Dr. Danielle Doucette – Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Eating Disorders Clinic at Midwest Counseling
Midwest Counseling – River North
650 N. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60654
Midwest Counseling – Northbrook
40 Skokie Blvd., Ste. 460
Northbrook, IL 60062 (312) 612-9398
RED FLAGS FOR PARENTS
- Obsessions about food and weight – A person might obsessively start paying more attention to food labels, portion sizes, may start checking weight often, may start to restrict or cut off certain categories of food.
- Skipping meals – A big sign is skipping meals. For high school students, we might see them making excuses for not eating with the family.
- Over-exercising – Your student might start spending a huge amount of time at the gym, skip classes to go jogging, choosing to exercise instead of spending time with friends or engaging in other important social connections. Rather than being a place for coping with stress or for enjoyment, it becomes a place to go to burn calories.
- Weight change – For college students, you might not notice this until they come home for Holiday Break. Even if you’re FaceTiming them often, it might be difficult to notice. Some people with eating disorders will try to hide bodies and will opt for baggy clothing.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO
- My #1 tip is for parents to help build foundational skills so that their kids know how to get the nutrition they need.
- Focus on breakfast – It really is the most important meal of the day, for many reasons…one of which is, if you skip breakfast, then you’re more likely to be really hungry and either binge your next meal or might not eat a fully nourishing meal. Interestingly, there is research that compared people with eating disordered behaviors on whether or not eating breakfast impacted disordered eating behaviors – and they’ve found that it does. Those who ate breakfast showed fewer eating disordered behaviors compared to those who skipped breakfast.
- Learning quick and easy meals – Lots of kids go away to college never having cooked or even thought out what constitutes a nourishing meal. Have these conversations at home. Involve your child in grocery shopping and cooking as early as you can.
- Plan dorm-ready snacks – Strategize what your student can have on-hand in their dorm room that is nourishing and gives you energy.
- Mindful eating – Not eating your entire meal in front of your phone or computer, even if it’s just savoring the first few bites before you have to dive back into a textbook.
- If you believe that your child has an eating disorder, there are lots of ways that you can help them, even if they are away at school.
- Seek out services on campus or in the town where they attend school.
- Find a clinical psychologist, registered dietician or nutritional counseling service that specializes in adolescents and make an appointment for them when they come home for a visit.
- An important thing to note is that psychologists technically are not allowed to practice across state lines if they are not registered in the state where the patient is. BUT, registered dieticians can practice across state lines, so regular telehealth appointments with your college student are a great option.