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  • Joy Shen, MS, RDN

Signs of an Eating Disorder


Ever overhear a conversation and wish you could jump in?


It recently happened to me—in line for the restroom at Starbucks during Stroll & Savor on Belmont Shore. A couple, probably early-40’s, was talking behind me, and I had no idea what they were saying until I heard “free cookie at the LBX”. My brain naturally attuned itself to what would be said next. It went like this:


“Blah-blah-blah, free cookie at the LBX?” the lady said. “She wouldn’t eat it; she said something weird about preferring to eat it at home.”


The man crossed his arms. “Of course she didn’t eat it.”


“But then at home,” the woman continued, “it has been sitting there on the counter, so when she came home today I asked her if she still wanted it, and she gave me this look like I was accusing her of something.”


The man shook his head, clenched his jaw. “Does she ever eat anything?”


“She said that a cookie is something you should eat when you’re out, and so she no longer wanted it.”


“What does that even mean?” the dad (as is now apparent) asked the mom, who shrugged in shared confusion.


My hunger pang for a free cookie swiftly turned to a sympathy pang, because I knew what it meant.


“Did you call the pediatrician? I want her height and her weight checked, ASAP,” Dad said with disgust.


“Not yet. The rehearsals… You know how busy we’ve been.” Her tone softened. “She hasn’t been with her friends much lately.”


They stare at each other, until the dad noticeably winced and looked away. We moved up in line, and then, with unmistakable apprehension, he said quietly, “I’ll call the pediatrician.”


In the U.S., 30% of teenage girls and 15% of teenage boys use harmful dieting methods, and over 10% of these dieters develop full clinical eating disorders.


Do you know the signs that your son or daughter might be struggling with an eating disorder? Take a look at some:

  • Peculiar eating habits or rituals

  • Eating in secret

  • Obsessive calorie counting

  • Frequent trips to the bathroom after meals

  • Hiding or discarding food

  • Denial of feelings of hunger

  • Distorted body image

  • Social withdrawal

  • Pronounced emotional changes, such as irritability, depression and anxiety

Knowing the warning signs is critical, because the best treatment for eating disorders is EARLY treatment. Talk with your son/daughter. They need your help right now.


If you live in the Long Beach/ Los Angeles area and would like a referral to an adolescent specialist, or if you are an adult seeking help for yourself, please don’t wait to contact me. There is abundant life to be lived; don’t let an eating disorder ruin it.

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