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Adolescent Nutrition and Eating Disorders
N.W. Regional Web Symposium

Adolescent eating disorder issues summarized

Adolescent weight management summarized

Healthy nutrition for children:  an interview

Pregnancy in Adolescence

Risky Eating Behaviors

MPH Student Research 
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Web Symposium: Child and Adolescent Nutrition

Eating Disorders during Adolescence:
Nutritional Treatment Issues specific to Adolescents vs Older Individuals

Jane Mitchell Rees, PhD, RD, CD
Departments of Health Services and Pediatrics 
Maternal Child Health and Adolescent Medicine 
University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

Eating Disorders
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Risky Eating Behaviors

Weight Management

1. Summary Of Adolescent Development

  • Psychological
    • (cognitive) moving from concrete to abstract thinking
    • (emotional) developing as an individual self
  • Behavioral
    • learning to monitor and modify one's own behaviors
  • Physical 
    • developing an adult body with full reproductive capacity

2. Major Psychosocial Tasks Of Adolescents

  • Gaining independence
  • Preparing for a vocation
  • Developing a sense of self
  • Normal characteristics of adolescents carrying out these tasks 
    • moving from family to peer centered environment 
    • dwelling on the body and the self in thoughts and concerns

3. Behavior Of Adolescents With Anorexia Nervosa

  • A crisis develops (often for an adolescent previously untroubled)
  • The adolescent adopts an external value for excessive slimness
  • Careful observation usually reveals problems with over-achievment, isolation, lack of a sense of self
  • The adolescent develops rituals in an apparent effort to gain a sense of self 
    • controls food/exercise to decrease weight rapidly
    • chooses ever lower weight goal

4. Nutrition Treatment Issues – Adolescents vs Older Eating Disorder Patients ---- Physical Status

  • Individuality of developmental progress during puberty complicates monitoring
  • Narrower limits of healthy nutritional status of younger vs older people increases vulnerability
  • Tissue synthesis during growth and development increases nutrient needs 

5. Nutrition Treatment Issues – Adolescents vs Older Eating Disorder Patients  --- Concept of Food as Nourishment

  • Young people think of food largely in concrete vs abstract terms and are thus unable to conceptualize its nutritional value
  • All teenagers may be overly influenced by misinformation from media/peers/family
  • Adolescents often link eating to appearance and are judgmental of both

6. Nutrition Treatment Issues – Adolescents vs Older Eating Disorder Patients  --- Habits

  • Adolescents have grown accustomed to eating small amounts during the previous stable growth period of preadolescence so increased amounts needed for rapid growth and development seem like "overeating"
  • Food experimentation usually increases during adolescence leaving them vulnerable to adopting less healthy habits
  • Parental guidance and provision of food vs independence is in a natural state of flux during adolescence;  adolescents are just learning to manage food on their own

7. Nutrition Treatment Issues – Adolescents vs Eating Disorder Older Patients  --- Overall Treatment

  • Maturation requires revisiting many issues over a lengthy period to provide developmentally appropriate education during full recovery
  • Involvement and specialized education for the entire family is usually required
  • Support for adolescents, parents and supervising adults regarding school/athletic program/camp etc. is often needed
8. Additional Information on Adolescent Nutrition

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