A new study says that one in five kids have eating disorders

Is There a Problem in Children’s Eating? The Meta-Analysis and the Next Step in Understanding the Causes of Eating Disorders

The study highlights a serious public health issue that often goes underreported and underrecognized, according to the meta-analysis published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

If children were asked about binge-eating and muscle-building, the rate of disordered eating would be higher, according to a professor at the University of California San Francisco. Nagata wasn’t involved in the research.

Even if behaviors don’t fall under a diagnosable eating disorder, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Disordered eating is “a constellation of feeding- and eating-related behaviors that diverge from what’s considered typical eating and may cause grave impairments and one’s ability to function normally,” Murray added.

Likewise, the study may have been limited in its ability to portray the full scope because it relied on data in which kids and adolescents self-reported their behavior, said study author Dr. José Francisco López-Gil, a postdoctoral researcher at the Health and Social Research Center at the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain.

The next step is to find out what is causing the eating disorders. Experts hope that institutions and families will focus on helping kids who are showing signs of eating disorders.

Those are behaviors that can cause serious medical issues to organs including the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys.

“The findings can help health professionals, educators, and parents understand the magnitude of the problem and develop strategies for prevention and intervention.”

What to Look For if You See an Eating Disorder and What to Do If You Think You See One, and How to Become Aware of It

He said that other red flags include the use of diet pills or vomiting, if an individual wants to lose weight.

Inherited traits as well as psychological factors such as temperament and personality and social factors such as bullying, stigma and trauma come together to contribute to someone developing an eating disorder, she added.

The best way to support an eating disorder or disordered eating will often include many people, such as providers for mental health, medical care and nutrition, he said.

And yet in a culture in which fat shaming and restrictive eating are prevalent, it can be easy for eating disorder behaviors to become normalized, said Jennifer Rollin, founder of The Eating Disorder Center in Rockville, Maryland.

But these conditions threaten both a joyful and healthy life, she added. Experts talk about eating disorders, what to look for, and what to do if you think you see one during Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

More specifically, eating disorders are biopsychosocial illnesses, added Leah Graves, vice president for nutrition and culinary services for Accanto Health, a health system for eating disorder treatment.

But just because people may have eating disorders in their family and might have inherited predispositions, it doesn’t mean they will develop a disorder, Graves said.

Some may suggest that persons with eating disorders simply change their eating habits and then they will be fixed, but the problem goes much deeper, Smolar said.

Murray said they are not part of a new trend or an attempt to lose weight for a wedding. There are attempts to modify shape or weight linked with eating disorders and they have a significant impact on a person.

Warning signs for this disorder include an overvaluation with shape and weight, strict rules around food, ingredient checking, secrecy and an avoidance of social situations linked with food and body, Murray said.

The association says that bulimia nervosa is a condition in which someone binges and then compensates with their behavior by taking laxatives.

Those with bulimia may use the restroom right after a meal or say they are going to go harder at the gym if they have a big meal, Murray said. They may also use laxatives or diuretics, he added.

It sounds like what many of us do from time to time — especially around holidays or special occasions, Murray said. A loss of control is a hallmark of this disorder. And it is surrounded by shame and secrecy.

Murray said that this disorder was caused by avoiding groups of foods. He added that it is a bigger issue than being thought of aspicky eating.

It can cause problems with having energy or nutritional needs met and may lead to weight loss, faltering growth or issues with psychological and social functioning, Rollin said.

Other specified food, feeding and eating disorders, or OSFED, is a diagnosis given when someone is experiencing a significant eating disorder, but the behavior may not align exactly with the diagnostic criteria of the conditions mentioned above, Smolar said.

Rollin said that a fixation on eating in a way the person determines to be healthy but is too rigid and can cause stress when they have to stray from their plans.

Murray said that there is a pattern in which people have behaviors similar to eating disorders such as restricting calories, following strict rules, and exercising strenuously to get a muscular body, which is a symptom of body dysmorphic disorder.

A Nonjudgmental Talk on Eating Disorders and the Role of Psychotherapists in Providing Professional Help for People with Concerning Behaviors

If you see these concerning behaviors in someone you love, have a compassionate, nonjudgmental conversation explaining what behaviors you are noticing, Graves said.

Rollin said it was important to seek professional help if you were worried about your own behavior. She suggested contacting therapists who specialize in eating disorders so that they can make evaluations and recommend other professionals to bring in.

The National Eating Disorders Association has a screening tool it can use to help people who are 13 and older decide if they need help.

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