Eating Recovery Center In The News: momsTEAM.com
Summer Camp: Is It Where Disordered Eating Sometimes Start?
Parents urged to be proactive in planning a healthy summer camp experience and watch for signs of eating disorders once child returns home
More than 10 million American children attend camp each summer. For all the great things about camp, it may also be a place where children, away from parental supervision for weeks or even months, can develop disordered eating behaviors, say experts.
“Every year, we see many young patients who cite summer camp as the place where their disordered eating behaviors either began or intensified,” said Jamie Manwaring, PhD, primary therapist at Eating Recovery Center’s Behavioral Hospital for Children and Adolescents in Denver, Colorado. “It is important to recognize that summer camps do not ‘cause’ eating disorders; however, camps’ environments can often be triggering for a child with the genetic or temperamental predisposition for an eating disorder.”
Tweens and teens prone
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. Particularly prone are children in this age range who have:
- a family history of eating disorders
- previously engaged in disordered eating; or
- highly sensitive, perfectionistic temperaments.
Potentially triggering activities or situations may include:
- a competitive athletic environment;
- exposure to bunkmates’ or friends’ disordered eating behaviors, and
- 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.
Early intervention saves lives
“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,” explains Dr. Manwaring. “If your child exhibits worrisome behaviors after returning home, do not wait to seek help. With eating disorders, the earlier the intervention, the more successful the treatment will be. Early intervention saves lives.”
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.