Are eating disorders contagious?

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Are eating disorders contagious?

Whether an eating disorder is contagious or not is a really good question. The truth is, we don't really know. We know that genetics set the stage so you won't get an eating disorder. Typical story would be a child whose friends go on a diet, a child whose friend gets an eating disorder, she tries but she doesn't stick with it. Her genetics and maybe her loving family that said, "No, you can't do that," protected her. Kids do try things that their friends are doing; we know that. What you don't know is if your kid's gonna get hooked. And you could say that about a number of things. So it is a concern if your child has friends who are playing with an eating disorder or have an eating disorder. I would suggest that parents talk to them about it and their concerns and the dangers. Because it can seem kind of glamorous, a young teen with anorexia who's losing weight and is wearing clothes that look just wonderful and she looks like Taylor Swift or whatever. That's pretty exciting and she's getting a lot of attention. Your daughter's sitting back and saying, "I'd love that kind of attention, maybe if I lose weight." Talk to her about it. Tell her about the dangers, that this is like playing around with drugs or alcohol. You can get hooked on it and it can ruin your life. "You can't do it, my dear girl. Let's go grocery shopping and buy you something good to eat and something fun to wear. But you are not going to be able to have an eating disorder when you're under my roof." That's what I tell parents to say.

View Marcia Herrin, EdD, MPH, RD, LD's video on Are eating disorders contagious?...


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Marcia Herrin, EdD, MPH, RD, LD


Marcia Herrin, EdD, MPH, RD, is the founder of Dartmouth College’s nationally renowned nutrition programs. Currently, Dr. Herrin conducts a private practice in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Marcia received her doctorate in nutrition education from Columbia University. At the University of California-Berkeley, she received her master’s degree and completed a dietetic internship. More recently, Marcia has completed two trainings with James Lock and Daniel le Grange in Family-Based Treatment (Maudsley). She also is certified in Childhood, Adolescent, and Adult Weight Management. Besides a fulltime counseling practice, Marcia has written three books and is working on her fourth. The Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders tells parents everything they need to know about eating disorders. Nutrition Counseling in the Treatment of Eating Disorders tells professionals everything they need to know about working with food in eating disorders. Marcia has been featured in People magazine and on Today and 48 Hours. Marcia credits much of her success with patients with eating disorders and obesity to her own struggles with and recovery from these conditions. Her childhood, as the oldest of six children growing up on a Montana ranch, is another significant influence.

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