Sue Scheff: Teens and Eating Disorders

Lori Hanson is an Award winning author, speaker and mentor.  After reading her first book, It All Started with Pop-Tarts, I was impressed with her ability to share her own journey with Bulimia as well as her private life.  Most recently she released her book for teens, Teen Secrets to Surviving & THRIVING, again, another fantastic book. Lori is dedicated to others in helping them better understand eating disorders as well as motivating people in a positive direction.  Learn more at Learn2Balance.

teeneatingdisorerMy Daughter Has an Eating Disorder and I Don’t Get It

By Lori Hanson

The bombshell drops. Your precious little girl or boy has an eating disorder. For some parents they suspect and have to figure out how to confront their child. For others, they are blissfully unaware until their child confides in them. 85% of eating disorders start between the ages of 13-20.

Finding out your child has an eating disorder stirs up numerous emotions for a parent. The first reaction seems to start with questions of how could this happen? I was a good parent! Then guilt sets in and for many parents, mom’s in particular they quickly jump on the thought train of what am I going to do to fix it? How can I make it go away quickly and make my child normal again. The embarrassment is there along with the  guilt. For some there is a feeling of betrayal because their child, teen or young adult didn’t tell them about he eating disorder, or didn’t tell them sooner.

But what parents and loved ones don’t understand is why it is so difficult for the child or young adult to tell them. First, it’s incredibly difficult for the individual suffering with an eating disorder to admit to themselves that they have a problem. It’s a behavioral addiction which means it’s a “psychological” thing. Which means there is something mentally wrong. And most individuals aren’t anxious to join that club. Second, the embarrassment, guilt and shame of the eating disorder behavior makes it incredibly difficult to share with family or loved ones. It’s not about betrayal. Third, one of the core characteristics of eating disorders is isolation (in addition to obsession with food, body and more.)

So when the news comes out via an intervention or when the individual suffering approaches loved ones for help just remember, both the individual with the eating disorder and their loved ones are hurt, confused, feeling guilt, embarrassment and shame. Underneath all the embarrassment, the parents core sentiments is usually, “How can I help them recover? What’s the best way to support them?” And depending on where the individual with the eating disorder is on their path, their core sentiment may be denial or wanting to get help.

For the individual suffering the obsessiveness of the behavior is draining, scary and totally controls them. As much as they may want to stop, the fear of losing the control they gain through the disorder is often paralyzing. At the root is low self-esteem, but that is only one of the factors that contributes to an eating disorder.

For most who suffer, they lack the courage to communicate freely, to set appropriate boundaries, and to express their emotions, positive or negative.  The eating disorder behavior helps them numb out and disengage from life and other people. It provides a quiet solitude which evolves into a living hell of isolation and obsession. Digging out on their own to improve self-esteem and gain much needed self-confidence isn’t something most can do on their own.

A holistic approach to treating eating disorders teaches the individual healthy communication skills, helps them improve self-esteem and understand the causes of their addictive behavior. It is critical to understand and address the body and brain chemistry through diet, nutrition and nutritional supplements which helps move the individual beyond “willpower” and gives much needed nutritional support and objectivity. Reprogramming negative thoughts and beliefs is key to recovery and lastly improving mental and physical health with body work rounds out the circle of a solid holistic approach.

So parents, before you get consumed in anger, hurt, embarrassment and try to figure out to make the problem go away quickly realize that as a behavioral addiction it runs deeps and won’t go away with simple comments of “honey, why don’t you just eat.” Unfortunately, this is something the individual suffering has to change, as parents and loved ones you can’t fix it for them. Find a pactitioner your child relates to and a treatment facility that is family oriented and a parent advocate. Healing an individual from an eating disorder can and should have a positive effect on the entire family!

In peace, balance and health,


Lori Hanson
Award-winning author, It Started With Pop-Tarts…An Alternative Approach to Winning the Battle of Bulimia
Speaker and Life Balance Consultant