FOOD! At this time of year we all tend to eat more, crave carbs and as a result – generally feel more sluggish. Whether you are comfort eating the snow storms away, or still trying to shed excess pounds from the festive season – you may not realize the influence you could be having on your children. Preteens / teens – are especially sensitive to this. Following is what Dr. Aaron Krasner, Director of Adolescent Transitional Living at Silver Hill Hospital has to say on the matter. He also offers five tips on how to create a healthier environment and attitude in your home towards food and eating. As a parent, you will want to read how you can foster a positive body image in children.
‘Sometimes we parents forgot how important our words, thoughts, and feelings are in the lives of our kids. “We make the weather in our homes” a wiser than me parent once told me. I think it’s true – especially when it comes to eating behaviors and body image. As parents, we must be mindful of our own relationship with our bodies, how we eat, and the potential impact on our kids.
In the United States, eating disorders are becoming more prevalent and are affecting younger children. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 80% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat*1. Although many factors contribute to the development of eating disorders, a mom’s attitude about body image greatly impacts how children perceive themselves. In fact, one study found that a mom’s concerns about weight may be the third leading cause of body image problems in adolescents and girls who believed their mothers wanted them to be thin and were two to three times more likely to worry about their weight*2. Body image problems aren’t limited to girls. A study from Harvard School of Public Health found that nearly 18% of teen boys in the study were “extremely concerned” about their bodies*3.
Even if you’re trying to lose a few pounds yourself, you can negatively influence your child’s body image by casually talking about diets or expressing your desire to be thinner in front of them.
So how can you help foster a positive body image in your kids? Here are a few suggestions:
- Try to avoid criticizing yourself or others about weight or shape in front of kids.
- Avoid talking negatively about food – “I can’t eat potatoes because they’re carbs” or “That cake will go straight to my thighs.” It’s more important to teach the importance of healthy eating and exercise without references to weight.
- Compliment children on their talents and accomplishments – a little praise goes a long way especially when it’s well deserved
- Let your kids know that weight gain and changes to body shape are a natural part of the growing process.
- Talk to your kids about their use of social media and what they see on TV. Remember, only 5% of American women have the body type that is portrayed in advertising as the ideal size and shape for women4. When I look at movies even from the 1980s the tolerance for diverse types of bodies was much richer than now.
In regards to media, Americans are exposed to more media messages than ever before and it’s only expected to increase. On average, kids spend about six to seven hours per day viewing multiple mediums including TV, magazines, movies, music and the internet*4, while Americans as a whole consume nearly 14 hours of media per day and it’s growing at a rate of 5% a year*5. Whether we realize it or not, these messages are influential for everyone, but kids are particularly vulnerable so talk to them about it.
At the end of the day, parents are the most influential role models in a child’s life, so be mindful of your words and actions. They may be listening when you least expect it’. Aaron Krasner, MD.
If you want to get involved in National Eating Disorders Awareness (NEDA) click here
Image: Aaron Krasner, M.D.
For further information please click here for information from the National Eating Disorders Awareness website.
Eating Disorders in Teens
Up to 24 million people in the U.S. have an eating disorder. Often beginning during adolescence, eating disorders cause excessive preoccupation with weight and body shape. This obsession can lead to taking extreme measures – sometimes highly problematic – to control food intake and weight.
Here’s a snapshot of how eating disorders are affecting teens and young adults in the U.S.:
· Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.1
· 86% report onset of eating disorder by age 20; 43% report onset between ages of 16 and 20.2
· 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.*3
· 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat. *4
1. Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2005). I’m, Like, SO Fat!. New York: The Guilford Press. pp. 5.
2. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders 10-year study, 2000
3. Collins, M.E. (1991). Body figure perceptions and preferences among pre-adolescent children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 199-208.
4. Mellin, L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G.B., Crawford, P., & Obarzanek, E. (1991). A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 23-37.