Courtesy of Huffington Post
To fit in. To fit into a size 0. To fit in on the beach. To feel as though one’s worth is defined by a number on a scale. Many teenagers struggle with a distorted perception of their bodies that they believe does not meet an idealized image of perfection. In certain cases, teens dangerously pursue this unattainable goal through starvation, dehydration or induced vomiting. With the help of friends, family and trained professionals, teens with eating disorders can maintain a realistic body image and healthy eating habits.
A common misconception amongst those who wish to lose weight is that a healthy diet consists of eating less and eliminating particular foods, however a true meal plan requires rational balance.
Julie Dorfman, nutritionist and dietician specializing in eating disorders, believes balance and variety are the cornerstones to a healthy diet.
“I am a big believer in that there is no such thing as a good or bad food, but everything should be balanced,” said Dorfman. “A lot of teens consume basic meals which only hit one or two food groups and will miss the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables in every meal.”
The first step to achieving a healthy diet is to have healthy food readily available.
“You can’t eat healthily if there is nothing healthy in the house,” said Dorfman.
When working with her clients, Dorfman starts her course of action for those with an eating disorder by requiring all patients to be on a meal plan.
“It’s easy to keep a healthy diet when your balanced meals for the week are planned in advance,” said Dorfman.
Dorfman’s control over the specific amount of calories and fat her patients intake allows her to help them gain or maintain a specific weight.
However, many of her patients face more difficulties and obstacles on the road to recovery.
“A lot of patients have a fear of food forming out of an anxiety of weight gain,” said Dorfman. “I work directly with the patient, constantly challenging them to eat things, slowly reintroducing them to certain meals. All the while, I make sure their weight is maintained through balanced meals. This shows them that they do not have to fear eating.”
Eating disorders pose a significant threat to overall health and should be taken seriously.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, “over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives.”
People should be aware of the signs that indicate a friend or family member is struggling with an eating disorder. For example, noticing what someone is eating or not eating during meal times may reveal a problem. A common symptom of an eating disorder is that the person cuts his or her food into little pieces to make it appear as if they have eaten. In addition, personality changes around food, cancellations of plans, or excuses not to eat socially are key warning signs.
The process of recovering from a period of severely restricting foods is a stressful, difficult time for those dealing with an eating disorder. With the help of a nutritionist and a balanced meal plan, however, recovery is a more attainable possibility.