What Is Disordered Eating?

During the last 15 years, high schools students throughout the United States have steadily been gaining more weight. In fact, a 2013 survey revealed about 13% of students were obese and nearly 17% were overweight.

With this growth in weight, more erratic and even dangerous weight-loss methods have risen, too.

From using laxatives and/or diet pills to fasting, extreme weight control behaviors teens undergo can have many consequences, including the following:

  • Losing hair
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Very slow heart rate
  • Weak, frail bones
  • Feeling weak and/or tired
  • Having constipation and other gastrointestinal issues

Disordered Eating

Although eating disorders have more severe consequences, the ramifications of disordered eating cannot be overlooked.

Disordered eating, such as avoiding meals or routine dieting, contains the following characteristics:

  • Unusual and irregular eating habits
  • Sporadic thoughts about food and dieting
  • Can develop at any time in life
  • Non-intensive treatment can help
  • Rarely life-threatening

Getting Help

When teenagers understand realistic body images—not ones portrayed by the media—then they can become happier with themselves.

Enhancement comparisons, which are tools to help teens assess positive features about themselves and compare them to strong suits of others, can also boost self-image.

Parents, who know the signs of eating disorders and can talk with children about their associated risks, can help their children improve their lifestyle. Parents can also reach out a mental health professional, nutritionist, or doctor for additional support.

To find help and support, please visit the National Eating Disorder Association Helpline.

Adapted and excerpted from:

Emily Johnson and Kate Fogarty, “The Risks of Obesity, Weight Control Behaviors, and Disordered Eating to Adolescents” (FCS3322), UF/IFAS Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department (09/2014).

Photo Credits: merznatalia/iStock/Thinkstock