Fifteen-year-old Eric, for example, is obsessed with having zero percent body fat. He is very, very afraid of what food will do to his body. Eric’s need for control over his food is so severe that he’s involved his entire family in his mealtime issues, throwing a tantrum if a meal isn’t cooked to his specifications. Then there’s Troy, 22, a health teacher – no kidding – who obsesses over calories and is constantly cold from his lack of body fat. 

“Everything has to be prepared exactly the way he wants it,” Eric’s mom Becky says. “He eats egg whites, and I have to crack the egg and kind of toggle the yolk back and forth and get all the egg white out, but if that egg yolk breaks a little bit, and he sees a little bit of yellow in there, I have to throw it away. So, we end up throwing away a lot of things if I do it wrong. It’s a lot of pressure when you’re the cook, that’s for sure. It’s not fun.”

Though I don’t think that Eric’s parents set out to be encourage his obsession, they’ve clearly entered enabling territory. Not only does Eric’s mom have to use different utensils to cook Eric’s food – nothing, nothing he doesn’t eat is allowed to touch his food – but he also has his own drawers and shelves in the fridge. And you thought your kid was picky.Dr. Phil says that as many as one million young men suffer from eating disorders, but often don’t get the help they need. If you think you or someone you love may be at risk, here are the warning signs.

Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, are what Dr. Phil calls a “silent epidemic.” In the beginning, girls “ and boys too ” may choose to restrict their diets or to purge for one reason, but they end up continuing to do so because it becomes an addiction. Early intervention is crucial because once an eating disorder gets a grip on someone, it’s far more difficult to treat.

There are warning signs that you do need to be looking for. “First off, you never see them eat. You’ll see them push their food around the plate, but you’ll see every kind of avoidance technique you can imagine because they regard food as poison,” Dr. Phil explains. “If they’re acting around food as though it’s toxic or poisonous, that should be a clue for you." Also, has your child been dressing in baggy clothes? "You’re going to see really bulky sweaters and baggy pants to hide the weight loss and disguise the body,” Dr. Phil says. “Look for extreme behaviors. Look for deception. Look for hiding.”

Additional warning signs:

  • A significant change in apparent appetite


  • Excessive weight loss and an intense fear of weight gain
  • An unnatural preoccupation with food and calories


  • An obsession with clothing size, scales and mirrors
  • Routine secrecy, such as leaving the table immediately after eating to go behind closed doors


  • Avoidance of family meals or events at which food is present
  • Wearing bulky clothes to hide weight loss


  • Excessive exercise
  • Social withdrawal and moodiness


  • Binging: eating an amount of food larger than most people would eat
  • Self-induced vomiting, the use of laxatives, diuretics, enemas or other medications, or fasting for days following a binge 


  • Hoarding food for later binges and eating in secret
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