From Eating Disorder to Isolation

anorexia, eating disorders, bulimia, teen health, teen girlsNicole is a 16-year-old from Philadelphia, PA. She loves music and can often be found singing or
playing the piano or guitar, but largely focuses on academics as well with aspirations to one day be
an editor or journalist.                  


Arguments, emotions, and worries about the future can all break down the bonds of what may be even the strongest of relationships. Deceit, shame, and anger may further widen the gap between people who may think they know everything about each other. Unfortunately, all of these things are common feelings, battles, or results of an eating disorder. And even more unfortunately, they consistently lead to the downfall of even the most precious of relationships- parent and child. How does a child that is a victim of an eating disorder cope with this? Isolation. It is often forgotten that there are many symptoms to an eating disorder that have little to no relation to food. Isolationism is one of them.
When I fell into my eating disorder, I didn’t realize that I was isolating myself until one of my doctors told me that it was a very common symptom of my disease. All of a sudden I started noticing myself becoming more and more distant from others, specifically my family. I spoke less and less around my mother and father. Family game night became a thing of the past. Even the littlest of things, such as sitting together on the same couch to watch TV, no longer occurred. I was on auto-pilot every time I entered my house– I would make a beeline straight to my room. I couldn’t bear to be around people whom I felt I no longer had any sort of connection with.
To put into words the suffering one goes through when fighting an eating disorder is nearly impossible. As a mother or a father, this experience may be somewhat relatable to trying to explain to a child how much you love them. In the end, the explanation often comes down to “you’ll understand when you’re a parent”, for no words can truly convey to your child exactly how you feel for they have not yet shared your experience of having a child of their own. However, when attempting to convey the brutal misery of a disease such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating, a sufferer cannot simply state “you’ll understand when you have an eating disorder.” More often than not, they cannot convey their despair at all. This failure to have someone understand, this inability of others to relate to them, causes the victims to feel further alienated from everyone around them. Thus, the isolation beings and will continue to be fueled as the disorder digs deeper and deeper into the mind of the victim.
In my personal experience, what drove my need to isolate myself at home was my unexplained anger (later explained during family therapy sessions while I was in treatment) towards my parents. I learned that the only way to temporarily ease my frustration directed at them was to completely avoid them altogether. Thus, my malicious anger created even more distance between me and my family, subtly fueling my need for isolation.
One day, on the way home from a doctor’s appointment distended with bad news, my mom and I got into a severely heated argument. It reached the point where I was almost sure that passengers in the cars next to us on the highway could hear word for word my mother’s frantic attempts at reasoning with me and my hopeless retaliation of why I felt I could not change. After I had tried in so many ways but repeatedly failed to have my mother comprehend my struggle, I could do nothing more than desperately cry, “You won’t ever understand.” My mother’s reply was something I’ll never forget: “You’re right, I won’t, and I don’t know what to do.” These few words, this honest truth, restored threads of our relationship that had been long lost. For so long she had felt that as a mother it was her duty to stay strong, to appear as if she knew what the right thing to do was. But her tearful and helpless honesty had exposed a vulnerability that I could so easily relate to. We were now both completely open with each other, and through this we realized that we were just as lost as the other, not knowing how to cope with this disease that was slowly but surely plaguing our entire family.  Although our relationship had long been shattered by continuous fights and tears, the fragments were still there, waiting to be picked up and put back in place.
It was after this bout of honesty that I realized that although my parents could not understand exactly what I was going through, this didn’t mean that we could no longer connect. Although the struggle of a child with an eating disorder is very different from the struggle the parent of the suffering child faces, both the child and the parents are fighting against the same thing. As a parent, it is important to remind your child that you are fighting this disease together. Be honest and open about how you feel, and through this prevent isolation by maintaining threads of your relationship with your child. What they need most is to know that you are just as vulnerable as they are. It’s okay if you do not know what to do next, or how to “fix” the problem, what matters is that you still find ways to connect with your son or daughter.

