How to Talk to Your Child About Eating Disorders
Have you looked closely at our celebrities lately? While those in the U.S. are on the heavy side, our stars are thin enough for it to be noticeable on the screen. This sends mixed signals to our children, and it can lead to major problems before they hit adulthood.
There’s good news; we can do something about it and many of us are doing so. Naturally, the first step in teaching our children about eating disorders and proper nutrition is to provide it in our homes. A healthy breakfast and supper, plus snacks that are low in fat and calories is a good start.
Very young children won’t have the experience or capabilities to understand complex descriptions of what an eating disorder is, but as kids approach puberty that changes. Adolescents begin to notice their own bodies and those around them. Now is the time to begin instructing them about proper eating and why extremes in the diet should be avoided.
That is what an eating disorder is, in essence. There are three types of disorder in this category. Anorexia, bulimia and those not categorized. The latter usually has symptoms similar to the first two, but some variations. Extreme overeating without purging fits into this category.
As your children approach puberty, start taking them with you to the supermarket and explain why you are purchasing the things you do. I suggest starting in the produce aisle, and talking about the nutrients, fiber content, etc. of the fruits and vegetables you choose. Ask them which they like best, and make sure some of them come home with you.
When purchasing meat, point out the good cuts and the bad cuts. As an example, turkey breast is 98% fat free most of the time, but plain ground turkey is often the darker cuts and they have similar fat and cholesterol counts as some beef and pork. Untrimmed boneless/skinless chicken breast has more of those two constituents than London broil or pork loin.
When we were working with our children, some of the magazines they had access to and various other media showed the results of those suffering from these disorders. While drawing it to their attention wouldn’t be wise, if they have noticed it, they’re ready for you to explain what is going on.
We parents also need to watch out for early signs these problems are developing. Depression, unexpected weight gain or loss as well as changes in how much your child is eating can be early symptoms. If they are caught early, these disorders are much easier to cure.
You may want to talk to your child’s pediatrician for other tips on how to discuss eating disorders with your child. He or she can also help you know whether or not your child is at risk for one. Working together, this is something that can be stopped.