1. It’s Not About Food
First, it’s important for you to know that eating disorders, generally, have very little to do with food.
While there is no real consensus on the “cause” of eating disorders, an eating disorder is generally a by-product of a larger emotional or stress-related issue. So, pay attention to what’s going on with your teen. Are they struggling at school? Are they having a hard time socially? Have they struggled with emotional issues in the past? Often, teens that have had anxiety or depression are more likely to develop disordered eating.
2. A Hyper-Focus on Food
Teenagers, by nature, are whimsical creatures. It’s perfectly normal to have your fourteen-year-old declare that they’re a vegan for humanitarian reasons or abstain from eating meat because they’re making an environmental statement. These are “normal” examples of adolescents asserting their independence over themselves and their bodies. But, when your teen becomes so preoccupied with what they are or not eating, pay attention.
Are they constantly analyzing the calorie count of every food item they ingest? Do they seem to be obsessively tracking what they consumed that day? Are they avoiding entire food groups completely? Is their focus on food taking up a large part of their day?