Mealtime Warning Signs of Eating Disorder Behavior
Eating disorders can be made the most obvious at mealtime with the rest of the family. These disordered behaviors often pop up as out of the blue, but can be a sign of a problem with body image and disordered thinking toward food which have been growing for some time.
- Cutting food up meticulously small: Cutting food into bite size pieces is something children need when they are learning to eat solid meals and growing teeth. When a child has developed into an adolescent or a teen, they learn to cut food to their own size and feed themselves appropriately. Suddenly focusing on meticulously cutting up food is a disordered eating behavior. First, you will notice a large chunk of meal time spent cutting up food into very small pieces. Typically, the task will not finish until all food has been organized and cut up into small pieces.
- Chewing very slowly and intentionally: After taking time to cut up the food very specifically, another long process of eating will begin. Eating one bite-size piece at a time, there will be great focus paid to thoroughly chewing and eating slowly. Slow eating is advised to many adults as a way to avoid overeating and a way to eat mindfully. In adolescents, however, it can be a way to get full more quickly. Avoiding eating all of their food and eating only small pieces, they can control calorie intake.
- Eating food in a specific order: Another way to control calorie intake is by eating food in a specific order. Foods with the least amount of calories, like leafy greens and vegetables will get priority. By slowly eating low calorie foods, in addition to other behaviors, you will hear claims of being “full” before getting to higher calorie foods like proteins and carbohydrates.
- Drinking excess beverages during dinner: Drinking during meal time can be a filling way to prevent further food intake. Asking for more water than normal or sodas is a sign of disordered eating behavior. If there is a great focus on thirst and wanting to drink more instead of eating, it could be a blatant avoidance of taking in solid food. Turning to a smoothie diet and preferring liquid “meals” instead of solid food is another sign.
- Demonstration of body image issues: Curiosity about food and how food affects the body is healthy. Wanting to know about calories and ingredients could be a sign that your adolescent is taking an interest in their health. If their questions about food and what is in the food is accompanied by questions about how the food will affect weight, “fat”, or other body image concerns, this is a sign of imbalanced thinking toward food.
Eating disorders developed in adolescence can take years to fully develop and years to fully heal. Adolescents commonly turn to other self-destructive behaviors to cope with the difficult emotions of eating disorder and body image issues. If you are concerned about the mental wellbeing of your adolescent or teen, Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center is here to help. Our unique programs offer comprehensive and fully customized care at the residential level for substance use and secondary disorders. For information, call us today: 662-598-4214.