Psychological Problems are the Latest Trend

depression, disorders, teenagers, trends, anorexia, self injury, fake, psychological, psychiatric, parentsMonique is a sixteen year old girl living in Louisiana. She is a writer, dancer, and actress who enjoys playing video games and learning about others. Her favorite subjects are English, History, and Science; she plans to attend college and get a PhD in a related field.


With psychiatric research and help becoming more popularized, it’s also becoming more accepted by people. While this is a great thing that gives people the opportunity to find the roots of their problems, it also brings in a new “teenage trend.”


This trend is the social belief that it’s “cool” and “hip” to have a psychological disorder. I would like to state that I do understand teenagers can have these disorders just like any other human being; however, a select group of teens diagnose themselves with these problems only to gain attention and to deal with other problems they face. But these teens don’t understand that psychological disorders are NOT a trend and are a serious issue that can lead to horrible consequences.


This is extremely irritating and very much insulting to people who actually have these disorders. It also creates an issue when teens that actually have psychological problems want to get help. Many parents are already closed-minded to the idea of psychiatric help and it is a huge blockade in the teen’s pathway to recovery. However, if their parents accept psychiatric help for their child, it’s still hard to get proper care because some psychiatrists may not take teens seriously and write it off as melodrama. I use to be outraged that a professional would ignore someone who came to them for guidance like I have heard, but once I started paying attention to some of the people around me I couldn’t blame them. While I don’t think it’s right that some treat their clients’ problems in a very condescending manner, almost as if it’s “teenage angst,” I understand that it’s not easy for them to differentiate between angst and actual problems anymore.


You will never really be able to tell the difference between the two. You can’t just assume because this girl is open about her disorder, or this guy posts pictures of his self injury that they’re contributing to the problem of people faking disorders. Humans have different ways of coping with their problems, and while stereotypically people who flaunt their problems are “fake,” it doesn’t mean they all are.


I firmly believe that pretending to have a disorder will eventually cause one. I don’t think of what teens call “attention seekers” in a negative way. I think the need for attention drives people to great lengths and should be classified as it’s own special disorder. Why? Because most likely something has happened to this person that makes them crave the attention, sympathy, or approval of their peers and family. They want this so badly that they will create a world inside their heads to achieve that. You know how sometimes you can keep telling yourself something in your head until it becomes true? Well, it’s the same concept: even though they do not start out with this disorder they will continuously tell themselves “be depressed,” “don’t eat,” “look sad,” “show your scars,” until they don’t have to tell themselves anymore and just do it. Ultimately, their “world” will become reality. Is this any better than starting off with an actual disorder though?


What irritates me personally is that it’s desired to have these disorders. It’s like we’re all glamorizing the ideas that there are problems inside some people’s brains that cause extremely serious and life threatening problems. No one really grasps the concept that having a disorder is a bad thing and you shouldn’t want one. I never hear anyone around school saying, “Life is good.” It’s always “life sucks,” or “I hate everything.” Being normal or happy is almost boring to some people, so they create something to make sure they aren’t “boring.”


How do we fix this problem? We can’t. The only way we can fix it is to either prevent self-diagnosis for disorders they don’t have or we go back to darker days when psychological problems were something to be ashamed of. Neither solution is probable. It all will start within each individual teen to figure themselves out and to stop pretending they’re something they’re not. There are people with actual problems in this world and I find it ridiculous that someone would want to mimic these problems for attention or vanity. Everyone gets a little upset, everyone feels ugly, and everyone has bad days. However, not everyone has a serious, long-term problem and our teenage society needs to realize that.


As parents, I beg you to make sure your child understands that disorders are not something to be considered “cool.” Make sure they know what these disorders are and what they can lead to. Don’t let them go down an uninformed pathway to self-destruction. Encourage happiness and positive behavior. Make sure they know that it’s better to be happy in life and positive than it is to be “messed up.”


