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Old 04-16-2013, 01:45 PM   #1
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How to minimize the possibility of an eating disorder in children

Recently the daughter of a very close family friend has been hospitalized with life-threatening anorexia. While reaching out to offer support and advice for how to handle the situation, I was reminded of my own struggle with anorexia back in college (the physical condition lasted about 8 months, the psychological obsession with food/weight lasted much longer).

Seeing my friend's life torn apart by her daughter's mental and physical condition... I can't help but wonder what will happen to my own daughter when she's of age. Since anorexia is so prevalent - and there may also be some natural predisposition in her case - I'm particularly worried.

From my own experience and that of others I know, eating disorders are super hard to break out of, once you're caught. It snowballs. I want to start NOW and create an atmosphere in the home that is counter-conducive (? if that's a word) to eating disorders. I believe that the factors leading to those problems can start at an early age, with subconscious acts/words.

What do you feel are things that parents can do, or things we should avoid, if we don't want our children to have an eating disorder? Obviously, by word and example we shouldn't teach children to focus on body image and outward appearance, or constantly bring up their weight, etc. but I've also heard that over-complimenting children on their beauty can have a long-term trigger effect, as well as "talking too much about food" in general.

What do you think?

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Old 04-16-2013, 01:49 PM   #2
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Re: How to minimize the possibility of an eating disorder in children

Shoot. Probably needs to be moved to Parenting. Mods, feel free to do so.
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Old 04-16-2013, 03:14 PM   #3
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Re: How to minimize the possibility of an eating disorder in children

<crickets chirping>
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Old 04-16-2013, 03:38 PM   #4
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It's important to give her compliments about thing that don't relate to weight and beauty. Also never put yourself down. If you ever call yourself fat or ugly in front of her, stop. Girls look to their mom as a role model for how to feel about themselves.
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Old 04-16-2013, 03:40 PM   #5
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Re: How to minimize the possibility of an eating disorder in children

Thanks for responding on the thread!! I was about to change the title to "Never mind" to draw some attention... ;-D

Very good points you made too.
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Old 04-16-2013, 03:43 PM   #6
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Re: How to minimize the possibility of an eating disorder in children

I have always been thin and probably borderline anorexic for a while as a teenager/young adult. I don't think there is anything you can do to prevent it. I don't think it is like alcoholism or something where there is a genetic component for it. At least I know for me there was none. I am one of the thinnest people in both sides of my family.

For me (only personal experience here) I think you need to have a loving and nurturing home. Don't make food a punishment or reward EVER, and also make sure that any toxic people in your child's life are removed. I had a step mother that would drive me INSANE. Seriously I think she got some sort of sick pleasure from it. I didn't trust her, and it translated into me eating as little as possible when I was around her. After a while, that was normal for me and I didn't see anything wrong with eating very little.

For me I got really out of it, when I got engaged. And if that wasn't enough, when I lost my triplets, they told me it could have been from me not eating enough. That was a huge wake up call, so I gained a bit more.

Good luck! I know it is a hard thing to deal with. And sadly our culture looks at it like it is "no big deal" or "I wish I had your problem" but when you need to gain weight and can't, it is a BIG deal.
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Old 04-16-2013, 03:56 PM   #7
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Re: How to minimize the possibility of an eating disorder in children

I struggled with anorexia for a year or two but fortunately it was caught before it got really serious. For me it wasn't so much body image as it was emotional. I think it helps to have regular meals together as a family (we never ever had this when I was growing up) and to discuss health realistically from different perspectives: weight, calories, exercise, nutrition, metabolism, emotional, etc.

I hope my dd doesn't develop an eating disorder but I am thankful that at least I know the signs of it and what it is like to have one and would hopefully be able to help her avoid the worst of it.
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Old 04-16-2013, 04:52 PM   #8
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Re: How to minimize the possibility of an eating disorder in children

Quote:
Originally Posted by alyxmegan View Post
It's important to give her compliments about thing that don't relate to weight and beauty. Also never put yourself down. If you ever call yourself fat or ugly in front of her, stop. Girls look to their mom as a role model for how to feel about themselves.
This.

My brother, sisters, and I have all had some degree of disordered eating, some more severe than others. My mum often told us how beautiful and slim we were (except when she told us we were getting fat because she didn't want us to "balloon and then over-react" ). But every day, several times a day, for as long as I can remember, she has told us how fat and ugly she is (she isn't, but I didn't realize that until I was an adult, I just assumed she was right). Even now, it is impossible to hold a conversation with her without her referencing her weight over and over again. Now it makes me sad; when I was a teenager it made me anxious (and I think anxiety and anorexia often go hand in hand); when I was a child it made me confused, and resigned to being fat and ugly myself, because you do identify with your parent when you're a kid. Bad stuff.

Also, don't describe other people as fat, especially as an insult; and emphasize health at every size. Teach her, and model for her, self-esteem and self-love that comes from inside, not other people's perceptions of her.

I really, really hope I can avoid this danger with my daughter too .
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Old 04-16-2013, 05:56 PM   #9
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For a lot of kids, it's less about food and more about control. Some feel like the only thing they have control over is what goes in their mouths. Let's face it, short of a feeding tube you really can't make someone eat something and keep it down. I think creating an atmosphere where kids have healthy and age-appropriate control over their own lives is one way to try to prevent eating disorders. This is not to say let them do what they want, but rather give choices whenever possible, but maintain necessary rules and boundaries. Don't micromanage your kids. I have a natural tendency to want to control, so I have to remind myself this daily.

I think that along with the body image and food suggestions you've received would put you ahead of the curve Hugs!,
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Old 04-16-2013, 06:05 PM   #10
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Re: How to minimize the possibility of an eating disorder in children

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Originally Posted by PurpleFluff View Post
For a lot of kids, it's less about food and more about control. Some feel like the only thing they have control over is what goes in their mouths. Let's face it, short of a feeding tube you really can't make someone eat something and keep it down. I think creating an atmosphere where kids have healthy and age-appropriate control over their own lives is one way to try to prevent eating disorders. This is not to say let them do what they want, but rather give choices whenever possible, but maintain necessary rules and boundaries. Don't micromanage your kids. I have a natural tendency to want to control, so I have to remind myself this daily.

I think that along with the body image and food suggestions you've received would put you ahead of the curve Hugs!,
Profoundness.
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