Early Signs of Teen Eating Disorders and How to Help

Eating disorders are often silent battles faced by teens every day. The shame and secrecy surrounding them make early detection crucial.

Eating disorders are some of the deadliest mental illnesses, and many teens struggle daily with this issue. However, they often go unnoticed and undetected because of the silence and secrecy surrounding them. Eating disorders can be associated with a lot of shame, and those affected are typically very good at hiding it—even from those closest to them.

Because of this, it’s important to be able to recognize the early signs of eating disorders and know how to help your teen when you suspect that something is wrong. One of the hallmarks of an eating disorder is shame. When a person gets into an eating disorder, they start to have unhealthy thoughts and believe that they’re bad, unwanted, fat, ugly, worthless, and all-around terrible. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but the first thing that will help you help your loved one is to understand how they are feeling.

What to Watch For

Hypersensitivity and Perfectionistic Tendencies

When your teen is struggling with an eating disorder, you may notice that they’re more sensitive to comments or criticism, and they tend to develop perfectionistic tendencies. It might feel like you’re walking on eggshells around them—you could say the same thing on two different days and get two completely different reactions. It can feel a little like an emotional rollercoaster, so if you notice that your teen is acting this way, you’ll want to dig a little deeper and see what the issue is.

Heightened Awareness of Food or Obsession Over Food

Another early sign of an eating disorder is a new obsession over food. You might notice that your teen is more concerned with reading labels, counting calories, becoming pickier, trying out new diets, or suddenly placing dietary restrictions on themselves by going vegan or vegetarian. These aren’t always bad things, but you’ll want to watch for them if you suspect that your teen is developing an eating disorder.

Withdrawing From Family, Friends, or Hobbies

As mentioned earlier, eating disorders thrive in secrecy and solitude. Teens who develop eating disorders will often withdraw from friends and family as well as activities that they would typically enjoy. Heightened anxiety around food and social events is a huge reason teens with eating disorders tend to isolate themselves. It is easier for them to have control over their food habits when they are alone.

How to Help

Find the Deeper Issue

Eating disorders typically don’t happen overnight. There are multiple reasons teens develop this type of mental illness, and it’s important as a parent that you dig deep and really try to understand your child. Instead of trying to fix the problem right off the bat, understand that they are in a vulnerable state. They’re worried about what people think of them, they’re afraid of being judged, and they feel broken. Letting them know that you’re there to understand and help will go a long way.

Don’t Focus on Body Talk

Saying things about their body (positive or negative) can be harmful when your teen is dealing with an eating disorder. Avoid talking negatively because they’ll think that their body is a problem that needs to be fixed. On the other hand, saying things like “you look so healthy” can make them think they look fat, or “you look great” can make them think that they should continue with their eating habits. Body talk is usually very triggering for someone with an eating disorder, so focus on complimenting all of the other wonderful things about your teen.

See Them As More Than Their Eating Disorder and Encourage Them to Get Help

The most important thing you can do is realize that your teen is not their eating disorder, and they can overcome it. When you really understand where they’re coming from, they will feel comfortable talking to you about it and you can help them get help through therapy and treatment.

To learn more, listen to our Not by Chance Podcast episode “Eating Disorders and Early Intervention,” where we sat down with eating disorder expert Mike Gurr and discussed the topic in-depth. You can find us on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

In this article

tim headshot

Dr. Tim Thayne Presents:

How Parents Can Put A Stop To Their Teen's Self Destructive Behaviors WITHOUT Conflict Or Walking On Eggshells

Mike Christian

Back-End Developer & DevOps​

Mike is one of those brilliant, self-taught, back end developers that you always hear about. As a youth he could trust that “My mother would love me no matter what . . .” When he isn’t cranking out new code, Mike keeps up on the newest technologies and every Tuesday and Thursday nights he trains SpeedSoft with his team.

Rafael Pampoch

Web Developer

Rafael has his degree in Marketing and Advertising and years of experience with our dev team. As a teen he could trust that “The most important thing in life is love, and the most valuable things are our family and friends.” When he isn’t working on making the website and mobile versions of Trustyy seamless and functional, he unwinds by exploring nature. His favorite activities are climbing mountains, camping, going to the beach, swimming, playing the harmonica and always learning new things.

