Fight: A Guide to Eating Disorders for Preteens and Their Parents
Mirror: Understanding and Treating Dysmorphic Disorder
WEIGHT PROBLEMS WITH KIDS|
The number of overweight children in the U.S. has doubled since
1980. In a survey of 10-year-old girls, 81 percent said they were afraid
of getting fat, and 70 percent of teen and preteen girls reported that
magazine pictures influence their idea of the perfect body.Ó Since the
average model stands 5'11Ó and weighs 117 pounds, the difference between
how most kids look and how they would like to look is glaring.
ItÁs tempting for parents to nag kids who
are overweight or obsessed with being thin, but experts in nutrition
and eating disorders say this approach doesnÁt work. They suggest:
- Give kids more autonomy in what and when they
eat. Most children will eat relatively healthy food if we offer choices
that they like. Instead of saying, DonÁt eat that! It'll spoil
your dinner,Ó try How about having some apple slices (or pretzels
or yogurt) to tide you over until dinner?Ó
- Stock your kitchen wisely. Keep plenty of nutritious
snacks on hand: rice cakes, whole grain crackers and popcorn (hold
the butter). Find out the fruits your kids like best and keep some
around. But donÁt become the food police and make junk food or sweets
- If your child is snacking too much, ask: Are you hungry?Ó
truly hungry will go for one of the healthy snacks you offer. On the
other hand, if kids are just bored, help them come up with fun ways
to pass the time.
- Prepare yourself and your children for puberty.
When kids have growth spurts, itÁs natural for them to eat more. Boys
develop broader shoulders and more muscle. Girls add some body fat
and develop wider hips, which shouldnÁt be dieted away.
- Clue children in to media messages. Help kids become critical
viewers who can recognize manipulation and hype and can see that there
are few products we actually need. Help them understand too that pop
idols rely on makeup artists, hair stylists, lighting experts, and
personal trainers to look the way they do. Help them appreciate diversity
in looking good and that looking good comes from inside.
- Encourage your childÁs school to introduce a health
weight/body image program. Groups like HUGS and EDAP can help.
- Set a good example. Kids do model their
parents, and overweight parents are more likely to have overweight
kids. Be aware that when we eat in front of the television, we tend
to eat more. So, as often as possible, sit down together with your
family around the dinner table and turn off the television.
YOUR CHILD IS OVERWEIGHT
- Accept your child and others at varying weights.
Making kids feel ashamed will promote self-hate (and likely moreweight
gain). Nor is it always beneficial to tell children how greatÓ they
look if they lose weight. (TheyÁll worry about how bad they may have
looked before.) ItÁs better to compliment them on taking good care
- Focus on your child's eating patterns.
(You may need the help of a nutritionist to set up a healthy eating
plan.) If the problem is deeper, for example, if you feel your child
is eating excessively for comfort, focus on finding what's bothering
him or her and try to address that.
- Help kids get moving. Overweight
children are often sedentary and self-conscious about participating
in sports. ItÁs helpful to do more physical activity as a family--walking,
biking, and swimming.
your child may have anorexia or bulimia, read How to help someone
you care aboutÓ
at the web site www.anred.com/hlp.html.
The health risks of obesity mount over time, but anorexia and bulimia
can be life threatening. ThatÁs why ANRED (Anorexia Nervosa and Related
Eating Disorders) advises that if you are concerned, get some help immediately.
For the danger signs and medical consequences of these eating disorders,
from Work & Family Life newsletter, edited by Susan Ginsberg)