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My daughter, a freshman, just lost 20 lbs. Could she have an eating disorder?

answered 08:24 AM EST, Tue December 13, 2011
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My daughter has lost a lot of weight these last 6 months or so. She is newly at college and I think the pressures may be getting to her. She puts a lot of pressure on herself to succeed. She has lost what I would consider an unhealthy amount of weight since she moved out on her own 6 months ago.

She has always been concerned about maintaining a healthy weight but it was never something I worried about. Six months ago she was at a healthy weight. Now, she to me she looks like she has lost 20 pounds and has a gaunt appearance to her face. She did not need to lose 20 pounds, since she was already fairly lean before.

I am concerned she has developed an eating disorder. She is not the type to use drugs at all. But when she comes by for Sunday dinner every week she always eats a normal amount and acts quite normally around food. I have been trying to get her to explain the weight loss but she says she has just been exercising more and doing yoga and that she just had a check up with her doctor and that she is in great health.

Is there any way a 20+ pound weight loss on an already lean frame in 6 months is the result of normal exercise and yoga? What can I look for as proof that there is something worse going on here?

William Anderson Says...

Different people have different ideas about what is a normal weight. You do not say what your daughter's height and weight are, so it is impossible to tell where she falls on the spectrum. You say she was lean before the weight loss and gaunt now, but I have heard those exact words used to describe perfectly healthy people, even when they were slightly overweight. We have conditioned ourselves in America to think that overweight is normal.

You say that you see her often and you have always seen her eat normally. You don't have even one instance where you have seen or heard her with anything but healthy attitudes and behavior around food. This doesn't sound like a person with disordered eating. Since she has had a change in her habits where mom isn't feeding her every day and she says she is exercising more, you have a reasonable explanation for her weight loss.

Keep an eye on things and consider meeting with a therapist who specializes in eating disorders to discuss a strategy for the future. She or he can help you develop a plan for what you can do to be most helpful to your daughter.

Remember that you cannot control anyone else, even your daughter. We are lucky when we can control ourselves. Come up with a plan of what you can do to be most helpful and do that. Then you can be satisfied that you have done the best job that a mom, with the help of an expert, can do. Review it regularly, and update it when it makes sense.

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Page last updated Dec 13, 2011

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