Understanding Eating Disorders: A Guide for Parents and Teens
Published: Feb. 5, 2024
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Understanding Eating Disorders: A Guide for Parents and Teens

Eating Disorders Awareness Week (February 26th – March 3rd, 2024) serves as a vital reminder to talk openly and honestly about eating disorders – serious mental illnesses that impact millions of people worldwide. This guide aims to equip both parents and teens with information and resources to navigate this often-complex topic.

For Parents:

  • Awareness is key: Eating disorders aren’t just about weight or appearance – they’re complex mental illnesses often fueled by anxiety, depression, or other underlying issues. Educate yourself about different types of eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, etc.) and their signs and symptoms.
  • Open communication: Create a safe space for open and honest conversations about body image, food, and mental health. Listen actively without judgment and acknowledge their concerns. Validate their feelings and avoid accusatory language.
  • Avoid criticism and shame: Focus on empathy and support. Criticism can worsen their feelings and make them less likely to open up.
  • Early intervention: If you suspect an eating disorder, seeking professional help is crucial. Don’t hesitate to reach out to therapists, registered dietitians, or family physicians specializing in eating disorders. Early intervention improves recovery outcomes significantly.
  • Support and resources: Many organizations offer support groups, therapy, and other resources for individuals and families affected by eating disorders.

For Teens:

  • You’re not alone: Eating disorders are more common than you think, affecting people of all genders, ages, and backgrounds. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you’re struggling.
  • Challenge unhelpful thoughts: Negative body image and distorted thinking often fuel eating disorders. Challenge these thoughts by practicing self-compassion and focusing on your strengths and positive qualities.
  • Seek support: If you’re struggling with disordered eating, reach out for help. Talk to a trusted adult, school counselor, or therapist. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
  • Build healthy habits: Develop healthy relationships with food and exercise. Focus on intuitive eating, nourishing your body, and finding activities you enjoy rather than using them for weight control.
  • Empower yourself: Educate yourself about eating disorders and develop coping mechanisms for managing stress and difficult emotions. Remember, you have the power to make healthy choices for yourself.
  • Challenge harmful narratives: Don’t compare yourself to unrealistic beauty standards online or in magazines. Celebrate your unique body and its capabilities.


  • Recovery is possible. With the right support and treatment, most people with eating disorders can recover and live fulfilling lives.
  • You are not defined by your eating disorder. It’s just one part of your story, not your whole story.
  • Body positivity and self-acceptance are crucial parts of healing. You deserve to love and respect yourself at any size.

Here are some helpful resources:

Together, we can create a world where everyone feels comfortable and confident in their bodies and where eating disorders are understood and treated effectively.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders.

Created thru BARD, Reviewed and edited by Dr. Fabiana Izquierdo-Jaen