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Children and Teens Point to Summer Camp as the Place Where Eating Disordered Behaviors Often Begin
Eating Recovery Center Urges Parents to be Proactive in Planning a Healthy Summer Camp Experience and Vigilant for Signs of Eating Disorders Once Children Return Home
“Every year, Eating Recovery Center sees many young patients who cite summer camp as the place where their disordered eating behaviors either began or intensified,”
The onset of puberty, typically occurring between the ages of 10 and 14 for girls and 12 and 16 for boys, is one of the two most common times when eating disorders develop. Children in this age range who have a family history of eating disorders, who have previously engaged in disordered eating or who have highly sensitive, perfectionistic temperaments may be more likely to be triggered by camp activities or situations.
Potentially triggering activities or situations may include a competitive athletic environment, exposure to bunkmates’ or friends’ disordered eating behaviors, an intense focus on health and nutrition or anxiety about trying to “fit in” with new camp friends. Without ongoing parental supervision, children who begin engaging in disordered eating behaviors will often maintain, or intensify them throughout the duration of camp without their parents’ knowledge.
To help parents plan a healthy, fun camp experience for their children and proactively practice eating disorders prevention, Eating Recovery Center offers these five tips:
1. Look into the way meals are structured at your child’s camp. Are mealtimes staffed so that camp counselors sit with campers and are available to notice if a child has stopped eating or drastically changed his or her eating habits?
2. Do some comparative research if you intend on sending your child to a sports camp. Children with a family history of eating disorders may be better suited at a camp that is focused on recreation and fun, rather than one that is focused on competition and intense fitness.
3. Send your child to camp with positive messages. Emphasize to your child that the goal of summer camp is to have fun and meet new friends. Remind your children that you love them for who they are, not what specific activities they excel at, and that it does not matter if they are the fastest runners or strongest swimmers at camp.
4. Check in with your child while he or she is at camp. Use phone calls, emails and letters as an opportunity to ask open-ended questions about his or her camp experience. Look and listen for any sudden changes in your child’s overall outlook.
5. Keep an eye out for signs of eating disorders when your child returns home from camp. Is your child eating smaller portions or restricting certain foods altogether? Has eating become a power struggle? Has your child’s exercise regimen significantly increased or have you “caught” him or her exercising in secret? Do you suspect purging after meals? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it may be time to seek help for a potential eating disorder.
“When parents see children after they have been away at a month- or summer-long camp, changes in body weight, overall health, general demeanor and outlook can become that much more noticeable,”
Parents are encouraged to seek an eating disorders assessment if they notice troubling behaviors in their children or adolescents when they return home from camp. Eating disorders recovery is entirely possible with early intervention and proper treatment from qualified professionals.
About Eating Recovery Center
Eating Recovery Center is an international center for eating disorders recovery providing comprehensive treatment for anorexia, bulimia, EDNOS and binge eating disorder. Under the personal guidance and care of Drs. Kenneth Weiner, Craig Johnson, Emmett Bishop and Ovidio Bermudez, programs provide a full spectrum of services for children, adolescents and adults that includes Inpatient, Residential, Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient and Outpatient Services. Our compassionate team of professionals collaborates with treating professionals and loved ones to cultivate lasting behavioral change.
Denver-based facilities include the Behavioral Hospital for Adults, the Behavioral Hospital for Children and Adolescents, the Partial Hospitalization Program and Outpatient Services for Adults, and the Partial Hospitalization Program for Children and Adolescents. In addition, Eating Recovery Center, partnering with Summit Eating Disorders and Outreach Program, offers Partial Hospitalization and Outpatient Services in Sacramento, California, as well as Intensive Outpatient and Outpatient Services in Fresno and Roseville. For more information, please contact us at 877-218-1344 or info@EatingRecoveryCenter.com or confidentially chat live on our website at www.EatingRecoveryCenter.com.
Communications Strategy Group
3225 East 2nd Avenue
Denver, CO 80206