Although most children go through periods when they rebel against what is served at mealtime or sneak sugary sweets from time to time, a small percentage of children begin to develop eating disorders. Peers and media may influence these choices. Despite outside influences, family remains the primary influence on a child. Modeling good eating behaviour is one of the best ways to teach a child good eating habits.

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa affect many teenagers and young adults, especially females. Adolescents who develop eating disorders do not get the calories or nutrition they need to grow. There are two types of eating disorders. Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by refusing to eat and not maintaining weight. People suffering from this disorder have an intense fear of gaining weight or amassing fat. Anorexics have a distorted body image, they see themselves as overweight and fat even though they are underweight and thin.

When faced with the pressure of adolescence, some people develop abnormal eating patterns. Some psychologist suggest that anorexia represent a refusal to grow up. Girls who develop anorexia typically miss menstrual cycles. Other psychologist propose that anorexia is an attempt by teenagers to assert control over their lives at a time when so much seems beyond their control. Treatment for anorexia involves a focus on encouraging weight gain and dealing with psychological problems.

Another serious disorder, bulimia nervosa is characterized by binge eating followed by purging, vomiting, using laxatives, or rigorous dieting and fasting to eliminate the calories taken in during the binge. People suffering from bulimia nervosa are excessively concerned about body shape and weight. Bulimics usually engage in this behavior in private. Some psychologist suggest that bulimia may result from a teen's feeling of alientation during adolescence or a need to find approval from others. Some bulimics also experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Treatment involves therapy and the use of antidepressant drugs. Many strive to please others and feel that food is the one thing they can control. Children with eating disorders need counselling from a trained professional. Parents shouldn't hesitate to consult a professional if they notice unusual eating patterns or sudden weight gain or loss in their daughter or son. If a child's friends notice a problem, they should tell a teacher, school counselor or the parents. This is a very serious disorder that needs immediate attention upon the knowledge that it is occurring.