***Parents: please note that some teens will make up disorders, but that doesn’t mean your child is. Make sure you treat your child as an individual. Talk to them and observe their behavior. Make sure they can trust you. Remember, not every child is faking it. Like I said, it’s only a select few.


Photo Credit: Cannonsnapper from Flickr



Orthorexia: New Teen Trend

August is a fifteen year old girl who has lived in Maryland most of her life. She loves writing and music, her favorite subject is Science, and she’s a vegetarian. She wants to become a journalist and is working as hard as she can towards this goal.


Vanessa: What is orthorexia?

Answer:  Orthorexia, simply put, is the unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. The goal of orthorexia is not to lose weight or be thin, but to improve eating habits and have a healthier lifestyle. Though it may sound like a made up condition it is a real process affecting many different types of people. Orthorexia may begin as a desire to lose weight, go vegetarian or vegan, or simply to improve one’s health. It then evolves into orthorexia when individual begins cutting out other types of food in fear of ingesting artificial ingredients, such as colorings and flavorings, or because of uncertainty of food quality. Orthorexia may be so severe that the individual may eat only certain foods that they have prepared themselves.1


Vanessa: Why is this a concern?

Answer:  Orthorexic’s lives revolve around the foods they eat. Orthorexics tend to plan their lives around food and may isolate themselves from any social setting. Orthorexics also lose the ability to eat naturally and are often unaware that they are hungry, but instead only know that they need to eat and when, this behavior will more often than not result in malnourishment.2 In some cases orthorexia may lead to a more severe eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.1


Vanessa: How is it affecting teenagers?

Answer:  Teens and young women are the highest risk of developing any eating disorder as they tend to be the ones who are expected to live up to a physical ideal. In 2004 a survey was conducted with students in the University of Rome and 6.9% were found to have orthorexia.1


Vanessa:  What are some signs of orthorexia?

Answer:  Typical signs of orthorexia include3:

  • Constant worry over the quality of the foods you eat
  • Always looking for healthier foods
  • Your diet is the center of your life
  • Feeling of control when you eat the “right” foods
  • May avoid eating out because of lack of control over food preparation
  • May speak often of foods and their health benefits
  • May isolate themselves socially

Orthorexia may also be paired depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, or other anxiety disorders.


Vanessa: What can friends and family do if they are worried about a teen?

Answer:  Friends and family have to be able to help the orthorexic realize that there is a problem and what the teen is doing is not simply healthy eating, but much worse. This can be difficult as many forms of media and parts of our culture suggest healthy eating and the orthorexic is often highly convinced that they are following a healthy and “correct” diet. Friends and family can help by making the orthorexic realize that there are more important thing in life than eating healthy as orthorexia would cause them to put food before everything else.2 Therapy and eating disorder support groups may also be beneficial to the recovery of orthorexia.






Photo:  A Voice in Recovery from Flickr

Jealousy: More Than An Emotion

envy, insecurity, body issues, self esteem, suicideAs a passionate writer of inspirational fiction, Lydia, a 13-year old teenager, living in Thurston, Ohio, frees her mind in the daily patterns of everyday life.


Jealousy is a very deep subject. It’s much more than wanting that cool necklace your friend has or even just wishing you could be a Hollywood star. Jealousy can and has caused insecurity, anorexia, and even suicide. Thing is, most are not aware of the rising population of depressed teens, especially their own parents. Depression can also be a result of jealousy; depression is the result of jealousy…

Firstly, many of us struggle with how we look because of all the “perfect” models we see everyday. My mom always tells me that everyone has different build in the way their bodies look physically, but that does not give you an excuse to be lazy or insecure because you don’t look like the next person. We shouldn’t need to change who we are to get a good critique from the world. Therefore, motivation is the only other thing we need. However, that is also one of the hardest things to gain when you are depressed or feel bad about yourself.

