Editor’s Note: Feb. 23 to March 1 is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
Sitting down to a family dinner is not a Norman Rockwell moment for many people who suffer from eating disorders. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, constant discussions by parents on dieting, food fetishes or the desire to lose weight might leave a negative influence on your teen or child’s body image.
“Eating disorders are complicated and vexing problems and we don’t exactly understand the pathophysiology of them,” Dr. Aaron Krasner, a practicing psychiatrist and director of the Adolescent Transitional Living Program at Silver Hill Hospital in Connecticut told Forbes magazine.
In the article, author Dr. Robert Glatter, M.D., says Krasner early hypotheses of the pathogenesis of eating disorders are related to difficulties between parents as it pertains to “mothers milk”: giving love, receiving love, sharing in food, sharing in food-related celebrations.” He says there is environmental component with eating disorders. Krasner offers five constructive support and suggestions describing how parents might promote a positive body image in teens and children:
1. Try to avoid criticizing yourself or others about weight or shape in front of your children.
2. Avoid talking negatively about food – “I can’t eat potatoes because they’re carbs” or “That cake will go straight to my thighs.” It’s more important to teach the importance of healthy eating and exercise without references to weight.
3. Compliment children on their talents and accomplishments – a little praise goes a long way, especially when it’s well deserved
4. Let your teens and children know that weight gain and changes to body shape are a natural part of the growing process.
5. Have a discussion with your children about their use of social media and what they view in movies and on TV. Only about 5% of American women have the body type that is portrayed in advertising as the ideal size and shape for women.