13 Year Old at Risk for Developing an Eating Disorder?

Updated on January 05, 2014
C.T. asks from Seattle, WA
11 answers

Earlier this week, my 13 year old daughter told me she was not going to eat anything and only drink water for 10 days in an effort to lose weight. Of course, she got a lecture on healthy body image and weight loss, but I'm still worried. She is at a healthy weight and not at all fat but she insists she needs to be 98 pounds to be 'perfect'. I told her that if she was 98 pounds at her height you would be able to see her bones and she told me that was her goal. Today I was checking her iPod, as I routinely do, and found that she had been reading 'Pro Ana' and 'Pro Mia' blogs. I did some research and found that these horrible blogs are run by girls with anorexia and bulimia, giving horribly dangerous tips on how to unhealthily lose weight. I want to o something but I don't know how I would go about stopping this. She definitely doesn't have an eating disorder but I'm worried that she will develop one. I haven't notice any dramatic weight loss and she's been eating at least some of her food so I don't want to do anything drastic. What should I do?

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answers from San Francisco on

I have a friend whose daughter has been dealing with anorexia for years. It is a devastating disease, which is why I would suggest that you involve doctors immediately. Talk with her pediatrician. Get an evaluation and if needed counseling. Nip this in the bud. Once it takes hold it is a horrid illness.

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answers from Wausau on

Eating disorders start with the mind, before it has an effect on the body. You need to be aware of that, because saying, "She definitely doesn't have an eating disorder..." would be inaccurate. She has already demonstrated otherwise. Fortunately, she's in the early stage and gave you enough info to know you needed to check into it.

She needs professional help, immediately. Her therapist or psychologist can also help you learn what you need to do at home.

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answers from Chicago on

Eating disorders start with a distorted pattern of thought. This pattern develops before the " visible or verbal symptoms ". This thought pattern becomes very rigid in the persons mind, like tunnel vision. It is usually brought on by an event which this person deemed as stressful, and internalized that they "caused" the stress and can undo it by controlling external (things outside of them) things such as appearance, food intake, etc.

It is such a personal and complicated dynamic that it requires a TEAM of professionals. Call your pediatrician and get a referral first thing tomorrow. Do not wait. Eating disorders are considered an emergency in the mental health field.

Getting her help to understand what event/ events triggered this pattern,allowing your family to become educated about EDO dynamics, and getting guidance as a family how to cope with this is the best thing for your daughter.

Onset age for EDO can start at 13.

This IS NOT YOUR FAULT and you did nothing to cause this. Please know that.

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answers from Chattanooga on

First thing is to block those sites from her iPod.

Take her to the gym to talk to a fitness coach. Sometimes, hearing about it from a "professional" means more than coming from mom.

Also... I wish I knew what the website was, but I'm sure you can find it on Google. Basically, it shows the differences between real-life and published photographs... On the same models. So you see the model looking just like an average, everyday person (and some of them have "worse" bodies than you see in the slam section of those celeb magazines.) then it shows how much the makeup changes them, then how much photoshop is done to achieve the desired look. It was quite they eye-opener.

Also look up images of girls who have these eating disorders... Point out that their hair and skin SHOW how unhealthy they are, and how unattractive it really is to allow yourself to get into that state.

You can also look up health information about the effects of these disorders... Mortality rates, psychological effects, etc.

Many girls see these disorders and think that they are not that serious... Just a way to lose weight. They don't understand that once they get started down this pay, it is very difficult to pull out of it. Definitely try to nip this in the bud.

