How to Empower Parents and Kids to avoid Disordered Eating
WHERE: Soma Center in Highland Park
TIME: Sunday, October 23 at 1:30pm
Many parents these days wish they could keep their kids in a bubble. Unfortunately though, there is no way to prevent our children from being exposed to our society’s influences, both positive and negative. The only safeguards parents have, are their awareness of their children’s whereabouts and their daily activities, and to be a positive role model at all times. What kinds of behaviors as parents do we engage in on a daily basis? Who are our kids friends with? What are our kids’ likes/dislikes, and what extracurricular activities are they involved in? What are they watching on all of their screens…their tablets, their phones and their televisions? As parents, we often do not realize the influence our own behaviors have on our children’s. Additionally, parents are often unprepared to discuss anything that may start to sway their child in the wrong direction.
One such very common negative influence is our society’s pressure to look a certain way, or to be thin. It’s unavoidable. Over 50% of teenage girls and 33% of teenage boys are using restrictive measures to lose weight at any given time. 46% of 9-11 year olds are sometimes, or very often, on diets, and 82% of their families are sometimes, or very often, on diets. Basically, what I am saying is, MOST families in the United States are on some sort of diet and half of their kids are dieting as well. No wonder why eating disorders continue to be on the rise.
So, what can parents do about this? either to help prevent their children from developing disordered or restrictive eating or exercise habits, or to help turn them around if they notice it occurring? Well, the first thing parents can do is to take a good look at their own behaviors. Are they chronically dieting/excessively exercising? Are they constantly criticizing their own body/self-image? Then, they first need to get help for themselves and start to change their own perception about health.
Prevention begins with keeping the lines of communication open. Always encourage healthy eating habits. Do it yourself first and your kids will eventually follow suit. Do not talk about certain foods being “good” or “bad”, just focus on making healthy food choices together as a family. Be aware of the messages media is sending your children, and discuss them. Always promote a healthy body image and reassure your children that healthy bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. Praise them on all of their positive accomplishments constantly, helping to foster good self-esteem. Talk about why dieting is so dangerous and the health consequences that can occur. Finally, use food to nourish your child’s body, NEVER as a reward or consequence.
Parents also need to be aware of certain signs and symptoms that may signal unhealthy behaviors in their children. Some red flags include:
· Divulging from the normal eating routine. Skipping snacks, meals, making excuses not to eat or eating in secret.
· Always worrying about their weight, being fat and talking about losing weight
· Focusing excessively on food and healthy eating
· Frequently weighing him/herself (at least 2 times a day or more), and/or frequently looking in the mirror for perceived flaws
· Excessively exercising
· Using dietary or weight loss supplements, laxatives or herbal products to lose weight
· Regularly going to the bathroom after eating
· Repeatedly eating large amounts of sweets or high fat foods
· Eating very large quantities of food at a meal or snack, much more than is considered normal
· Sneaking food into their rooms or finding food wrappers and empty food bags/containers hidden in their room
· Expressing shame or guilt or even disgust or depression about eating habits.
If you do run into trouble, and need to seek help, remember you are not alone. There are so many resources out there to help you, your child and your family get treatment for an eating disorder or a disordered eating problem. Talk to your doctor/pediatrician first. Then locate a Registered Dietitian and a therapist in your area that specializes in eating disorders and disordered eating. If your pediatrician is unable to refer you to a specialist, the following professional resources are available:
1) The National Eating Disorder Association: www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
2) National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: www.anad.org
3) Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.): www.feast-ed.org
4) Eating Disorder Hope: www.eatingdisorderhope.com
5) The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: www.eatright.org
6) The American Psychological Association: www.apa.org
Also, we can help you with preventing or managing eating disorders or disordered eating at KarBoost Health. While we are not able to provide therapy, our Pediatric Dietitian, Andrea Berez, specializes in eating disorders, and Dr. Karen can help with the GI manifestations that can be frequently associated with Disordered Eating. We are a team that works closely together. Please reach out to us so that we can help you and your child through this challenging time.
Contact Us At: 732-860-KARE (5873) or Make a Nutrition Coaching Appt (link to Nutrition Coaching appts on MindBody)
Andrea Berez, MS, RD, CSP
CHECK OUT OUR NUTRITION WORKSHOP ON EATING PROBLEMS FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS