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Eating Disorders

Mother in worry

08/05/2008

Question:

Hello. I have a concern that maybe you can help me with. I have a 19 year old daughter 5`2 about 105-110lbs. She just recently had a baby 5 1/2 months ago as well.

I think she has a disorder. She exercises every chance she gets and says she doesn’t feel good with herself unless she completes her daily routine of exercises every day, she eats little (take in mind, she is also breastfeeding) and when she does eat its normally salad, veggies, fruit, yogurt, bread, wraps, more or less " healthy food."

She will not eat anything deep-fried and she doesn’t eat red meat, only chicken and turkey. She may eat a donut, candy or chocolate.... but then she exercises more. She still says she isn’t thin to her liking "that it’s the media’s fault because now a days it’s all about skinny girls” and that she doesn’t want to get chubby or fat.

We have all told her we are tired of this habit and she needs to start eating properly. Is this a disorder, disease? How can we help? How can she stop and still feel good about her image? Please answer ASAP it really worries me! Thank-you so much.

Answer:

Dear mother,

A vulnerable time to develop an eating disorder can be after pregnancy.  As hormones and the body shift after the baby is born, and if the new mother over-diets, it can set off a reaction for other systems in the body to set one up to develop an eating disorder.  It begins to show up when the person rationalizes more and more foods that should not be eaten and the range of foods becomes increasingly narrow while exercise and reasons to keep moving increase. Thoughts become so focused on foods and body shape that it becomes a frustration to others around. The person never seems to feel there is enough exercise and obsessive thoughts increase.

Your daughter's weight is in a healthy range per your listing above, but if it decreases, then the excessive dieting can trigger the biological markers to begin a slippery and dangerous path.

If in doubt, it would be worth having your daughter receive a one-time assessment at a specialized eating disorder clinic. The links below may help you locate a center near you.

Related Resources:

Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders
The Center for Balanced Living
Find an Eating Disorder Center

For more information:

Go to the Eating Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Laura  L Hill, PhD Laura L Hill, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University