Afton Wilde


Afton’s experience is in marketing and bookkeeping.  As a teen she could trust that with her parents “Feeding the horses and milking the cow each day before school–not after–was a must.”  When she isn’t busy with keeping Trustyy’s lights on, you’ll usually find her baking up a new treat or working on a sewing project.

Nicoli Cristini

Marketing Assistant

Nicoli has a degree in Multimedia Production.  She has worked with our team of developers for three years.  She learned to trust her own parents when they taught her “Things won’t come easy and that working hard will bring me great blessings!”  When she isn’t putting together beautiful marketing pieces for the Trustyy App she likes to take pictures, play the guitar, piano, and drums, and meet up with her family to laugh over the silly things they did as kids.

Adriano Rodrigues

Mobile Developer

Adriano is certified in Analysis and Systems Development.  In his family he could trust the fact that “One difficult experience teaches me that failure is not the end, but rather an opportunity for growth and learning.”  When he is away from his work in making sure the Trustyy App buttons and bells and whistles are working properly, he likes to go to the gym, to the beach to surf, on walks with his dog, or go out with his girlfriend.

Lucas Baumgart

Product Designer

Lucas’s work experience is in User Experience, Interface Design and Product Management. As a teen he could trust that “In my home honesty was highly valued and lying was not tolerated.”  When he isn’t at work making sure the Trustyy App is easy on the eyes, Lucas likes hiking, gaming, going out for dinner, and spending time with family.

Cadu Olivera

Front End Developer

Cadu has his education in Analysis and System Development.  While growing up he could always trust that “My parents would be there to support from playing soccer at the park to learning to ride a bike.”   When he isn’t making sure things are easily navigated for our Trustyy App users, he likes to play beach soccer and enjoy music of any type, but specifically rock, country, R&B, and pop.

Mike Curi

Back End Developer

Mike is one of those brilliant, self-taught, back-end developers that you always hear about. As a youth he could trust that “My mother would love me no matter what.” When he isn’t cranking out new code, Mike keeps up on the newest technologies and every Tuesday and Thursday nights he trains SpeedSoft with his team. 

Roxanne Thayne

Co-Founder/Chief Marketing Officer

Roxanne received her bachelor’s degree in history and secondary education.  She has worked in publishing and marketing for the past 14 years.  In her family Roxanne says she could trust that “Her grammar and posture would be consistently corrected, to help her to become a lady.”  When she isn’t busy writing and beautifying things for the Trustyy App, you can find her reading biographies, practicing yoga, or gathering the family to talk business, celebrate wins or just plain hang out.

Sidney Rodrigues

Co-Founder/Chief Technology Officer

Sidney has a bachelor’s degree in Web Development and has worked in technology for 16 years, building apps for the last 10 years. Growing up he could trust that “It was always expected that I would fix anything related to technology.”  When he isn’t managing the development of the Trustyy App, you will find him spending time with his wife and kids. He loves to make Brazillian BBQ with his family.

Jim Lee

Co-Founder/Chief Product Officer

Jim has a degree in Design and over 25 years of experience creating SaaS products and managing talented product and development teams.  In his years at home as the oldest of five he could trust that “Each child got a weekly ‘night-up’ where we got to stay up late with a parent and do anything we wanted with them.”  When he isn’t looking 10 miles down the road for what will come next on the Trustyy App, you will find Jim canyoneering, doing photography, watercolor painting, or keeping up on the latest gadgets and technologies.

Eric Turner

Co-Founder/Chief Operations Officer

Eric earned his degree in Communications, Public Relations and Advertising, then added on an MBA.  He says he could trust that “His parents were honest people who kept their commitments–especially to their kids.”  When Eric isn’t keeping everyone at Trustyy on task, he is an outdoor enthusiast, year around, rain or shine, cold or hot, with biking in the summer and skiing in the winter.

Tim Thayne

Founder | Chief Executive Officer

Tim earned masters and doctoral degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy, and has 30 years of experience working with families.  While growing up Tim says he could trust that “My mother would love me no matter what, and that my dad would require that I respect my mother.”  When he isn’t busy guiding the vision for the Trustyy App, you can find Tim working around the house and yard, taking care of his sheep, dogs and horses, or enjoying a game of Corn Hole with the family.