Secondly, the only real beauty is how your heart looks, maybe even how your brain looks. You know, many people think your soul is in your brain, believable right? Depending on your outlook on life, you have a choice to make. You could choose either not to give life a purpose or make what you believe a serious goal, but really, how people look at you does not matter. A good healthy lifestyle holds knowing that you are happy with yourself. I cannot say I am absolutely happy with who I am or who I was 3 years ago, but I do have the peace of mind that I am alive and surviving the rapid changes of the world and being ‘me’. Also, I will learn from my mistakes, knowing that I can be confident with who I am.

In addition, throughout all the pain teens have trying to be satisfied with themselves, parents do not know that they actually have a depressed teen. You, parents, have a big part in your teen’s life and can make a difference. There are probably some things you can think of, causing your child’s depression, but the main thing we teens deal with is jealousy.

Let me define jealousy for you:

Feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages.

Do you know what this means? Can you understand that your teen feels like they are nothing compared to the world’s perfect picture of a human? Probably the biggest, most helpful, thing you could do is just comfort your teen. Not necessarily by hugging them or telling them that you love them (which is also a great option), but by nondescriptly leaving hints about how much of a masterpiece they are. As a girl, I know I love to talk to my mom and many do, problem is, a thick wall is starting to build between the loving relationship of a child and her parents. One of the few things you could do to be helpful towards your child’s depression and jealousy is to give a reason for denying their request. I know it may seem random, but really we do not want to be lied to. We want reasons when we ask, “Can I dye my hair pink? Like that singer!” and you say “No”. Why not? It’s always more satisfying when my parents tell me why I cannot change who I am. Not going to lie, my parent’s opinions is probably the most satisfying compared to anyone I’ve ever met.

So, out of who your teen chooses to be, make sure they know that jealousy is much deeper than what most think it is. I like to think it’s the synonym of hatred or insecurity, but really it’s easier to cure than it is to feel. Some just think it’s hard.

How Drunkorexia Can Affect Your Teen

drunkorexia, eating disorder, body dysmorphia, anorexia, alcohol, alcoholism Jessie is a 8th grader, who loves volunteering with her “trio”. She spends lots of time writing stories, and hanging out with friends. During the week you can find her at home, typing away. On the weekends, the likes to hang out at her friend’s house.

This is serious. Not something to play around with. First off, you are supposed to be over twenty-one before you drink. Now, teens are using alcohol to stop gaining weight. It is illegal since you are under twenty-one, and you could end up dead from not eating.

Drunkorexia is when a teen is replacing eating food with drinking alcohol, or eating food along with drinking alcohol to induce vomiting for numbing feelings. Girls are more likely to engage in this. Drunkorexia also has some terrible long-term effects. When you are drunk, you can get into many different troubles. First off, your drunk, and driving home drunk is illegal. You could end up in a car accident, and kill yourself, somebody else, or everybody in the accident. You could also end up doing some things you will regret while you’re drunk. If you engage in intercourse, you have a risk of STIs (sexually transmitted infections), and have a risk of getting pregnant. You can also get alcohol poisoning, and become a victim sexual assault. This is putting your teen in danger.

Since drunkorexia is drinking and not eating, it’s “double trouble”. You have the consequences of drinking, and not eating. From not eating, you have big risks for seizures, comas, or even hospitalization. If they keep up using drunkorexia, organ, liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal failure may happen.

If you are a parent with a teen using drunkorexia, you need to be very supportive. They are most likely thinking they are fat, so they are trying to lose their weight. You might want to help them by talking to a therapist, so you can sort everything out.

This is a very big college trend. If you have a friend doing this, you also need to be supportive. This is a very difficult time for them if they are turning to drunkorexia. They are either thinking they are fat, or they are addicted to alcohol. They have many hotlines for support if you need it. They can try to help you the best they can.

Drunkorexia is serious, so don’t mess around.


