The other day I saw a teen I’ve known for several years. She looked different, so I asked her if she’d lost weight. The minute the words left my mouth, I cringed. Her pleased reaction reinforced my chagrin.

In a culture obsessed with weight and external appearance, how is a teen (or grown woman) supposed to view herself? Popular magazines always feature something about weight-loss (often right next to a picture of chocolate cake). But the culture doesn’t stop there. Today’s woman must be rail thin with the breasts of a much more … developed woman. It’s enough to make someone become a slave of perfection, ever critical of self, and maybe, others. If not checked, this pursuit of perfection can turn into an emotionally and physically destructive obsession.

I know this because I have been there. I was a chubby child who suddenly grew thin in my early teens. But that never satisfied me. I drank in popular fashion magazines and compared myself to the models, not realizing the extremes some models must go to keep such thin figures. By my senior year in college, I’d developed a full-blown eating disorder. I’d weigh myself ten or twenty times a day, obsessed about what I ate, and exercised to an extreme. My periods stopped and my hair grew dull, but I didn’t see it.

What happened? Through God’s help along with friends and family, I faced the problem and realized quite a bit of it stemmed from a need to control. Stress makes it worse, hence the acceleration of my problem during college.

How has this affected me as a mother of two daughters? I don’t own a scale, and I try to minimize any discussion about weight beyond eating healthy, (although even this can turn into another control trap). I don’t buy fashion magazines, and I try very hard to not talk about my weight or my body in a derogatory fashion. Beyond that, we have yet to delve into the world of teens. Perhaps some of you can share your wisdom with me. If you are a mother of a teen or spend any time around them, learn to recognize the signs of impending eating disorders. And if you struggle with this personally, don’t be afraid to face it. There is so much joy in being free of an eating disorder.

Here are a few good links for further help: