• Eating Disorders in Teens: Preventions, Treatment and Help for Parents | Jillian Walsh | Episode 198

  • small mirror shows image of red apple while an apple core sits on table to show effect of eating disorders

    Eating disorders cause children to suffer and bring chaos to families. But what exactly is an eating disorder? What causes them and who develops them? Do you really need to worry about your child having an eating disorder? Can you prevent it? Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler explores these and many other questions about eating disorders in teens in her conversation with Jillian Walsh.

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    A Favorite Quote from the Show

    When we moralize food choices then our teens start to feel they are unworthy, undeserving, and unacceptable if they consume food deemed to be bad.

    quote from Jillian Walsh "When we moralize food choices then our teens start to feel they are unworthy, undeserving, and unacceptable if they consume food deemed to be bad."

    High Points From Our Conversation on Eating Disorders in Teens:

    Eating disorders are common. Actually, about 1 in 10 people will be diagnosed with a clinically significant eating disorder. Many more will experience disordered eating.

    There’s been upwards of a 50-60% increase in youth eating disorders during the pandemic.

    Eating happens along a spectrum ranging from healthy eating patterns to a severe eating disorder. There are many variations and degrees of disordered eating. 

    Early intervention is the #1 predictor of success in eating disorder recovery in children and youth.

    How do you know if your child needs intervention? Look to see if your teen’s disordered eating is creating an impact on their quality of life. If you’re seeing an impact on physical or mental health, that’s a key determining factor that a parent should be getting involved.

    Are they adequately able to feed their body? Are they able to grow? Teens should grow through approximately age 19-20. With adequate growth comes weight gain— weight gain is not always fat gain.. Much of this weight goes into:

    • Bones
    • Brain growth
    • Muscle increase
    • Development of the reproductive system

    Medical professionals plot our children’s growth on a growth curve through age 19. Watch for significant changes in the pattern of your child’s plot points.

    There is no single cause of an eating disorder. Genetics, environment, and social media can all play a role. At the end of the day there tends to be a trigger.

    Approximately 1 in 10 people with an eating disorder is male and 9 are female. The LBGTQ community is more susceptible.

    Someone who is experiencing body dysmorphia and is concerned about breast growth can put off puberty with food restriction. This is something LGBTQ youth tend to know.

    Start by not moralizing food. Food is food. It is neither good nor bad. When we moralize food choices then our teens start to feel they are unworthy, undeserving, and unacceptable if they consume food deemed to be bad.

    Parents can use social modeling to demonstrate what a healthy diet is.

    We want to create a wellness mindset rather than diet culture. Diet is simply the intake of food. We want to model eating foods that make us feel good, to turn inward and ask what our body needs right now.

    Food is more than food. It’s also social connection and comfort.

    Signs your child might have an eating disorder:

    • Physical signs— digestion issues, constipation, acid reflux, feeling especially cold, brittle hair and nails
    • Emotional signs— being more irritable (especially around mealtimes), not coming to the dinner table, eating in secret, avoiding outings, avoiding certain foods, need to work out to burn off a meal

    If you see signs then reach out. Do some research—read a blog or a book. If you think there’s something there, you see red flags, make an appointment with your family physician.

    Family physicians are not eating disorder specialist and 70% of physicians will miss the diagnosis. Ask for a referral to a specialist or a pediatrician.

    Be someone your teen can go to to feel seen, secure, safe, and heard. Continue to validate your child.

    At the beginning stages of an eating disorder the child will be run by the eating disorder brain which make is hard for the parent to call out the eating disorder.. Focus on keeping them safe from harming their body and connect them with a specialist.

    Parents need to support themselves. Seeking a community of other parents with similar experiences can be helpful.

    Remember, there’s a genetic component to eating disorders so there’s a high likelihood a parent is susceptible as well. The child can trigger the parent’s issues.


    Diet Culture Is Harming Our Kids | Zoe Bisbing And Leslie Bloch Of The Full Bloom Project | Episode 127      

    Society and Body Image and Its Impact On Our Kids | Dana Suchow | Episode 32

    Jillian Walsh, eating disorders expert

    Our Guest Jillian Walsh, RD, RP(Q):

    Jillian is the lead Registered Dietitian and therapist at change.creates.change Nutrition Eating Disorder Services and is currently registered with the College of Dietitians of Ontario.

    Jillian is an Eating Disorder Specialist that helps parents support their child through an eating disorder while also taking care of themselves. She focuses on helping parents build resilience and preventing caregiver burnout while teaching them the skills they need to help their child get better. Jillian graduated from Acadia University with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and completed a dietetic internship at Eastern Health in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Counselling Psychology and completed a practicum at the London Health Sciences Centre Adult Eating Disorders Service. She is experienced in delivering both individual nutrition counseling and group psychoeducation to children, adolescents, and adults and has worked in eating disorders since 2013. 

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit http://www.changecreateschange.com/ 

    Our Sponsor:

    Are you stressed but don’t have time to deal with it? Grab Sandy Fowler’s complimentary lesson at http://sandyfowler.com/notime to find out how to start feeling better today.