Eating Disorders and Adolescents

by Tom Seman MD FAAP | August 20th, 2014 | Children's, Fitness Expert

Children's-Fitness-Expert Summer is coming to an end. School is starting and varsity sports are holding preschool double sessions, working the student athletes hard. In order for the body to maintain this demanding schedule, the athletes must make sure that they are eating properly. This requires the adolescent to eat meals often and of sufficient calories to maintain proper weight. Unfortunately, at this time teens of both sexes may develop disordered eating related to altered body image or for other reasons such as the possibility of improving their appearance based on the imagined ideal or status within the team. Other times, the student may believe that the altered eating schedule will somehow improve on-field performance. This is seen even more so when the teen has not maintained some aspect of training routines during the off-season. Frequently, at this point, these children will try extreme eating regiments to try and get back to their level of fitness sooner. Gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, football, track and dance are sports where this is frequently seen, although it can be seen in any sport or activity. This is not to say that all teens that participate in these or in other sports will develop disordered eating, however, this is when it is more frequent.

What do you look for? Listen to your teens and hear what they are saying. Does it make sense how they are eating, water loading or restricting, increasing their home workouts even after the scheduled workouts with the team, strange eating patterns or foods , trying to sweat off weight by wearing more clothing than should be comfortable for the weather and their activities. Adolescents often feel that they are so much more informed about everything than their parents.  You may hear them talking about their friend or older teammate learning about the latest way to maximize growth, strength and development. You may get requests to purchase different vitamins and supplements to help accomplish these goals.  Unfortunately, these supplements are not regulated by the FDA and often contain anabolic steroids and/or large doses of caffeine in their composition. These are not benign additives and may cause poor sleep, irritability, high blood pressure, headaches, stomachaches, behavioral and mood changes with possible fits of rage. Or there may be periods of increased energy and then exaggerated fatigue, exhaustion, hair loss constipation or diarrhea.

Our job as parents and caregivers is to protect and guide pour children in making safe and healthy choices. Pay attention to what they are saying and doing. Make sure that they are eating a healthy diet. Remember proper sleep is very important for proper growth and recovery after a workout during the athletic season. There really is no quick and easy way to gain weight and muscle mass. It takes lots of work and proper nutrition. Furthermore, the amount and rate of muscle development is not dependent on age, but where in puberty the child is. Puberty starts anywhere from ages 8 years old to 16 years old. So at any point in time when looking at a high school team there are adolescents at various stages of development and therefore develop muscle strength and mass at varying rates. Again this is true for both sexes.

Enjoy the last few days of summer vacation and the incoming crisp fall air and do so with your children.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.