Do you spend time making food for your teen, only for them to not eaT it?
Is your teen irritable, and are you concerned for their health and wellbeing?

As a parent, it can be constantly frustrating when you spend time making meals and trying your hardest to prepare food for the family that’s nutritious and enjoyable to eat. When your teen won’t eat any of the food, it can be hard as a parent. Always feeling like nothing works, what are you supposed to do? 

You may also be seeing irritability from your teenager, as this generally comes when their daily diet is adjusted, and the right foods are not eaten (or not enough food). This may make you feel worried, concerned or anxious about how it’s affecting them. Your teenager may be concerned with their body image.

body image parenting teenagers eating disorder

The standards on social media these days really portray an “image” that teens feel like they need to live up to, instead of having their own identity. They may also be comparing themselves to what their friends look like. There’s a lot of pressure for teens with online videos sending different types of messages about body insecurity.

In an Australian study sampling 19,000 adolescents, of these that took part 25% identified body image as a top personal concern. That’s 4,750 teenagers with body image concerns. Imagine that multiplied across the whole country!*

The food we consume each day has a huge impact on our mind, as well as the physical body. Many teens don’t understand that when they are wanting to look a certain way, or mimic a celebrity they’ve seen on TV, that reducing or changing their food capacity can change how their mind functions. It’s not just about the physical changes. “Mindful Eating” plays an important role in a teens development.

Signs to Look for 

  • Look for changes in their behaviour – irritability, anxiety, depression, loss of motivation
  • Look for changes in their daily routine – sleepiness, loss of concentration

Unhelpful eating behaviours can include things such as restrictive eating, purging or binging. Your brain cannot stay regulated without proper nutrition. Neglecting and not refueling your body in the right way can lead to hospitalisation. Long term this can also progress further to organ failure or heart attacks.

4 Ways You Can help Your Teen

There are some small steps you can take at home to lead your teen in the right direction:

  • Show compassion to your teen and don’t take it personally. It can be hard not to take it personally when a teen isn’t eating their food because you are the one preparing it for them. Take into account that a teen’s priorities are different to your own. Their priorities are typically self-driven and socially driven.
  • Educate your teen on how food fuels the body and the mind, how it affects behaviours and their day-to-day routine. It’s a great start for them to understand helpful eating and the long term ramifications of a lack of nutritious food.
  • Set small goals for your teen around eating – if they don’t usually eat breakfast, start there. Gradually increase food intake when they’re ready.
  • Provide your teen with opportunities to eat, without the pressure of making them finish a meal. Support them through small victories that they make with eating more consistently throughout the day.

The road to recovery for body image concerns and eating disorders can be a long one, but you don’t have to do it alone. Professional support is available if you feel you aren’t making any progress at home. Therapist Rickii Lotsaris has a particular passion in helping teens and young adults through their eating challenges. Psychological support is beneficial for both you and your teen, as a personalised plan can be formulated for your specific family circumstances. It allows the time for you and your therapist to explore any body image concerns and thoughts your teen is having.

*2015 Study
Written by therapist Rickii Lotsaris –