When we hear of anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders, we usually think of young women who suffer with these struggles. However, eating disorders can also affect boys and men. According to The Guardian, eating disorders among men had risen around 70 percent between 2010 and 2016. If you have a teenage son, here are a few ways that you can help him avoid an eating disorder.
Recognize the Signs
There are certain signs that might indicate that your teen boy is suffering from an eating disorder. Certain signs could also indicate that your son is in the early stages of an eating disorder and should be treated promptly. Even though these signs don’t automatically mean that your son has an eating disorder, it’s still important for you to be aware so that you can help him seek the proper treatment if necessary.
Helpguide.org states that restricted eating, obsessive calorie counting and making excuses to avoid meals are among the top signs. If large amounts of food are disappearing in short periods of time, your son might be bingeing and purging.
Encourage Healthy Eating Habits
Quite often, disordered eating stems from a fear of becoming overweight. Some people are so fearful of gaining excessive weight that they begin to obsess over their eating habits and severely restrict their calorie intake.
One of the best ways to prevent this problem for your son is to encourage him to eat enough healthy foods on a regular basis. Let him know that by eating the right foods, his weight will remain within a healthy range. Fruits, vegetables and lean meats contain healthy vitamins and nutrients without a lot of extra fat and calories.
Emphasize Body Positivity
If your son seems unhappy with the appearance of his body, encouraging him to adopt a more positive mindset may prevent disordered eating habits. Giving him continued support can help him start viewing his body with less negativity.
One of the best ways to emphasize body positivity is to encourage your son to exercise regularly to keep his weight within a healthy range and improve muscle tone. You should also emphasize the importance of staying realistic with his fitness goals so that he doesn’t become discouraged as easily. Attending counseling or support groups together can also help reinforce better body positivity.
Allow Him to Express Himself
Men and boys sometimes feel like they shouldn’t express their feelings, and this may cause your son to develop an eating disorder. If he’s suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental or emotional problems, he may turn to unhealthy eating habits and other harmful activities to try to cope.
It’s important that you maintain an open line of communication that allows your son to talk to you whenever needed. Let him express himself openly and honestly without resorting to snap judgements. By allowing him to express himself, you might learn that he’s adopting an unhealthy attitude toward food, and this can help you take quick action.
Understand that following the above tips doesn’t mean that your son is 100% safe from getting an eating disorder. However, they are helpful guidelines that can help deter their mentality from seeking that route. If at some point you find that your son has an eating disorder, don’t hesitate to get him professional help. There are programs out there, like Center For Change, that can help them to overcome their condition (click to find out more).