Coming to terms with Anorexia

teen body issues, self-esteem, anorexia, eating disordersBorn and bred a British, Shamima, 17, is all about creativity and self-expression. She wishes to pursue a career in Medicine and pursue her interests in poetry, fashion, writing and maybe in the distant future, property development.


So you have noticed that your teen anxiously avoids over-eating, or is that eating all together? No matter what you say or do, you cannot by force or by persuasion get them to eat. Then come the complaints from school that he/she cannot concentrate in class, sometimes falling asleep with fatigue, other times fainting. And it isn’t long until the physical impacts begin to show, huge loss of weight, yellowing skin, and obvious signs of weakness and fatigue. Even their personalities seems to have altered, they are consistently angry and irritable and very secretive.

This is probably where alarm bells start to go off, and terrified parents take every measure to snap their teens out of it. But before you started throwing cautions of [female] loss of fertility, and death their way there are a few things parents must understand in order to effectively approach this complex issue.

1. Your teen is suffering not rebelling

Why are they doing this to themselves? Why are they doing this to us? Why won’t they stop it? Frustrated questions that lead you only to believe that your teen is being selfish and perhaps they are, just a little bit but that is not even the tip of the iceberg. They are not rebellion against you; rather they are battling against themselves.

The teen’s view: Teens are trapped in their minds, they so wish they could break away from constantly hating themselves, constantly feeling down and depressed, and they wish so much that everyone would stop making such a big fuss, following them, watching what they eat and so on.

2. Anorexia is a psychological condition with physical symptoms.

It should be straight forward, shouldn’t it? By getting your teen to eat just a bit more, it should make everything okay. But the problem does not lie there; it roots from the mind and that is where we must focus our attention. Anorexia is suggested to be an issue of control, whereby the sufferer feels they have little or no control over their lives and discover a method of achieving it by restricting their food intake.

Where does this feeling of a lack of control come from?

One hypothesis suggests that parents play a significant role. Parents who are very firm and overprotective, who dictate every aspect of their teens lives from friends, what they do in their free time to careers and post-school plans do not allow for their teens to make decision regarding their own lives. A reason why this could have such a devastating impact is the fact that teens are evolving into young adults, and they are bursting at the seams with a desire for independence, just as any adult. To put this into perspective, imagine how you would feel if your parents pulled all the strings in your family life and you had no control over your home, your children etc. Nightmare, right? While it is hard to believe, teenagers feel exactly the same in a slightly different context!

Another cause may be depression. My teen isn’t depressed! I hear you cry. Teens are super secretive; they don’t want to show anyone that they are struggling even if they are drowning in the deepest depths of depression. Sometimes they don’t even realize they are depressed, that’s just life isn’t it? And to parents – well, teenagers are always moody aren’t they?

Being able to control their food intake, even the pains of hunger pangs could give that all desired feeling of relief and satisfaction.

The teen’s view: A lot of the time the teen is confused as to why they act or react is a certain way, they just do it!

3. Pushing and prodding will only make them sink deeper.

Teens who are suffering from anorexia are extremely defensive, everything you say or do portrays as an attack on them. So the more that you try to outwardly intervene and help them, the more they will shut you and distrust you, not to mention fight back by opposing everything you suggest.

All in all, fighting anorexia directly will only worsen the situation.

The teen’s view: As if they aren’t feeling awful as it is, now everyone is turning against them.


How to approach anorexia:

1. Start with being supportive

They clearly do not want to eat the food you keep placing in front of them; just the sight of it may make them heave. Your concern is that they are not getting the nutrients that they require, so multivitamins are a start.

Help them to find the food that is easiest for them to eat as well as providing them a bigger range of nutrients.

2. Friends are the most welcome ears

With anorexia being psychological and therefore very personal, teens may hesitate and hold back from talking to you. As they tend to talk more openly to close friends, try to get them into the picture. Ask your teen whether they want to talk to friends or not before mentioning anything. But beware that not all friends are ideal when discussing such sensitive issues.

What this will mean, however, is that although your teen may be opening up, you will still be none the wiser.

