These questions relate to a young person's food choices, eating patterns and attitudes towards nutrition.
A change in eating pattern, such as skipping meals
Eating alone, eating secretly, or having 'rituals' around food or meal times
Avoiding family meals or eating with others
Hiding, or secretly throwing away uneaten food
Leaving the table during a meal and avoiding finishing their food
Frequently reporting to have eaten elsewhere, or being dishonest about their eating
Limiting the variety of foods eaten
Eating according to strict food rules, such as no carbohydrates, or no sugar
Suddenly becoming vegetarian or vegan
Development of food 'intolerances'
A strong preference for 'diet' or 'low fat' products
Frequently talking about losing weight, or making comments about being 'fat'
Displaying a high level of concern about the calorie content of food
A strong focus on what others are eating, interest in cooking or interest in cookbooks without actually eating
Evidence of over eating (large amounts of food disappearing from household, hidden wrappers and packaging)
Finding it hard to stop eating once they have started
A history of 'picky' eating
Rigidity around food preparation and eating such as cutting food into tiny pieces, or 'hovering' in the kitchen whilst others are cooking
Anxiety, irritability, anger and hostility at mealtimes
These questions relate to a young person's physical health and any unhelpful behaviors they may be participating in.
A fluctuation in weight over a few weeks (weight gain or loss)
Significant weight change as a result of illness, travel or increased participation in sport and exercise
A growth spurt without any weight gain
Any evidence of vomiting after meals
Excessive, obsessive or ritualistic exercise
Having problems sitting still, and standing, twitching or pacing whenever possible
Evidence of exercising in secret (e.g. in the middle of the night or in their bedroom)
Engaging in intense exercise with no pleasure
Exercising to compensate for eating
Packets of diet pills or laxatives
Constipation, or unexplained stomach pains
Cold hands, or feet, or regular complaints of feeling cold
Fainting or complaining of dizziness
A delayed onset of periods (if female), or a loss of menstrual cycle
These questions relate to thinking patterns and personality traits of a young person.
Very low self-esteem
Rigid, black and white thinking (e.g. good/bad or right/wrong)
Body dissatisfaction e.g. a strong conviction they need to be thinner
A strong focus on perceived flaws of their body or a particular part of their body
Constantly seeking reassurance about body size
Obsessive body checking e.g. weighing, pinching, excessive time in front of the mirror
An interest in weight loss blogs, websites, magazines, books or images of thin people
These questions relate to changes in the way a young person is interacting with others.
Increased social isolation or withdrawal
Perceiving others to be judgemental
Experiencing difficulty talking about emotions
If eating patterns have been disturbed over a number of weeks, parents need to take a firm stance, increase their vigilance and closely monitor their child’s meals and snacks. Parents may find it helpful to keep a log of what and how much food their child is eating.
If you have noticed your child displaying some warning signs of disordered eating:
Coach them back into healthy behaviours, such as re-establishing regular meals and snacks.
Support and encourage them to eat a wide range of foods and challenge any ‘rules’ they may have developed about their eating.
Make family meals enjoyable and establish a clear expectation that the family needs to prioritise spending time together.
Support your child to identify and challenge any weight related comments from others (regardless of your child’s shape and size).
Monitor your child’s growth and development, particularly their weight and height.
If your child is engaging in any weight control behaviour/s, it is appropriate to intervene and set limits to stop the behaviour. It may be useful to keep a log of when the behaviours occur, and what behaviours are observed.
If your child reacts badly to you intervening and setting limits on compensatory behaviour/s, this will affirm your concern, and seeking professional help is recommended.
Eliminate teasing based on appearance in your family and role model body acceptance to your child by not talking about the worries you may have about your own appearance or dieting.
Tell your child often about things you like and appreciate about them which are not to do with their appearance - helping them build a sense of self in which appearance is only one, relatively small component.
Highlight to your child all the good things bodies can do and how useful it is to listen to our body signals for caring for our health and understanding our emotions. Help your child see that media images promote a limited and unrealistic thin ideal, often through techniques like airbrushing and digital manipulation.
How you communicate with your child is important. Being calm, compassionate, caring and consistent will increase the chances of a good outcome.
Support and encourage your child to develop their own identity, and continue to participate in interests and meaningful activities.
Try not to modify the family routine to accommodate changes in your child’s eating patterns or weight control behaviour.
Further information and helpful tools for parents can be located in FYI resources and the FYI toolkit.