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During the holiday season, many people make the annual trip to gather with their families and share in a special meal. You may notice that a loved one has developed unusual eating habits since the last time you saw her or him.
The start of the school year is quickly approaching and so are tryouts for fall sports teams. However busy this time of year always seems to be for many families, it’s important to take a moment away from the rush of the school year and make sure your student isn’t participating in disordered eating or exercising behavior due to pressure from their peers or athletics.
Sports such as ballet, gymnastics, wrestling, football and others may become centered on your student-athlete’s weight, especially when a championship or scholarship is on the line. When this pressure to be thin manifests, your child’s sport develops into a risk factor which may increase their chances of developing an eating disorder. What is commonly confused by many athletes is the difference between physical fitness and thinness. It’s important to have a conversation with your child and reassure them that a person’s fat content is not the sole measurement of their physical ability or health.
Often times when people hear the term “disordered eating,” they assume it’s another way of saying one has an eating disorder. However, these terms are not interchangeable. With an eating disorder, food intake and weight issues consume your thoughts and actions making it nearly impossible to focus on anything else; it is a mental illness. Eating disorders often cause multiple, serious physical problems and, in severe cases, can become life threatening.
At 15 years old, Erika* thought she had found a great way to lose weight over the summer and stay healthy. At first, she received compliments on how she looked and how active she had become. But eventually, her friends knew something wasn’t right.
“They noticed that I was throwing away my lunch. They noticed that I was distracted, isolated, that I walked around during lunch,” said Erika. Her friends tried to drop hints that the way she had been eating and been taking care of herself was, in fact, an eating disorder.
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