Bulimia, anorexia and obesity are serious health problems that often begin in adolescence and can affect girls throughout their lives. It's sad but true that these problems often become remitting relapsing conditions; in other words, problems that hang around forever, rearing their ugly heads repeatedly when life's stressors get overwhelming. While parents need to loosen the reins on girls as they pass through adolescence and give them increasing amounts of independence, this doesn't mean ignoring what they're doing; it means paying attention with a consistent and watchful eye from ever-increasing distances.
Here are some things to watch for to determine whether something is going haywire with your kid's relationship with food and eating:
Her definition of a normal weight
When you talk to your daughter about what a normal weight would be for someone her size (and you should definitely have this conversation), if she disagrees with the numbers over and over again, you both have a problem. Girls who dispute what's considered normal for their height and frame—give or take 5 to 10 pounds—have traveled to another planet and have lost their grip on reality. If this is reemphasized by her LOVE of ultra-thin models or her rebuking of Queen Latifah as an example of plus-size and healthy, then you need to address it and not waste a moment getting help.
What and how she eats
Skipping breakfast and lunch and having only small salads for dinner every night is not normal eating. Also, if she is obsessed with the calorie content of food, then your ears should perk up. Investigating calorie content is not one of life's details that teen girls with normal eating habits are thinking about. On the other hand, eating three large meals plus snacking reflects an indulgence with food that may be problematic in the opposite way.
4 other warning signs to watch for