i.e. an over-preoccupation with food that impacts on your daily life, consistent on-off eating, dieting, and then bingeing, and compulsive eating for emotional purposes.

These are habits that can start fairly innocently; thinking you just want to lose that 5 or 10 lbs. Diets often can trigger disordered eating that can be hard to break out of.

2) Being unhappy with your body is very common and basically your body image might suck. Often how you see yourself though is not how you are seen by anyone else. Understand that FEELING FAT is often just that. A FEELING, not necessarily a FACT.

3) Understand that there are always parts of ourselves that we are not thrilled with, and parts we feel better about. This is part of good self esteem; dealing with the feelings that come with the BAD, without behaving in ways that reinforce whatever way you feel lousy about yourself. There is no perfect. DON'T MAKE THE FEELING INTO A FACT WITH YOUR BEHAVIOR. (Don't eat your feelings, feel them; then you keep them as feelings, not facts.)

4) Try to be as conscious as you can about what your eating HABITS are like, basically, not just WHAT YOU EAT, BUT HOW YOU EAT.

5) Aside from hunger, do you eat when you are bored, tired, unhappy, nervous, just slightly jittery nervous, usually at night after dinner? This is totally common and again, can become really habitual and result in feeling that you have no control over your eating. A couple of tips:

a) Don't deprive yourself of what you truly love to eat. But promise yourself that you will eat it consciously. Don't check out and then binge on it because you think you 'SHOULDN'T eat it. Stay conscious. Enjoy it. Eat some, save some for later. Practice that.

b) Practice learning how to WAIT through the feeling. Make sure you eat in a well balanced way, you are getting your major nutritional needs met with protein, carbs, vitamins, calcium and eat from these food groups when hungry. Save the sugar and/or junk food for the add -ons that you enjoy but don't try to fill up on.

c) Don't let yourself get overly hungry. Too often people wake up and don't want to eat and aren't hungry all day, then binge at night. It is hard to stop when you are overly hungry. Try to eat every 4-5 hours and not get overly hungry.

d) Don't restrict. Restrictive eating leads to on-off patterns and habits that make you feel out of control. Resist the urge. If you want to lose weight, just reduce overall your intake by 20% and walk more. Eat everything and don't overly focus on any one day of eating.

Eating disorders are serious mental and physical problems. They are treatable and if you are worried about your own habits veering toward an extreme, or are worried about a friend, talk to an adult or professional.

Above all, enjoy your food!

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A little add on: If you are a teen and love clothing but are on a budget, visit this fabulous website for some great tips!