Anorexia: A Weighty Issue


10 Things Parents Can Do to Help Prevent Eating Disorders

1. Consider your thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors toward your own body:

  • Accept the genetic basis for the natural diversity of human body shapes and sizes, and
  • Make an effort to maintain positive, healthy attitudes & behaviors. Children learn from the things you say and do!

2. Examine closely your dreams and goals for your children and other loved ones. Are you over-emphasizing beauty and body shape, particularly for girls?

  • Avoid conveying an attitude which says in effect, “I will like you more if you lose weight, don’t eat so much, look more like the slender models in ads, fit into smaller clothes, etc.”

3. Learn about and discuss with your sons and daughters:

  • The dangers of trying to alter one’s body shape through dieting;
  • The value of moderate exercising toward stamina and cardiovascular fitness; and
  • The importance of eating a variety of foods in well-balanced meals consumed at least three times a day.
  • Avoid dichotomizing foods into “good/safe/no-fat or low-fat vs. bad/dangerous/fattening”.
  • Be a good role model in regard to sensible eating, sensible exercise, and self-acceptance.

4. Make a commitment to exercise for the joy of feeling your body move and function effectively, not to purge fat from your body or compensate for calories eaten.

5. Make a commitment not to avoid activities (such as swimming, sunbathing, dancing) simply because they call attention to your weight and shape.

6. Practice taking people in general and women in particular seriously for what they say, feel, and do, not for how slender or “well put together” they appear.

7. Make a commitment to help children (both male and female) appreciate and resist the ways in which television, magazines, and other media distort the true diversity of human body types and imply that a slender body means power, excitement, and sexuality.

8. Make a commitment to educating boys about the various forms of weightism, and their responsibilities for preventing it.

9. Encourage your children to be active and to enjoy what their bodies can do and feel like. Do not limit their caloric intake unless a physician requests that you do this because of a medical problem.

10. Do whatever you can to promote self-respect of your daughters, nieces, and sisters in spiritual, intellectual, athletic, and social endeavors. Give boys and girls the same opportunities and encouragement.

© Linda Smolak, Ph.D. and Michael Levine, Ph.D. All rights reserved. This article was taken with permission. Please do not publish this article without direct consent from the author. Family First is not authorized to permit the reproduction of articles contributed to by non-staff authors.


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