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Parenting a Child with an Eating Disorder: A Beginning Checklist

Parenting a Child with an Eating Disorder: A Beginning Checklist

If you are a parent, you already know that the role can be incredibly challenging AND rewarding.  Many parents find themselves searching for a handbook or parenting manual, but as we know, newborns do not come with an instruction booklet attached!  Most of the time, our intuition and some advice from well-meaning loved ones can suffice.  But when you find yourself parenting a child with an eating disorder- when it feels like the parenting difficulty just ratcheted up to an overwhelmingly difficult new level- it can be hard to know where to turn for support and answers. As a parent, you know you play a crucial role in supporting your child on the path to recovery. But how do you best achieve that? 

Seek Professional Help

If you are parenting a child with an eating disorder,  find qualified professionals who can help. Connect with a specialized therapist, dietician, and medical doctor who is knowledgeable and skilled in the treatment of eating disorders. They will help create a tailored treatment plan for your child and can offer wrap-around support for the questions and concerns you have. 

Educate Yourself

Knowledge is power. By taking the time to educate yourself about eating disorders, you will learn how to support your child as they work in recovery.  The Balance Health and Healing blog is a wealth of knowledge!  Here, you can learn about eating disorders and available treatment options.  The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to support your child effectively.

Foster Open Communication & Be a Role Model

Encourage open and non-judgmental communication with your child, creating a safe and comfortable space to discuss their thoughts and feelings with you. Be patient and actively listen, avoiding criticism or shaming.  Be a recovery role model.  Children are watching their parents… even when we think they aren’t! Exemplify a healthy relationship with food and body image within your household. Avoid diet talk or negative comments about your own body. Show your child that self-worth is not defined by appearance.  Ensure your home environment is conducive to recovery by removing triggers such as diet foods, fashion magazines promoting unrealistic body ideals, and negative influences on social media. Cultivate a supportive and nurturing atmosphere for recovery.

Collaborate with the Treatment Team

Work with your child’s treatment team- attend therapy sessions, family counseling, medical and dietary appointments as recommended. Collaborative efforts between you, your child, and professionals are vital for recovery.

Monitor Progress, Not Perfection

Recovery from an eating disorder is not a linear process- there will be ups and downs along the way. Focus on your child’s progress rather than expecting perfection. Celebrate small victories and provide unwavering love and support during setbacks.

Self-Care for Parents

Remember that parenting a child with an eating disorder is a new and challenging task. Don’t neglect your own well-being. Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist to help you cope with the stress and emotions that arise.  As you model healthy behaviors, your child will continue to be strengthened by your example. 

Parenting a child with an eating disorder is undoubtedly one of the more challenging experiences a parent can face. However, with the right support and professional guidance, recovery is possible for your child. Your role in that process takes patience and unwavering love. You- and your child- are not defined by the eating disorder, and with support, you can play a vital role in helping them find their way to a healthier, happier life.

Recognizing the Signs: When It’s Time to Address an Eating Disorder

Recognizing the Signs: When It’s Time to Address an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions that can have severe physical, emotional, and psychological consequences. If left untreated, they can significantly impact your overall well-being and quality of life. Recognizing the signs and knowing when it’s time to address an eating disorder is crucial for early intervention and effective treatment. What are some common indicators that may suggest it’s time to seek help for an eating disorder?

1) Distorted Body Image:

Do you consistently perceive yourself in a body different from what evidence suggests? Do you obsessively focus on specific body parts and engage in excessive body-checking behaviors? These may be signs that an eating disorder is present. This distorted perception can lead to harmful behaviors such as extreme dieting, excessive exercise, or self-induced vomiting.

2) Drastic Changes in Eating Habits:

Extreme and erratic changes in eating habits can indicate the presence of an eating disorder. This might show up in your life as severe calorie restriction, skipping meals, avoiding certain food groups, or rigidly following specific dietary rules. On the other hand, binge eating episodes, characterized by consuming large quantities of food in a short period, followed by feelings of guilt or shame, can also be a red flag. These unhealthy eating patterns often disrupt normal eating routines and your body’s intuitive hunger and fullness cues, leading to feelings of loss of control around food.

