At 12, girls often become self-conscious about their body. Here's how to find out if these concerns are normal or signs of a potential eating disorder.

By the editors of Child magazine
October 05, 2005

Q: My child has been saying to me that she is afraid of getting fat. How can I tell if she may be headed for an eating disorder?

A: "This is the time when lots of girls start to obsess over their weight," says Felicia Busch, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association in Chicago. "They're beginning to go through puberty and becoming more self-conscious about how their bodies measure up to media standards."

You should be concerned, adds Busch, if your child becomes fixated on her weight, worrying about it constantly, or if she stops eating a lot of the foods she used to enjoy. "If this happens, try taking your daughter to see a registered dietitian, who can review what she is eating to determine if it is enough and who can discuss healthy eating and weight control.

"Also, find out what's happening with your daughter's peers," says Busch. "Talk to her friends' mothers to see whether they're noticing the same concerns. If so, and the girls belong to a club at school, arrange for a speaker to talk to them about positive self-image and self-esteem. This is an age when eating attitudes are really critical," she adds. If you suspect there is a problem, don't ignore it.

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