3. Address the cause

If you can identify areas where teens are lacking control, try to give them that control. Assure them that they are allowed to make decisions for themselves, which further comes with responsibility and that you are always there to support them if they require it.

If you feel depression may be the cause, help them to explore their problems in order to understand themselves better and overcome it. Writing, art and music are fantastic mediums but your teen will probably have their own ideas in mind.


Bring it up on every occasion

Force feed them

Keep mentioning hospitalisation and death

Treat them like a ‘bad’ or ‘problematic’ person

Threaten them

Assess them every chance you get

Give the impression that you do not trust them


However, if it feels as though your teen’s condition is deteriorating do not hesitate to seek professional help!

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The Teacher That Saved Me

school teacher, eating disorder, anorexia, teen dieting, teen health

Christine is a 15 year old from St. Paul, MN. She is an avid writer and also enjoys running, reading, and travelling.


All it took was a tear in my geography teachers’ eye to save my life.

I had been battling an eating disorder for over six months- living off a ½ cup of cereal for breakfast with no milk (120 calories), a small cup of lowfat yogurt for lunch (80 calories), and a ½ cup of pasta with tomato sauce for dinner with a ½ cup of milk (300 calories). I don’t know how it all started. Maybe it was when my brother called my skinny body fat, maybe it was when my dad congratulated me for being more muscular than the other girls on my volleyball team, maybe it was watching my mom excercising and dieting all the time. Whatever it was, my eating disorder hit me hard. I ran on the tredmill for 20 minutes before school, I biked 3 miles to get to school, I went to Nordic Ski practice for 2 hours after school, and I biked 3 miles back home.  Pounds melted off of me and I felt strong, fit, and fast… until my symptoms began to hit me hard.

I became chronically cold- shivering in eighty-degree rooms. I became pale and weak. I was dizzy and light-headed, almost fainting when I stood up. But I loved my new body. My previous too-muscular thighs had become thin and sleek. My round facial cheeks faded into sharp angles and high cheekbones. I was addicted to improving my body.

Then, one day in May, my geography teacher pulled me out of class.

He was my favorite teacher in the world. He was funny, kind, and like a father to me. He seemed to always keep an eye out for me. He made me feel special.

When he pulled me out of class I was shivering from my eating disorder induced chills. He shut the door behind me and looked me straight in the eye.

“Are you okay?” He asked. “You haven’t seemed quite right in class.”

“Yeah,” I lied, casually. “Just tired.” I feigned a yawn and looked away.

I realized he was staring at me oddly, so I looked back in his eyes. I was shocked to see his eyes looked wet. An uncomfortable knot formed in my stomach.

“Christine, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but I want you to know that everyone here cares for you. You’re strong, beautiful, and smart. I want you to beat whatever it is you’re going through. I don’t want to lose you. You understand?”

“Y-yeah…” I said, awkwardly, before hastily retreating back through the door to my seat.

The rest of that class I didn’t make eye contact with him and sat in my seat, many confused thoughts going through my head. What was wrong with me? Why was I starving myself? How did he know?

When I got home I almost passed out again. Hunger gnawed at my stomach like a knife, but I couldn’t make myself eat. I just couldn’t. When my mom came home I reverted my gaze, before impulsively deciding to speak.

“M-m-om?” I asked, my voice breaking. “I think I need to go the hospital- to get help.”

I expected her to break into a panic, asking me what was wrong, but to my surprise my mom looked at me calmly and replied. “I know.”

That evening I was driven right to the eating disorder hospital. I was admitted into the top floor, where I was moved into a room of my own with other identical, teenage stick figures. I didn’t show up to school for those last 3 weeks of school. Instead, I lived at the hospital in a small bedroom. I slept, ate, then ate again, then ate again. I ate six meals a day. I had lost 30 pounds in a month, had a heart rate below 40, and I was at high risk of sudden death or cardiac arrest. I didn’t want to die. Instead, I ate everything served to me.