3) Physical Signs and Health Complications:

Eating disorders can have significant physical consequences. If you are experiencing weight loss or weight fluctuations, mental fog, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, hair loss, or changes in skin quality, it can be due to disordered patterns of eating.  Other physical signs may include irregular menstrual cycles, gastrointestinal problems, or dental issues due to purging behaviors.

4) Emotional and Psychological Distress:

Individuals struggling with eating disorders may experience intense anxiety, depression, irritability, or mood swings. They may also exhibit perfectionistic tendencies, low self-esteem, a preoccupation with the body, or an excessive need for control. If you notice persistent emotional and psychological struggles that revolve around food, eating, and body image, take that as an invitation to address the underlying issues!

5) Interference with Daily Life:

When eating concerns begin to interfere with daily life, including relationships, work or school performance, and social activities, it is crucial to seek professional help. The preoccupation with food, body image, and restrictive behaviors can consume a significant amount of time and mental energy, leaving little room for other important aspects of life.

6) Concern from Loved Ones:

Sometimes, it’s the observations and concerns of family and friends that prompt people to address their eating concerns. If people close to you express worry about your eating habits, physical appearance, or emotional well-being, it’s essential to consider their perspective. Their concern may be an indication that you could benefit from treatment.  

    Recognizing the signs and acknowledging when it’s time to address an eating disorder is a critical step toward recovery. Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that require comprehensive treatment, and reaching out for support is an act of courage and self-care. With the right treatment, recovery is possible, and a healthier relationship with food and oneself can be achieved.


    Evolving Beauty Standards: The Science Behind Changing Perspectives

    Evolving Beauty Standards: The Science Behind Changing Perspectives

    Beauty standards have always been subject to influence by cultural, societal, and individual factors. Throughout history, there has been a noticeable shift in the way beauty is perceived and appreciated. You may be familiar with social media videos showing hair, makeup, or clothing trends through the decades and note the changing- and sometimes comical- differences the standard of “beauty” has brought to women.  Why does this matter?  In a world with an ever-changing bullseye, women find themselves exhausted trying to keep up.  Unchecked, this can wreak havoc on your physical and emotional health.  Let’s take a deeper dive and explore the changing beauty standards and the factors contributing to this transformation.

    Societal Influences:

    Beauty standards are heavily influenced by societal values and norms. Historically, these standards have often been based on a narrow range (often white, European influenced) physical attributes, perpetuating unrealistic ideals.  However, increased awareness and cultural shifts have given rise to a more inclusive perspective on beauty. This shift is driven by social movements, like body positivity, inclusivity, feminism, and equality.



    The media plays a significant role in shaping beauty standards. Traditionally, mainstream media has promoted a homogeneous view of beauty, featuring predominantly slim, young, and white individuals. However, as media platforms diversify, there is a growing demand for representation of different body types, ethnicities, ages, and abilities. Exposure to diverse representations can positively impact self-esteem and body image.


    Cultural Variations:

    Beauty standards vary across cultures, highlighting the subjective nature of beauty. In some cultures, curvier body types are celebrated, while in others, a slender physique is favored. Understanding cultural variations and appreciating diverse aesthetic preferences can help challenge the notion of a singular ideal and foster acceptance of different beauty standards.

    Beauty standards are not merely external forces at work-  they also can be internalized by individuals. The concept of “social comparison” explains how people compare themselves to others, often leading to negative self-perception when they fall short of societal beauty standards. 

    By understanding the underpinnings of changing beauty standards, you can become aware of how you are influenced and impacted by them.  When you begin to take note of that, you can then take charge and set intentions around the way you want to interact with these ideas.  It allows you to embrace inclusivity, challenge unrealistic ideals, and celebrate diverse forms of beauty. Recognizing the role of ever-changing beauty standards allows us to move toward a more inclusive and empowering notion of beauty, one that values individuality and authenticity.

    Fad Diets 101- What You Need To Know

    Fad Diets 101- What You Need To Know

    Fad Diets 101- What You Need To Know: 

    It’s a conversation you can probably relate to: 

    – “I’m doing [insert fad diet here], have you heard of it?”

    – “I can’t have that, I’m on [some wonky food plan an influencer shared] Haven’t you heard? [Completely normal food item] is causing us all to ruin our gut health.”  

