Preventing Eating Disorders

Do: Observe Your Child

  • Educate yourself, like you are doing now, about the symptoms of eating disorders.
  • Quietly observe your child’s habits and comments over the next few days.
  • Identify the behaviors that concern you:
    • Have you noticed a change in your child’s dress or negative comments in the changing room?
    • Have you noticed that certain foods are left on his or her plate at dinner?
    • Is your child spending more time staring into the refrigerator or pantry?
    • Has your child started avoiding social engagements, and especially those involving food?
    • Is food disappearing or are have you found food hidden in your child’s room?
  • Does he or she find excuses to use the bathroom directly after meals or to exercise after eating?

Download the warning signs of eating disorders (PDF)

Don’t: Fall into Negative “Self-Talk”

  • Do NOT blame yourself. While families can be an important part of the prevention and treatment of an eating disorder, but they do not cause an eating disorder. Blaming yourself for your child’s illness will not help his or her recovery or your sanity.
  • Do NOT dive into the past searching for “causes.” The more you get lost in the past trying to find potential reasons for the eating disorder, the more disengaged you may become from your child in the present moment. The “cause” is not nearly as important as connecting with your child, engaging in his or her treatment and implementing recovery-focused solutions.
  • DO stay in the moment. The best way to be available and effective with your child during the treatment process is to remain in the moment. When you catch yourself getting stuck in past regrets or launching yourself into future worries, take a breath.
  • DO start talking. Identify your own support system and use it. Eating disorders can be very secretive and can isolate for sufferers from their support system. Identify family members or close friends who can support you by offering a listening ear or pitching in to watch your other children while you take your son or daughter to treatment appointments.

The tips in this section have been provided by Elizabeth Easton, PsyD, Clinical Director of Child and Adolescent Services at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, CO.

For more information about the Eating Recovery Center, check out the video below, or visit them online at



Thanks for writing this article. It seems like might be strategies to identify issues with eating rather than preventing them. I would think of prevention as having positive discussions about body image and self worth.

I agree that this information does not show parents how to prevent an eating disorder. A great resource for this is
This is one of the best and most evidence based resources I have found and I work in this area.