What is typical eating?
Our temperament, body, and environment determine our typical eating habits that follow us from childhood to adulthood most of the time. Some people eat three meals per day, others two or five. A lot of people love snacks and often have them in between meals (and that is okay!). Our bodies usually need a lot of energy and food is our main fuel.
Some of us are picky eaters—we do not like eating many things and we may be stubbornly unwilling to try. Even if it is frustrating, this can also be typical as long as we eat enough to keep us healthy and going.
The most important things to remember about typical eating is:
- Typical eating involves consuming enough food to provide energy for the day.
- Typical eating should be balanced and involve multiple food groups.
Sometimes when we are really hungry, we may eat too much, too fast and end up with an upset stomach. Sometimes when we don’t feel well, such as when we have a cold, we do not feel like eating or drinking anything. Both of these situations are typical.
When should I pay special attention to eating?
When we regularly eat too much or too little, it is important to pay special attention to our eating patterns. Some signs of eating problems include:
- Restrictive eating or dieting leading to noticeable weight loss (without professional support).
- Regular overeating followed by discomfort and, sometimes, complaints.
- Spending long periods than would be expected without eating anything.
- Feeling the urge and/or inducing vomit after eating.
- Hiding food.
- Feelings of guilt after eating, especially when eating caloric foods.
- Constipation without a clinical physical cause.
- For girls, irregular menstruation without a clinical or physical cause.
- Use of medication (e.g., laxatives, diuretics) without medical prescription.
- Excessive exercising generally and/or after overeating.
What can I do If I struggle with eating problems?
It can be hard and frustrating to deal with eating problems. If you understand that you struggle with them, there are a few things you may try:
- Ask a trusted adult for help. Trusted adults are usually our caregivers, other family members, or someone else who is responsible for taking care of us. Let your trusted adults know about your difficulties. They can be helpful for assisting you and helping you get any additional help you may need.
- Try to deal with feelings of guilt and shame. Remember that eating is an essential part of life. You are not doing anything wrong or that might be bad for you by eating what your body needs to keep up and running.
- Remember that your body converts food into energy. Sometimes we have the illusion that everything we eat stays inside of our bodies in the form of fat. However, it is not true. Our body transforms what we eat into energy and spends it to maintain our basic and daily functions.
- Adhere to maintain mealtimes with people you care about. Keeping a meal routine is important. Try to make these moments about bonding and connection with the people you love avoiding distractions (e.g., phones, television…).
- Ask your family to keep a range of healthy food available in the home. It’s always good to keep healthy snacks and options for healthy meals available at home. Making healthy foods more accessible, may help us to avoid unhealthy foods as well (e.g., a bowl of fruit on the table available for snacking).
If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems you are facing persist, it may be time to ask a trusted adult to seek out professional support.
Eating and feeding problems that are too frequent, intense, present in many different contexts, discrepant from those experienced by others the same age, and that negatively interfere with our daily lives, may indicate the possibility of an Eating Disorder, such as Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa.
What kind of professional support can be sought out?
It is not unusual for us to feel embarrassed, inadequate, or guilty if we are struggling with eating or feeding problems. But, if you think you are facing this difficulty, support and guidance are available now.
Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional or a nutritionist may be helpful.
The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).
Where to find more information
Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Eating Disorders (i.e., Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa) can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].
If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.
You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.