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Ways Parents Can Prevent Eating Disorders

New Life Ministries With magazines and television commercials presenting models with "perfect" bodies it is easy for your children to become anxious about how they look. As a parent, there are some things you can do to encourage a healthy self-esteem and prevent your child from developing an eating disorder.

1. Examine your beliefs and prejudices about weight and appearance. Develop and communicate acceptance and respect for yourself and other people, regardless of weight. This will reduce some of the pressure your children feel to change their bodies.

2. Help your children to notice and draw self-esteem from their positive qualities, not only from the way they look.

3. Help your children to define their values and to determine what is really important about themselves.

4. Talk to your children about cultural, media, peer, and social pressures to lose weight.

5. Discourage the idea that a particular diet or body size can reliably lead to happiness. Discuss with your children celebrities whose lives are dysfunctional and filled with problems even though the celebrities may have “perfect bodies”.

6. Demonstrate balance in eating. In moderation, all foods can be eaten and enjoyed.

7. Demonstrate balance in exercise. Exercise for fun, not weight loss.

8. Do not model or encourage dieting. Accept and talk about the fact that diets don’t work and the dangers of altering one’s body through dieting.

9. If your child’s health would benefit from weight loss, he or she can better achieve this through moderation in eating and exercising for fun.

10. Do not avoid activities that call attention to your weight or shape, such as swimming, sunbathing, or wearing shorts.

11. Trust your children’s hunger. Beginning in infancy, most children know when they are hungry or full. Honor their signals: do not force them to eat or stop them from eating.

12. Let your children know that you love them no matter what they weigh.

13. Listen to and respect your children. Guide them and encourage them to develop healthy values, but don’t insist that they accept your views.

14. Respect women. If you put down or treat women unequally, your daughter will feel put down too, and your sons may continue this tradition of emotional violence against women. This cycle can lead to eating disorder behavior in both boys and girls.

15. Do not use food as a reward or punishment. Do not label foods as good or bad. Do not label eating habits as good or bad.

16. Do not struggle over who is in control of the child’s body. Children sometimes eat when they are not supposed to or refuse to eat when they should. Don’t engage in a power struggle at these times.

17. If separated or divorced, let your child know you want to be part of his or her life.

18. Know the warning signs of eating disorders.

Used by permission of New Life Ministries. If you'd like more information about Parenting materials, call us at 1-800-NEW-LIFE or visit our Web site at

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