The Warning Signs Of An Eating Disorder In Adolescent Males: Advice For Parents

Up to 30 million people across the United States suffer with an eating disorder. More than one-half of teenage girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors, but many parents are unaware that around one-third of boys do the same thing. While many parents are aware of some of the signs of an eating disorder in girls, the early indicators in boys are not always so obvious. Make sure you are alert to the issue of eating disorders, and learn more about some of the early signs of this problem in your son.

Excluding certain types of food

Bombarded with information from many sources, adolescent males are often more aware of food types than you might imagine. If your son suddenly becomes more preoccupied with certain food types, it's an early indicator of a possible problem. For example, your son may suddenly start to object to carbohydrates or sugary food. A balanced diet is healthy, but excessive attention towards one food group isn't a good thing.

Increased awareness of body shape and size

Teens with eating disorders generally become excessively conscious of body shape and size. The modern media doesn't help. Billboards and advertising now bombard young men with images of the 'perfect' physique. Unsurprisingly, many teens feel pressured to look a certain way.

Does your son pay a lot of attention to other people's body shape and size? Does he make comments about who looks good and who doesn't. This behavior may point to a problem.

Unusual food rituals

Teens with eating disorders often develop unusual food rituals. Examples include:

  • Eating at set times
  • Cutting food into small pieces
  • Eating slowly
  • Using specific cutlery

These (and other) habits all help teens feel as though they are controlling their calorie intake. Over time, these obsessive behaviors can often become more severe and problematic. For example, if your son is unable to eat at a set time, he may decide not to eat at all.

Excessive exercise routines

It's good to encourage teens to adopt a healthy lifestyle, but boys with eating disorders often develop excessive, unhealthy exercise routines. Your son may suddenly start to spend a lot of time at the gym. He may run for many miles after school or college every night, but you should also look for signs that his fixation with exercise is unhealthy.

For example, if your son cannot go outside to run due to the weather, he may decide to run up and down the stairs to compensate. You may even notice that he has performed star jumps in the bathroom, just to stay active. These behaviors indicate an unhealthy need to stay active, which could point to an eating disorder.

Physical traits

Boys with eating disorders often start to develop unhealthy physical traits. Aside from excessive weight loss, you may notice that he has dry skin and a pale complexion. Your son may also complain that he is cold and tired. Adolescent boys with the disorder also sometimes develop fine downy hair on their bodies, which does not resemble normal body hair. This type of hair (called lanugo) is the body's response to malnutrition. The body produces this hair to keep warm.

Eating disorders are increasingly common in boys. Talk to a doctor, anorexia treatment centers by Center for Change, or another reliable source for more information and advice.