You could compromise with her a bit, by allowing her to have some input in meal preparation (don't go low fat, but maybe healthier options for certain things...) maybe get her a gym membership, where she can improve her physique in a HEALTHY way. Of course, these things may be tricky to do, because teen minds... They are weird. She may think that doing these things mean that you secretly agree that she is fat and needs to do something... But then you worry that by NOT compromising in some way she will think you are totally not listening to her, and just moming out. You will have to have a good talk with her and decide what course of action to take.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I would definitely involve a professional, this is not something to mess around with and not something that you can address with one easy chat.
I would be tempted to tell her all of the super sexy things that come with an eating disorder- your hair falls out, and the stuff that doesn't fall out snaps off a few inches from your scalp when you brush it. Your teeth decay, leading to a lifetime of root canals. Your face grows a thin layer of fuzz, usually over your cheeks and down your neck. Your breath is constantly terrible, from having a sour empty stomach, from vomiting, and from the afore-mentioned tooth decay. Your skin gets extremely unpredictable- large scaly dry patches, oily patches and pimples and sores, thinning and yellowing. And that's without getting into the fact that your body starts using muscle when it has no fat reserve, and guess what is muscle...your heart. But I think it is important for girls to know that eating disorders will make them UGLY. Like gross ugly. Ask any guy if he would rather have a girl who is 125 with beautiful hair, skin, and teeth or a girl who is 98 with bad skin, bald patches, bad breath, and missing teeth. Frankly, most guys prefer a girl at 120 versus 98 anyway. I say this not because I think they are the most important things, but because those are the things that most teenage girls think are important, whether they admit it or not.
If your daughter is looking at starvation diets, she may be more prone to anorexia. Anorexia is all about control. Is she an over-achiever, high grades, top athlete, top singer/actor/musician? Is she more introverted? Has there been a recent major change in her life that could make her feel out of control (this can just be the transition from tween to teen, but can also be an additional event)? These are a few of the "broad brush" indicators for anorexia, though she can certainly develop an eating disorder without these tendencies.
Please help your daughter in a meaningful way. Ignoring it is the worst thing that you could do.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

She's talking to you and telling you...I see that as asking for help. I would get her in to see someone ASAP.

I had a niece who had those issues...which evolved into drug issues and she spent the summer after her freshman year in college in rehab. Not to say that would happen to your daughter...but it's possible. PLEASE take this seriously and get her help from a trained professional.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Get her in to see a counselor that deals specifically with teenage body image and eating disorders immediately. Counseling is always much more effective when you can catch the issue in the early stages rather than further down the road. Look for a counselor that uses Cognitive Therapy (thoughts and beliefs). Do not ignore or minimize this issue.

Also, get yourself some support. As much as we hate to go there, we, as mothers, do contribute to our children's self image. Life Coach Martha Beck says: "We don't teach our children how to love themselves by how we love them. We teach them to love themselves by how we love ourselves." Often we do not see the ways we may contribute and it is vital that we model awareness, self-care, and asking for help. Our children learn from modeling, not lecturing, begging, punishment, or preaching.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

You need to seek help immediately. She is on her way to an eating disorder.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Do not ignore it. It is better to over react than under react. Call her peditrician & ask for their advice. I would also call her school guidance councilor and ask him/her for advice.
It may be nothing, it might be a phase, but it is best for you to be fully prepared & take the best steps from the beginning. And give yourself a hug for noticing this so early.
I also agree that you should block those negative websites.



answers from Dallas on

Don't ignore it. But don't freak out. Take her to her pedi so you can get a physical, and tell the doc about her concerns about her weight and healthy eating. Have the doc explain to and work with her to create an eating plan that will work for her. Perhaps the doc can segue into healthy dieting vs. dangerous "weight loss" methods and the side effects of them. Those girls don't talk about the nasty side, I'm sure. I would hope that a non confrontational, team up to support her in HEALTHY physical fitness might help. Involving her instead of confronting might be helpful.

I don't have experience with this, but that feeling of not being good enough, of life being out of control, etc., are pretty common to many kids. Some take it too far. If her life is feeling out of control in some way, she may need further help.



answers from San Francisco on

This is something to nip in the B. and take very seriously. I'm not sure what the right approach is but if it were me, my teen's life would stop until I was sure she was eating normally. Her desire to be "perfect" and an unhealthy 98 lbs. are the clues that this is something that needs to be stopped immediately.

Once habits start, they are very hard to stop, so it needs to stop NOW.

I would tell her, "Until you give up this idea you will not be going anywhere, as I will have to monitor all your eating." Then, I would show her all the anorexia info I could get my hands on, including a lot of pictures and scare the bejeezus out of her.

I think I would take her computer privileges away until I knew she was no longer on these sites.

For me, this would work, because I was never a strict parent, so when I DID make big deal out of something, my kids tended to listen. If you are strict in general, this approach might not work.

Good luck.

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