EATING DISORDER EDUCATION:
BENEFITS FOR PARENTS AND TEENS
by Joanna Poppink, M.F.C.C.
Sometimes parents are afraid that educational materials about eating
disorders will stimulate an eating disorder in their teenager or give a
teenager with an eating disorder encouragement to try new and different
methods of acting out the disorder. Sometimes loving parents are afraid to
know about eating disorders themselves. They may think that if they ignore
the subject it will keep the disorder out of their lives.
While providing information is powerful, information about eating disorders
will not cause an eating disorder to develop in a person. By the same token,
people of any age suffering from an eating disorder will not be cured by
information. They need treatment.
Eating Disorder educational programs can alert parents and children to the
nature of eating disorders, the risks involved in acting out an eating
disorder, how to recognize when they or someone they know needs help, and
most importantly, how to get help.
Often early stages of an eating disorder go unrecognized by everyone,
including the person with the disorder. Everyone eats. And there are many
ways of eating and not eating that are socially sanctioned for particular
occasions. For example, it's socially acceptable to eat junk food, even
large quantities of it, at parties or at the movies. It's also socially
acceptable to diet and try fad diets that might include fasting. It has
become acceptable to acknowledge 'comfort foods' as means of coping with
stress or disappointment such as chocolate or ice cream.
It would be very difficult to distinguish a newly forming bulimic from a non
bulimic person when both are devouring lots of sweets and treats at a pajama
party. It would be difficult to distinguish a newly forming anorexic
teen-ager from her teenage friends when they are all experimenting with
exotic diets and judging every aspect of their body as too fat. And the
anorexic/bulimic who is first experimenting with vomiting, rather than being
worried or frightened, is usually quite happy at discovering a 'trick' to
help her avoid the consequences of any food she eats.
Parents may be reassured to know that eating disorder education might bump
into the consciousness of young people at an early stage of an eating
disorder. Through education a young girl might recognize herself as being
on her way to having a serious disorder. If she knows the symptoms, knows
there is supportive and caring help available and she knows how to ask for
that support and help she has an opportunity to get some early healing. She
has a chance of redirecting herself before the disorder advances to
relationship destroying and life destroying levels.
Eating disorder education can help parents become less fearful and more
understanding if their child does have an eating disorder. Parents can be
empowered to lovingly and more confidently support the healing efforts
required for their child to recover. With education and family support, the
child may be more willing and capable of doing the necessary healing work.
Early education presented clearly and sensitively with regard to the
developmental stage of the audience may provide a powerful way of waylaying
an eating disorder, encouraging family cooperation and helping a child grow
up healthy and free.
For Educational Resources Contact:
Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, Inc. (EDAP).
603 Stewart Street, Suite 803
Seattle, WA 9101
AED Academy of Eating Disorders
6728 Old McLean Village Drive
McLean, VA 22101
licensed by the State of California in 1980, is a Marriage, Family, Child
Counselor (License #15563). She has a private practice in Los Angeles
where she works with adult individuals and couples. She specializes in
working with people with eating disorders and with people who are trying
to understand and help a loved on who has an eating disorder.
10573 West Pico Blvd. Suite 20
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 474-4165 phone
(310) 474-7248 fax