Never had food been so delicious. I felt as if it was the best thing in the world. The sourest strawberry tasted like a piece of heaven. An uncooked piece of chicken seemed to melt in my mouth like a piece of cheesecake. Food…. Food… food.  My deprived brain couldn’t stop thinking about it.

After three weeks I moved back home and steadily gained all my weight back over the next few months. My thighs that I had hated so much came back. My cheeks reappeared. My prominent ribs faded back from my skin. At times I cried, feeling as if all my hard work had been for nothing, but soon I began seeing myself for who I really was. I was strong, smart, athletic and… beautiful.

Now I am going to high school. Although many of the girls I met at the eating disorder center have relapsed, I know that no matter what, I will never fall into such a terrible loop. Instead, I think of my favorite geography teacher, and the tear in his eye, and remind myself that no matter what, I have all the friends and family I need to support me, without killing myself through an eating disorder.

I never got to see my favorite teacher again after going to the hospital, but I won’t let him down.  After all, it’s the least I can do to thank him for saving my life. Without him, I wouldn’t be around today.




Thinspiration: An Alarming New Trend for Teen Girls


Thinspiration: n Photographs or other material intended to provide inspiration for anorexia nervosa, under eating, over-exercising and being underweight as a lifestyle choice.

I was clued into thinspiration a few months ago by a teen intern. She explained to me, “Girls who really want to be skinny look at pictures of other skinny girls to inspire them to eat less or work out or to continue to be hungry and skip meals.”

A quick Google search of thinspiration brings up a ton of websites, images and videos mostly teen girls have made to support the ‘ana’ lifestyle. ‘Ana’ is shortened version of anorexia nervosa.

It is very important for parents to be aware of this behavior. I highly recommend parents keep tabs on the kinds of websites, pictures and videos teens are watching. Many of these types of videos would not flag parental control softwares or be blocked under Google Safe Search because there is no nudity or inappropriate content. However, these images, this behavior and more importantly, this internet subculture is extremely damaging. The Ana and Thinspiration websites encourage and normalize disordered eating.

Feel free to share thoughts in the comments.

How to Tell if Somebody You Know Has an Eating Disorder

Caitlin is a 16-year-old from Simsbury, CT. She likes to write, make things with clay, and really wants a dog. Her two favorite subjects are Art and English.

The symptoms of having an eating disorder might sound simple enough: losing weight rapidly, becoming less social, wearing baggy clothes, and hiding food. These signs, however, are not easy to notice and the absence of some of these signs does not mean that your child is not afflicted by an eating disorder.

When I was 13, I thought that losing weight could solve all of my problems. After all, the popular girls were thin and they were happy. They had boyfriends and nice clothes. I attributed all of these wonderful things to their weight and figured that, with diligence and persistence, I too could be popular. I too could be perfect.

While these thoughts do not make sense, they are common in a lot of pre-teens and teenagers. As teenage bodies change, weights fluctuate and leave hipbones and knobby knees covered in new curves. These new bodies contrast greatly with the rail-thin models seen on runways and even with other classmates who’s bodies have not yet matured.

My body was one of those that matured fast. I found myself surrounded by girls who did not know that there were pants larger than a size zero, and I felt insecure that I could not relate.

I resorted to changing my diet and started to exercise more consistently. While this can be done in a healthy way, I limited my calories drastically under the recommended amount and started to hide food that I didn’t want to consume. I tracked every calorie religiously and became panicked when a “forbidden food” was placed in front of me to eat.

While this was happening, I did not know I was developing distorted eating and neither did my parents. They thought that I was starting healthier habits.

Over time, my weight became so low that they couldn’t help but notice that something was not right. I didn’t like to eat in front of people, and when I did I had to cut my food into tiny pieces so that it would take me longer to finish. They started to notice napkins in the garbage filled with remains of dinner. My clothes began to sag off of me, and my body started to return to a pre-pubescent state.

