In the spring I went to a taping of Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show. I'd forgotten about it until Monday (congrats, Silver Fox) (he shook my hand at the taping) (I kind of didn't want to wash it afterward) and it finally dawned on me to hunt down some clips online to see if any of the cameras they stuck in my face (audience reaction shots) ended up with me on syndicated television.
At some point the show appears to have had a segment on teen eating disorders, because there were a few pieces of web content about what triggers eating disorders, etc. This is all via a very media-friendly-looking licensed psychologist, Dr. Ramani, who seems to make the talk show circuit. The list of triggers was very age-range-specific to teens, and isn't really anything you've not read a hundred times before.
The How to Approach Someone with an Eating Disorder I find a little more problematic.
Parents must create a healthy food space and model healthy eating and exercise behavior.
Okay, but what does "healthy food space" mean? What does "healthy eating and exercise behavior" mean? There aren't clips readily available on the site, but I assume that to Dr. Ramani this means what it means to most eating disorder specialists: food as physiological and social enjoyment, not as a moral issue, a varied diet and exercise/sporting activities geared toward having fun and feeling good.
Great, but do you know what "a healthy food space" and "healthy eating and exercise behavior" mean to parents I've known? They mean never drink your calories, broken record statements like "are you sure you want the whole bagel?", and constant vigilance of going up a size... and for them, that IS a healthy food space.
Create open lines of communication. Be present with your daughter.
Or son. I mean, statistically daughter, but here we run up against the evils of daytime TV.
It is critical that they see a physician...
(This one's long, and perfectly sane.)
Don’t let fear stop you from talking to your daughter.
This one dovetails well with part of the slideshow's intro: "In terms of approaching them, parents often feel fearful and their first attempts can often be accusatory and put their girls on the defensive." Amen. Been there, done that, and obviously it worked really well, since that was fifteen years ago.
Talk to a mental health practitioner with a specialty in this area about how to approach your child specifically. You do not need to suffer alone.
Agreed, but be aware that your daughter may well lie to the mental health professional, and that mental health professionals only have the patient's word if it's a first-time meeting. "Do you ever purge?" the first psychologist I was taken to asked me. "I mean, I've tried it once or twice," I told her, instead of the truth. "Well," she said, "Now that I've seen you I'm not so worried about you." And again, we see how well that worked, since that was almost ten years ago.
Make sure you and your partner are on the same page...
This... this has got to be a tough one. My parents were always on the same page here, as it were, so I can't volunteer any criticism or tips here.
That's it. That's the daytime TV website version of how to approach (your female teenaged) someone with an eating disorder. Nothing you haven't heard before, but it certainly leaves a lot of grey areas that could edge into the problematic.