Children develop disordered eating problems because of stress and abuse, as well as messages in the media about appearance. Disordered eating includes problems such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating. Children and teenagers with disordered eating patterns categorize food as good or safe vs. dangerous and bad. However, by using the following parenting advice, you can prevent the problem.
Eating food is about nourishing your body to support daily functions such as physical activity and intellectual challenges. Proper eating prevents health problems such as diabetes, mood swings and obesity. The problem is, some young people feel obsessed with their weight and appearance. According to eating disorder experts, it helps to take steps as a parent to educate your child.
Challenge the Thin Ideal
Talk to your children about the fact that healthy people come in all shapes and sizes. Challenge the false belief that weight loss and thinness is admirable. Discuss how body fat does not represent shame, laziness or worthlessness. Instead of focusing on weight loss goals, focus on healthful eating habits to avoid disordered eating.
One way to prevent disordered eating is by cooking meals together as a family and sitting at the dinner table. But avoid using the time to argue or get into heated discussions. Keep the attitude positive. Use other times to reprimand your children. Talk about how dinner time is a time to relax and enjoy food, nourishment and positive discussions.
When cooking, get creative. Cook with colorful fruits and vegetables. Talk about the iron, protein content and health benefits of foods as opposed to counting calories and fat grams. Encourage your children to help with menu planning, too.
Avoid Negative Media Messages
Never allow your young children to read magazines or watch television shows that present a distorted message about body image. At the same time, don’t put down actors or musicians who appear thin just as you don’t insult your child for appearing skinny.
While it’s fine to weigh foods for portion control, avoid weighing your children at home. Instead, let the doctor weigh them at annual checkups. Focus on keeping your children active by walking to the park or a favorite destination. For more parenting advice related to eating disorders, talk to your pediatrician, the school nurse or your dietician.