Prevent Eating Disorders With Healthy Body Image

Most teenagers feel pressure to look a certain way, especially during the awkward phase of puberty. For an increasing number of teens, this concern with body image leads to low self-esteem, depression and eating disorders. Eating disorders are psychological disorders with potentially life-threatening consequences. Learn common signs of eating disorders and how to prevent these conditions.

Prevent Eating Disorders: Open Communication

As a parent, you may be able to prevent eating disorders by talking to your child about her body and telling her that you’re available when she wants to talk. Explain the changes she should expect as she grows up (i.e. some weight gain may occur at puberty, and is a normal part of growing up).

Tell her that healthy bodies come in many shapes and sizes. Make sure she knows what you like about her appearance and encourage her to focus on what she likes about herself, as well. Discourage other family members from making fun of overweight individuals.

Build Self-Esteem for Eating Disorder Prevention

Help your child understand that his self-worth is derived from internal qualities–honestly, integrity, love and compassion–rather than appearance. Praise his efforts and achievements so he knows that these are more valuable than his looks.

Self-esteem gives a child the confidence to resist peer pressure. The simplest way to boost your child’s self-esteem is to tell her that you love her unconditionally. Although both parents play a role in this, research shows that fatherly love and affirmation plays the biggest role in building a child’s self-esteem, a key component of eating disorder prevention.

Limit Access to Harmful Media for Prevention

The media is loaded with images and messages that idolize thinness, making it difficult to prevent eating disorders. According to the National Association for Eating Disorders (2005), models are thinner than 98 percent of all American women!

Although you can’t completely shield your child from the media, you can control how much of it she sees by limiting her magazine subscriptions, TV time or purchasing good monitoring software for your computer. Explaining your concerns about the media and encouraging her to think critically about what she sees may aid eating disorder prevention.

Eating Disorder Prevention and Your Own Self-Image

Your self-image affects your child’s self-image. If you’re overly concerned about your own appearance and weight, your child may adopt these same beliefs. Focus on your health rather than weight and support healthy eating habits and physical activity for the whole family. If you suffer from chronically poor self-image, consider talking to a counselor for your own sake, as well as your child’s.

You Can Prevent Eating Disorders

Cultivating your child’s healthy body image is a challenging task. If you notice signs of eating disorders in your child, schedule an appointment with your family doctor and privately express your concerns to him. He may be able to identify any early signs of eating disorders from a simple, routine check-up.

Resources

Levine, P. (2005). Prevention guidelines and strategies for everyone: 50 ways to lose the 3 Ds: Dieting, drive for thinness and body dissatisfaction. Retrieved September 17, 2010, from http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/uploads/file/information-resources/50-Ways-to-Lose-the-3Ds.pdf

Mayo Clinic. (2010). Healthy body image: Tips for guiding girls. Retrieved September, 17, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-body-image/MY01225

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. (2010). Eating disorders and the internet. Retrieved September 17, 2010, from http://www.anad.org/get-information/eating-disorders-and-the-internet/

National Eating Disorders Association. (2005). National eating disorders association statistics: Eating disorders and their precursors. Retrieved September 20, 2010, from http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/uploads/file/Statistics%20%20Updated %20Feb%2010,%202008%20B.pdf

Nemours Foundation. (n.d.). Eating disorders. Retrieved September 17, 2010, from http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_fit/nutrition/eating_disorders.html#a_Warning Signs