This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. To help raise awareness I want to start talking about eating disorders. Did you know that most kids who develop an eating disorder do so between the ages of 11-14? Although it can start as early as age 7! Seven! What a frightening thought.
Eating disorders are very complicated. They are a group of mental illnesses that affect the way you feel about food AND the way you feel about your body and yourself. There is no single cause for eating disorders. However it’s effects are overwhelming to a person’s physical health AND their identity, self- worth, and self-esteem.
Nearly 1 million Canadians have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. Many others report symptoms but go undiagnosed. Nedic (National Eating Disorder information centre) put together a “must see” short video explaining the complexities of eating disorders. It’s worth a look.
Families make a difference. Children learn and depend on adults in their life. A nurturing relationship will help develop an emotionally healthy child.
Here are 10 simple tips to encourage a healthy body image:
- Don’t focus on physical appearance. Emphasize talents and qualities.
- Involve kids in meal planning, shopping and cooking. Teach them about nutrition.
- Encourage healthy eating and physical activity for the entire family. Praise your child for the healthy choices they make.
- Do not use food as a reward or punishment. This may encourage kids to seek food out for comfort or self-punishment.
- Do not label food as “bad” or “junk food”: it creates feelings of shame and guilt. Say “everyday ” and “sometimes” food.
- Do not make them finish their plate or do not limit food if they are hungry. Help children learn to listen to their bodies. Eat when hungry and stop when full. (*Remind kids their appetite will change as they grow or depending how active they are.)
- Make time for enjoyable family meals. Turn the TV and phones off.
- Role model a positive body image. Don’t complain about your body. Don’t weigh your child or talk about diets.
- Teach children critical thinking skills. Help them problem solve in healthy ways.
- Talk about media effects, advertising and discrimination.
Seek help if you think someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder.
- Talk to your family doctor
- Learn more and find resources in Halton:
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.