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In the Media | Teens and Eating Disorders: Know the Risks and Recognize the Red Flags

Published by: Main Line Parent

For Main Line area parent, Lisa*, it all began with a phone call from a friend, the mother of her daughter’s best friend. Her friend had become concerned about Lisa’s teenage daughter Emily,* who had spent a week with her family at the Jersey shore. As Lisa remembers it, her friend said in a cautionary tone, “I just want to say, watch Emily… because I noticed she’s not eating a lot and she’s running a ton.” 

Lisa had noticed that her daughter, a rising high school senior and accomplished athlete, was running a lot that summer. But she didn’t give it a second thought. “She’s an athlete and I thought she was just staying in shape,” says Lisa. Her daughter had also been losing weight since her junior year but Lisa didn’t notice — until luckily, her friend recognized two very common symptoms of an eating disorder.

*Names have been changed to protect the family’s privacy.

What Are The Signs of an Eating Disorder?

Oftentimes, parents don’t immediately recognize their child’s disordered eating patterns, but it’s important to know the signs because the earlier someone gets help the easier it is to recover. […]

Alexis Short, M.S., a primary therapist at the Radnor location of The Renfrew Center, a treatment center which specializes in eating disorder recovery, says, “You may notice that someone’s relationship with food and their body seem to be different or changing, that they avoid certain types of foods, are hiding food, going to the bathroom frequently during or after meals, are going on fad diets, experiencing weight changes, and are expressing more body dissatisfaction. These are all reasons that you might become concerned.” 

After Lisa got her wake up call, she started watching her daughter much more closely and she realized, “Ok, she’s gotten really thin, really fast.” She says Emily never got dangerously thin, but she noticed a big weight drop. Lisa approached Emily about her suspicions immediately. “She gave me a little bit of a hard time,” says Lisa, “but almost from day one, she admitted that she thought she had an issue.” 

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