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July 11, 2017

Dieting Friends and How to Avoid An Eating Disorder

Friends enjoying a party

Diet culture has increasingly become part of our society, with the mainstream media constantly sharing the newest trends.

The dieting industry has escalated into a multi-billion dollar marketing ploy that often baits individuals into believing that if they try a new product, follow a meal plan or recipe book, or take certain supplements that this will result in greater acceptance, approval, likeability, etc.

For those individuals who may be susceptible to developing an eating disorder, dieting can be a triggering factor that influences these severe psychiatric illnesses, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder [1].

Eating Disorders Among Teenagers

Eating disorders can be a problematic concern among adolescent and teenagers, with approximately half a million teenagers struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating in the United States [2].

With eating disorders resulting in devastating consequences, including emotional, physical, and psychological side effects, parents, caregivers, and loved ones would do anything possible to prevent their child from developing one of these mental illnesses.

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It is important to understand that eating disorders are the result of several different factors, including biological components that cannot necessarily be controlled or prevented. While parents can take strides to protect their child from unnecessary risk factors related to eating disorders, there is no guaranteed method of preventing eating disorders.

It is also important for parents to understand the early warning signs of eating disorders, as awareness can help with early intervention and treatment. Individuals who receive treatment early on in the development of their eating disorder typically have an improved prognosis for the disease.

While parents may not necessarily be able to prevent an eating disorder from developing, having an understanding of signs and symptoms can allow a parent to play a crucial role in intervention and treatment.

Tips for Parents of Adolescents

Both biological and environmental factors contribute to the development of an eating disorder in a teenager or adolescent. Potentially influencing factors may include being surrounded by peers who are dieting or deeply immersed in diet culture.

Parents vising treatment center for TeenagersDuring a time in life when teens are more inclined to seek approval from their friends, teenagers and adolescents are highly influenced by what those around them are doing. This may be even more escalated with social media use, in which peers determine their likability based on responses from friends on various social media platforms.

Even though a teenager is learning to acquire autonomy apart from their parents, parental closeness and involvement can play an important role in a teen’s decision making, as well as cognitive/emotional development [3].

When it comes to teenagers, there are many different things parents can do to model and support an overall healthy relationship with food and body, which can be protective factors for a lifetime:

Start with you: If as a parent, you are frequently dieting and/or negatively commenting about your appearance, weight, body, etc., these factors will influence how your child perceives themselves and their own bodies. Take some time to reflect on how you care for yourself and your body. If dieting is not observed within your own home, this may help your child feel less inclined to engage in these behaviors.

Keep communication channels open: Developing trust in your relationship with your child can encourage them to come to you when something is bothering them, or simply to communicate. Pay attention to what your child may bring to you for discussion and be aware of any red flags that may indicate they are struggling with any issues.

Regular family meals: Numerous studies have indicated the many benefits of regular family meals, including decreased risk of eating disorders and other mood disorders. Schedule time in your calendar to have consistent family meals, and also use this as a time to create reflective traditions as a family, such as sharing a daily gratitude.

Promote body diversity/positivity: Help your teenager learn and embrace body diversity/body positivity by demonstrating this yourself. Engaging in activities that do not emphasize size and/or weight can be empowering for a teenager who is building their own confidence and autonomy.

Family's silhoute at the beachRemember that, as a parent to a teenager, you still play a tremendous role in their outlook of life and in the way they learn to treat their bodies. Always remember that you are never alone in this process.

Consider connecting with other families to support your role as a parent and to create a sense of community for a journey that can sometimes feel overwhelming.

Your influence on your teenager’s life is invaluable and will give them a healthy foundation for living for years to come.


Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Contributing Writer for Eating Disorder Hope.

Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing,

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH and nutrition private practice.


[1]: National Eating Disorder Association, “Risk Factors That May Contribute to an Eating Disorder”, https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/factors-may-contribute-eating-disorders Accessed 7 June 2017
[2]: Swanson, S., Crow, S., Le Grange, D., Swendsen, J., Merikangas, K. (2011).Prevalence and Correlates of Eating Disorders in Adolescents.Archives of General Psychiatry, Online Article, E1-E10.
[3]: Medscape, Parental Influences on Adolescent Decision Making and Contraceptive use, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/726737_5 Accessed 9 June 2017

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 11, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 11, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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