Eating Disorders

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental and physical illnesses that can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights. National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder (ED) at some point in their lives.

Anorexia Nervosa , Bulimia Nervosa (a cycle of binge eating and compensatory behaviors such as self-induced vomiting designed to undo or compensate for the effects of binge eating), Binge Eating Disorder (the most common ED in the US), Compulsive Exercise, and Orthorexia (an obsession with proper or ‘healthful’ eating), are among the types of eating disorders. It is important to remember that you cannot tell by looking at someone whether they have an eating disorder, even anorexia nervosa.

Signs and symptoms

The chance for recovery increases the earlier an eating disorder is detected. It is important to be aware of some of the warning signs of an eating disorder. National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) offers a comprehensive list of emotional, behavioral, and physical signs and symptoms.

Biological, psychological, and social factors contribute to a youth’s risk of eating disorders. Having a relative with an ED or a mental health condition can increase the risk, as can perfectionism and dissatisfaction with their body

Parent Chat | Body Confidence and Health Eating

Rebecca Manley, founder of MEDA, Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association, says that it starts by becoming mindful of the messages we’re sending:  If we show love and acceptance of our own bodies, emphasize that healthy bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and let our kids control their own hunger and satiety, we can help our kids feel confident in themselves and motivated to keep their bodies healthy.

People with negative body image have a greater likelihood of developing an eating disorder and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, low self-esteem, and obsessions with weight loss.

Takeaways for Parents 

* If you notice yourself making critical comments about your own body, try to balance that with positive or at least neutral comments.  Try to make appreciative comments about what bodies can do, and focus less on how bodies appear.  Our kids are listening and picking up cues from us about what’s important. 

* Provide a wide variety of food to eat, and let your child determine what and how much they’re going to eat.  Restricting food types can give that food more power than it should have in our child’s life and can lead to disordered eating behaviors.  Avoid labeling foods ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Diets can lead to body dissatisfaction. They’re not appropriate for teens or children.  

* Not all kids who are restricting food, or are engaging in other disordered eating  behavior,  appear very thin. If you think your child might be struggling with food and body image issues, look for changes in mood or in eating rules or restrictions and ask your child how much time they spend thinking about food, their weight, or their body image.   If the answer is that they think about it all the time, that can be a red flag.  Eating disorders are easiest to treat if they’re identified early – so don’t hesitate to consult with the resources below if you have concerns.   


Information about Eating Disorders and Body Confidence 

Greater Seattle/Eastside Area Treatment Centers (Children and Teens) 


Cornerstone General Contractors
Northshore Church
Overlake Medical Center & Clinics