    – “Ugh! I am starving, I’m doing [newest diet craze] and I can’t eat for another four hours.” 

    Fad dieting is rampant in our day and age- leaving you faced with the temptation to follow popular diets that promise quick weight loss or other health benefits, yet are often based on shady scientific “evidence” or unsustainable eating patterns. While these diets may in fact yield quick results, they pose significant risk to your health.   

    Here are a few risks to consider the next time your coworker or loved one starts up again and has you contemplating joining in on the latest fad diet:  

    • Nutrient deficiencies: Fad diets often restrict certain food groups or severely limit calorie intake, leading to potential nutrient deficiencies. Such imbalances can cause health problems, including weakness, fatigue, impaired immune function, and potential reproductive health complications.
    • Unsustainability: Fad diets are typically difficult to sustain over the long term due to their restrictive nature or the elimination of entire food groups. This can lead to feelings of deprivation, frustration, and a higher likelihood of binge-eating or rebound weight gain once the diet is discontinued.  The net result? Often it’s patterns of yo-yo weight adjustments as you deprive and then recover during dysfunctional dieting patterns.  
    • Muscle loss: Many fad diets focus primarily on rapid weight loss, which often includes a loss of muscle mass. Losing muscle can slow down your metabolism and make it challenging to maintain the new number on the scale in the long run.
    • Disordered eating patterns: Fad dieting practices contribute to the development of disordered eating patterns.  These conditions have serious physical and psychological consequences.
    • Lack of evidence-based research: Fad diets lack scientific evidence to support their claims. They often rely on anecdotal success stories or cherry-picked research, which can be misleading and potentially harmful.
    • Impact on mental health: Fad dieting can lead to an unhealthy preoccupation with food, body image issues, and a negative relationship with eating. This can contribute to increased stress, anxiety, and a reduced quality of life.

    It’s important to remember that beyond fueling our bodies, food provides ways for us to connect with a loved one over a shared meal, bring joy into our lives in times of celebration, and offer comfort when we face hard days. Our overall health goals are best achieved through a balanced- not rigid or experimental– approach to nutrition and lifestyle. 

    Social Media and Body Image: A Quick Checkup

    Social Media and Body Image: A Quick Checkup

    In today’s world, social media is a big part of connecting and communicating with others.  While it can be a helpful tool for those purposes, when left unchecked, social media can become problematic to our well-being.  Here are a few areas to quickly check-in and determine how healthy your relationship is with your social media platforms! 


    Do you often find yourself thinking about how you compare or measure up to what you are viewing on social media?

    Social media platforms often present an idealized and curated version of other people’s lives, including their appearance. This can create a sense of pressure to measure up to these standards, leading to negative feelings about your own body. Constantly comparing yourself to others on social media can create a wide range of challenges- from fostering feelings of envy, inadequacy, and low self-esteem to inspiring disordered eating. 

    Filters and editing: 

    Do you feel comfortable posting unedited, unfiltered images of yourself online? Why or why not?  

    When viewing images of others, are you allowing yourself to consider how those images may have been edited and filtered? 

    Social media provides access to numerous filters and editing tools that allow people to alter their appearance, often beyond recognition. Seeing others post photos that have been heavily edited or filtered can create unrealistic beauty standards and make people feel like they need to change their own appearance to be more attractive or desirable. 

    Body shaming and criticism: 

    Are the communities you are interacting with online full of kindness and support, or are they critical and aggressive? 

    What is your reaction when you see comments shaming bodies? 

    Unfortunately, social media can also be a breeding ground for negative comments about people’s bodies. This can come in the form of direct criticism, such as fat shaming or body shaming, or more subtle comments that still perpetuate harmful beauty standards. These comments can be hurtful and contribute to negative feelings about your own body.


    After you have been online for a little bit, bring your awareness to how judgemental you are feeling about yourself.  Do you find yourself feeling inadequate? Like you are not good enough? 

    Have you noticed an increase in perfectionistic tendencies as your time on social media increases? 

    Social media can also promote a culture of perfectionism, where people feel like they need to present a flawless version of themselves to the world. This can lead to a focus on appearance as a key part of your identity and self-worth, which can be damaging to your relationship with their body.

    It’s important to be mindful of how social media affects your own relationship with your body and to take steps to protect your mental health and well-being.