According to Perfect Illusions, Eating Disorder and Family, five to ten million American women suffer from eating disorders, which means they also are facing body image issues as well. Females can have body image issues even without being diagnosed with an eating disorder. Children can easily pick up on comments about dieting concepts that might seem harmless, such as setting a boundary to high fat foods or eating less. When girls enter their teen years, they develop perceptions about dieting can lead to body distortion. Many factors can be stimulus for weight anxieties in girls and add influence to their eating habits in harmful ways, including:
Signs a Child Has a Negative Body Image
Warning signs of an unhealthy body image in children can help parents recognize problems early. Parents should watch for these signs:
Encourage open dialogue: Talk with your children about weight and try to inspire them to share their thoughts and feelings about body image whenever they arise. Children need to feel supported when they want to share their feelings about their weight struggles. Be sure to listen and recognize that all feelings are real. It is okay to share your experiences if you have had body image issues. It is best to explain that children and teens come in all different shapes and sizes and support inner beauty exploration.
Take action: Children learn quickly, and they learn best by example. Teach children habits that assist them to stay healthy for life. If your child is elementary age or younger and you have weight concerns, don’t talk about it negatively, rather start making lifestyle changes as a family. The goal should be to serve regular, balanced family meals and snacks. Try to reduce the time a child spends watching television or playing video games. Be creative in finding ways to spend time together actively.
A united front: Parents and other important adult relatives are should be on the same page. Mixed messages about weight can make unhealthy concerns for a child’s self-esteem.
Talk with a doctor: Speak with your family doctor privately about weight concerns without your children being present. Talk about precise concerns and solutions about a growth pattern and ask for suggestions for positive changes in your family’s eating habits and activity levels.
Seek advice: Check out local programs and professionals who specialize in youth advocacy. Look for a registered dietitian nutritionist with experience in pediatric weight management. Many hospitals and clinics have comprehensive programs with educational activities for both kids and adult family members. Some of these options may be covered by reliable health insurance plans.
Personal perceptions of weight gain for individual teens can be a struggle. All communication between parents and teens should be a fair and non-judgmental interaction; otherwise, teens will not want to talk to their parents when they most need their support. Parents need to have open communication with other teen advocates, such as family doctors and registered dietitian nutritionists to find healthy solutions to teen weight problems.