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Teen Girls and Eating Disorders

teen eating disorder, anorexia, bulimia, teenager eating disorder, adolescent eating disorder, teen bulimia, teen anorexia, teenager eating disorder

Eating Disorders include rules like only eating salads.
Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Parents of teenagers call me for a number of varying concerns, one of which is that their daughter has an eating disorder.  Once in counseling for any reason, girls frequently reveal they believe they are fat.  Of the girls who believe they are fat, a significant number are actively trying to lose weight.  If their efforts are dangerous enough, they qualify for an eating disorder.  Lately I have been seeing a lot of girls with eating disorders, so it seems like a good time to address this.

 

The first thing that might have struck you as odd is that I wrote, “If their efforts are dangerous enough, they qualify for an eating disorder.”  You might be wondering what I mean by “dangerous.”  Girls (and less often boys) that are trying to lose weight are usually doing so in unhealthy ways.  For example, there are numerous risks associated with frequent self-induced vomiting.  It rots teeth, has the potential to burn a hole in the esophagus, and can cause electrolyte imbalances; sometimes these electrolyte imbalances have caused death.

 

Other dangerous things adolescents do to lose weight is crash diet, work out too hard (causing sickness and injury), take laxatives, fast, cut out certain food groups, and use drugs.  All of these things can be dangerous. Nutrition is an essential part of our health.  Girls who are struggling with an eating disorder are nutrition obsessed, but often eat very unhealthily.

 

One example comes from a girl I know who has an eating disorder.  She has numerous misconceptions about food based on the current cultural fads.  She believes carbohydrates are like putting poison into her body.  If she eats salads for lunch and dinner then she assumes she has eaten a very healthy diet for that day.  In fact, all she has done is eat a low calorie diet while missing out on essentials like carbohydrates and proteins.

 

Therapists are by no means nutritionists, but we are often required to address nutritional issues.  For this reason, in most cases, eating disorders are treated in conjunction with a registered dietician.  The dietician helps the teen plan appropriate eating.  The therapist then helps the teenage girl with the emotions surrounding staying on a food plan; this can be extremely challenging.

 

Eating disorders are primarily emotional.  Girls with anorexia are in tight control over their diet.  They control their food in what appears to be an unemotional manner.  However, anorexic teens live with constant feelings of self-disgust, shame, and fear.  This differs slightly from teenagers with bulimia, who also feel the self-disgust, shame and fear plus a numbing during a binge.

 

If you are concerned your daughter has an eating disorder, here are a few questions you can ask.  First, ask your daughter if she feels comfortable with her body.  You can directly ask if she’s ever trying to diet.  Find out from her how much she is concerned with her daily diet.  Nearly all girls are conscious of these things, but many still eat normally and exercise moderately.  You want to determine if it seems a bit extreme.  If your daughter is very defensive when you ask these questions, that can also be a sign of trouble.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Why Teens Need Their Sleep

Too much screen time leads to exhausted teens. Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Exhausted teens are less social, and more disrespectful to their parents.
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Why Teens Need Their Sleep:
1. It helps them concentrate in school.
2. It keeps their moods more even.
3. It keeps the immune system strong.
4. They have more energy.
5. It reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression.
6. Teens who are sleep-deprived eat more junk food.
7. It leads to better judgement.
8. It helps your teen with memory.
9. Teens who get enough sleep are more social.
10. Teens who sleep enough are more respectful.

The health benefits of sleep cannot be overstated. For your teenager’s psychological and physical well-being, make this a top priority. You are on your child about homework, hygiene, chores, etc. Make sleep even more important than these things.  As a therapist for adolescents, assessing how much sleep a teenager is getting is one of the most important things I screen for at the first counseling session.

Teenagers need approximately 9.5 hours of sleep a night! Can you believe that? They are still growing. While they look like young men and women, their brains are far from finished developing.

Unfortunately most teenagers get about 6 hours of sleep on school nights. They are bogged down with homework, sports, and social media. There is so much pressure for them to excel in academics, sports, socially, and still be a good kid. Usually the easiest thing to forego is sleep. However, this is a mistake.

So for this next year, consider a New Year’s Resolution of everyone in the house getting enough sleep. Your whole family will benefit.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Having a Family Fun Holiday Season

Quality family time is hard to come by during the holidays. Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Quality family time is hard to come by during the holidays.
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s the time of year when we all talk about spending time with family.  While we do spend time with family on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, we spend a lot of the other days around this time of year being very busy.  There are parties to attend, presents to buy, things to bake, and errands to run.  It feels like a flurry trying to decorate, get a tree, participate in the church play, and the other million things you might have on the list for November and December.

 

Before you even realize what has happened, the holiday season really isn’t time with family at all.

 

This year can be different.  If you choose to, you can make it a great time of connection for you and your teenagers.  Here are 5 tips on how to involve them.

 

1.  Include them in your shopping.  While I realize they can’t come with you while you shop for their gift, they can certainly help you think of what to get everyone.  They can then sit with you while you order it online, or go with you from store to store.

 

2.  Make baking a family affair.  Teens (especially teen girls) love to bake.  They will actually have some fun if you make cookies together.  Let them put on some music they like, and have a good afternoon together.

 

3.  Don’t be afraid to say no.  It’s truly fine to have limits around how you spend your time this holiday season.  You don’t have to buy everyone a gift or decorate perfectly.  Connecting with family and remembering to focus on your faith for the next 6 weeks is paramount.

 

4.  Teach your children why Christmas really exists.  We’ve made it all about shopping and giving.  It is really nice to give presents.  However, it also is a religious holiday.  I know it can be hard to remember that based on what is shown on TV, where they will say things like, “Christmas is all about family,” or “Christmas is all about giving.”  That is not the basis of Christmas and you have a chance to teach them this year that it is about the birth of Christ.

 

5.  Prioritize some special family time.  Perhaps plan a day to just stay home together, or go up to the mountains together.  Pick a few days out of this busy season to just be “not busy” with your family.  A lot of times you get resistance from your teens when you do this, but they secretly like it.  Trust me, I know because I hear it in my office weekly.

 

Have a safe, love-filled, enjoyable holiday season.  It’s my hope that you get in some quality time with your teenager- for the most part they love getting positive attention from you!

 

Helping families grow and teens improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

OCD: Intrusive Thought or Realistic Thought?

I once had an OCD client who had a teacher yell at her. She became fearful of this teacher and started having obsessive thoughts he would pull her out of class to threaten or scold her. Because he had yelled at her once, her obsession was based on a good-sized kernel of truth. However, as often happens to people suffering with OCD, the obsession was a gross exaggeration of the realistic risk. She struggled immensely with discerning what was realistic and what was intrusive. How does one begin to tell the difference?

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Starting School During a Pandemic

It’s confusing. Life is not making sense the way it normally does because none of us knows what’s coming. We have no idea when things will return to normal, or if the normal we’re used to will even exist again. Here’s a 1 minute video of how to cope with the uncertainty.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT