According to the Multiservice Eating Disorders Association (MEDA), "in the U.S., as many as 20 million females and 10 million males suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, and millions more suffer from binge-eating disorders."
February 24th-March 2nd is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Parents can be proactive in creating homes that help prevent this serious illness. According to Rebecca Manley, founder of MEDA, parents can create an environment that is a accepting place where feelings can be safely expressed and respected. Modeling healthy eating and exercise is also very important because parents are their children's first teachers. Children watch and listen to how their parents talk about their own bodies; therefore, when you put-down your own body and talk about your latest diet, keep in mind that your children are paying attention. Girls listen to their moms closely and will identify with them; it's not unusual for a girl to want to talk negatively about her own body and want to diet if that's what her mom is doing. Make your home a positive place where teasing about one another's body is not acceptable. Explain to your child that genetic factors attribute to a person's body and that teasing others about their bodies is against your family's values. In addition, teaching your child to assert herself is essential to helping your child be more resilient. Chidren need to find their voice in order to say what they need and to be able to advocate for themselves. Also, supporting your child's interests in sports, music, theater, community-service, or wherever her interests lie, is the best way to build healthy self-esteem and prevent her from focusing all her energy on her appearance. Finally, talk to your child about media and advertising including the fact that models are air-brushed to create the perfect images they see. No one can measure up to these images and therefore it is more important to focus on personal strengths that are not based on appearance.
By making your home as healthy as possible, parents can help prevent their child from developing eating disorders.