Eating disorders are psychologically and physically damaging to a child's health. As dismal as this sounds, there is help for families who struggle with these diseases.

Lynn Grefe from the National Eating Disorders Association says, "If you get a diagnosis of an eating disorder, there's no shame in that. It's just another illness, and it's treatable."

According to Grefe, preventing an eating disorder is difficult but diverting that disorder and dealing with it in a sensitive and timely manor is vital. A child will display a change in behavior.

Some signs of this behavior change include, mood swings, changes in behaviors around food, changes in diet, leaving a table immediately after every meal, avoiding meals, hiding food in their room and weight loss.

The best way to approach your child is "to reach out and say I'm concerned. I've noticed that you might have some challenges with food. I would love to talk to you about it and let's talk to someone who might understand your problems," says Grefe.

Grefe advises against taking the family member with a disorder to a general family doctor. Instead, seek the proper help from a specialist for the child in need.

She says, "You want to make sure the family does not blame the child. Just telling the child to eat is not the answer. You need to understand that the person is showing how they feel about themselves through their behaviors with food."

NEDA is there to help with their hotline, 800-931-2237, their website,, and their toolkits for educators, coaches and athletic directors.

"We have people that answer the phones and respond to e-mails every day, Monday through Friday, so we get calls from all over the world from people who are looking for help," says Grefe.

"The sooner a family member can get the child to counseling and appropriate treatment, the better because then the child doesn't have to get so sick," says Grefe. "My favorite stories are the ones where a parent is not afraid, where they just call us for help."

According to Grefe, NEDA can answer your questions and refer you to the proper help nearest you for the loved one who suffers from this disorder. "Our best stories are when we can get to people early, when we can turn the tide," says Grefe.

She continues, "What we can do as a society and a family is not be talking about fat grams and going on diets all the time. Don't be criticizing people because of their weight or size. We encourage families to talk about a healthy lifestyle."

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