Thinking about your body isn’t unusual, especially for teenage girls and boys who want to fit in with their friends. You may find yourself trying out different hair styles, exploring different fashions, and planning to eat healthy and exercise as part of feeling good about yourself. These are normal, healthy things to do. But sometimes, young people can get caught up in going to extremes that aren’t healthy, like not eating enough or being driven to over-exercise. These extremes can lead to a number of health and mental health problems like dizziness, feeling tired and moody, and being preoccupied with food. If this pattern continues, they will find it hard to concentrate, may get depressed and gradually not want to do the things that used to make them happy, like spending time with friends, or playing a sport, or being with their families. Teens who eat too little may also find that they feel driven to overeat when they finally do eat, and begin to feel “out-of-control” and ashamed of their eating habits. This type of “binge eating” can lead to a feeling of panic and trying to get rid of the food eaten, and if it continues, can lead to problems with weight gain, stomach cramps, digestive problems, heart problems, and generally feeling tired, moody and unhappy.
So what would can you do if you are having problems with eating too little, or “binge-eating”? First, realize that you are not alone, and that other young people have had these problems and have overcome them. Sometimes talking with someone whom you trust, is enough to help you to get on a better track with your eating and activity levels. Sitting down at regular meals with your family can also help, rather than eating alone. Find out from your physician what would be healthy for you, and even ask for a referral to a nutritionist if you are confused about your body’s needs.
Sometimes “eating too little” or “driven exercise” take on a life of their own and you need more help to reclaim your life and be happy and healthy again. Talk to your doctor about your feelings and get a referral for help from a mental health professional.
More information can be found on the National Eating Disorder website.