These are all signs that someone is developing anorexia, yet the people afflicted with the disorder know how to hide these habits so that others do not suspect anything.

Anorexia is not the only eating disorder, and it is one of the only ones that can be spotted by excessive weight loss. The most common eating disorder in America is compulsive overeating, or binge eating. This is very different than anorexia as, instead of the enemy, food is viewed as a friend, a dangerous friend. “Binges” are defined as short periods of time in which an abnormally large amount of food is consumed in private, usually followed by extreme guilt. Sometimes purging or exercising until all remains of food are gone may follow these binges. These latter instances are examples of bulimia and compulsive exercising.

The one thing that anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and compulsive exercising have in common is that all of these disorders feed on insecurity. They are also “lonely” disorders because it is hard to hide these habits when faced with a birthday party or sleepover, thus solitude is preferred.

If these disorders are not caught, they can lead to severe health complications and possibly death. Depression is also common, as are thoughts of suicide. Anorexia has a death rate of 12 times greater than any other mental disorder.

To get over my illness, my parents had me see a therapist, a nutritionist, and a doctor to check my weight. While all three of these might not be necessary for treatment, having someone who has experience with eating disorders to talk with is helpful. The one action that is necessary is to address the problem. If the eating disorder goes on for too long, than the person is at a higher risk for health complications, and will also face a harder recovery process. The best thing you can do for someone suffering is to talk to them and get them help.

For more information on eating disorders and treatment, you can visit

The Different Signs of Eating Disorders

Gema is an 19-year old from Miami, FL. She loves reading and writing young adult fiction and claims to pass out in the presence of sterile wit.behind closed doors. by Dandy Lions.

When someone mentions the term “eating disorders,” many people assume that the person suffering from it aims to lose weight. A lot of people don’t talk about the eating disorders that have to do with weight gain. Here I will discuss both.

Eating Disorders Resulting In Weight Loss:

Anorexia Nervosa: It’s a result of self-starvation. The person (could be girl or boy of any age) is below the normal weight for their age and height by 85%. They have an intense fear of being fat. This is accompanied by a distorted body image. Think of it like a fun house’s mirror, except there’s nothing fun about it. No matter how thin they get, they always view themselves as fat. Their body also drops in body temperature. Their heart rate and blood pressure decreases. Their hair thins out. If it’s a girl, she’ll stop menstruating. This results in an electrolyte imbalance, which is usually fatal.

Bulimia Nervosa: This is a rather nasty cycle of binge eating and purging. The purging doesn’t always refer to self-induced vomiting, even if this is what bulimia is most known for. It also includes excessive exercising, strict dieting or fasting and an abuse of diet pills, laxatives and diuretics. Like people suffering from anorexia, they suffer from low self-esteem and worry about the shape of their bodies. However, their symptoms aren’t as obvious as anorexics. Many are average in weight. Their vomiting can result in tears in esophagus, tooth decay, broken blood vessels in the eyes among other things. Like anorexics, they can also die from electrolyte imbalance.

Eating Disorders Resulting in Weight Gain:

Binge Eating Disorder: This is when a person overeats. I’m not talking about “pigging out” and having to open the top button of your pants. This is a person compulsively eating everything in sight and not being able to stop. It’s like the mouth possesses the entire body and attacks food. They usually eat in secret. This is associated to a feeling of shame. The result is obesity. Unfortunately, this disorder is extremely difficult to detect due to its secrecy and denial.

Night Eating Syndrome: Besides being an eating disorder, it’s also considered a sleeping and mood disorder. The person won’t eat much during the day (morning anorexia). The majority of their calories are consumed after dinnertime. They wake up in the middle of the night and need to eat. This is associated to low self-esteem, depression and stress.

There are no quick remedies for eating disorders. Psychological, medical and nutrition professionals are needed. If you suspect that someone close to you suffers from an eating disorder, step in and help them out.

(Information from my nutrition professor Jorge Monserrate and