Sadly, eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness among teens. Not only does bulimia, anorexia and binge eating affect roughly 1 in 5 girls but about 25% to 36% of the male population suffer as well. Body image issues have been reported as early as age 6.
Eating disorders affect all races, ethnic groups and professions; from the transgender population even to the military. Eating disorders and body image issues are a complex combination of genetics, environmental factors and even personality traits. They can range from full blown disorders to slight afflictions (real or imagined) to general insecurities.
So how does a parent set a good example for their child? What are some ways to approach body image (both negative and positive) within the home?
1-Start with modeling good behavior.
So Moms and Dads make sure you are supporting and not undermining your own or your child's self esteem. Do not ask “Do these jeans make me look fat?” or, do not announce, “I am on a diet” or that you cannot eat this or that type of food. “
Instead keep a positive attitude towards your own body. Practice accepting that you are perfect just as you are and encourage your child to do the same. Look to food as a means of nourishment and not whether this particular food is good or bad. Be the example of taking care of yourself in a healthy and balanced way. Obviously making healthy food is a good thing but make sure you are careful of the language you use.
2-Develop good habits.
Do you have a habit of putting your own body down? Do you criticize yourself constantly? When you make harsh criticisms of your body whether out loud or silently, you hurt your self-esteem. Not only does this affect you but it affects all relationships you have. Your kids are very attuned to how you feel about yourself and they may well transfer these feelings onto themselves.
In order to break a bad habit you must replace it with a healthy one. No one is perfect, this is just a universal fact and what does “perfect” even mean as it is an unattainable state. Striving instead to perfect a positive sense of self is a far better pursuit and this allows good thoughts and habits to flow.
So start working today on this two areas and you will build a much better foundation for your children to build their own self-esteem upon.
After a 25 yr battle with Bulimia I am recovered and dedicated to helping others also win their battles with Bulimia or other Eating Disorders. I have chronicled my struggle, as well as strategies for recovering, in two books and encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out to me confidentially