Finding Balance in a Fitness Focused World (Orthorexia vs. Anemia & Bulimia)
When discussing the problems of troubled teen girls it is difficult to avoid talk of eating disorders. They are as prevalent as they are dangerous, and they can set a scary tone for the teenage years. If teenage girls develop eating disorders in these formative years there can be serious and longterm implications for their future.
But did you know there can be danger in the opposite end of the healthy eating spectrum, too? Many parents are relieved to find that their daughters appear to have a healthy relationship with food and fitness, only to find that their daughter is struggling to find balance in the world of fitness and eating.
Have you ever heard of “fitspiration” or “fitspo?” It’s a term for healthy, high-fitness inspirational bodies and looks. Many girls seek out and save images of incredibly fit athletes from print and internet. This may seem less harmful than the unhealthy and unrealistic skinny models photoshopped in fashion magazines, but it comes with its own set of problems. Orthorexia, for one. Orthorexia is another type of eating disorder in which the victim feels fear and anxiety at the thought of eating any food that is unhealthy. It is often accompanied by intense commitments to exercise routines and fitness goals. This can drive many girls toward unrealistic expectation, not unlike other eating disorders.
The world has taken some great strides in body positivity and accepting ourselves, but there is also a great emphasis on fitness and health. Your troubled teen may not be obsessed with skeletal models, and being interested in extremely healthy and fit athletes may seem healthy and positive. However it is critical to ensure that your daughter can find balance in this fitness focused world. Health and fitness are obviously great goals, but girls need to feel safe in their skin and happy with who they are. They need to understand that “fitspo” posts aren’t necessarily realistic, just because they are more acceptable in society than underweight models.
Eating Disorder Recovery
Many girls in recovery for eating disorders find themselves on the other side of the spectrum – swinging from anorexia or bulimia all the way to orthorexia and fitness obsessions. At first it may be a coping mechanism, or a welcome change from their previous nightmare relationship with food. It is important to monitor the recovery process and to help your daughter develop a more normal relationship with food, fitness, health, and her body. Avoiding relapse is key, as is preventing a dangerous switch to a different eating disorder.
There comes a point at which even your best efforts will not be enough. If your daughter is seriously struggling with an eating disorder – anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, orthorexia, or any other – deep and complete intervention may be needed. Residential treatment centers are particularly helpful at offering holistic therapy for eating disorders to help teen girls reenter society as well-adjusted and healthy adults.