Although eating disorders are often triggered by environmental queues, many of the most important steps to preventing them in yourself and the people you love have to do with personal change. There are certain ways of thinking that may contribute to the development of disordered eating.
Ask yourself a few questions – and be honest in how you answer.
- To what extent does my attitude towards myself hinge on my current weight? Is my positive self-concept dependent on a certain number on the scale?
- Do I have “skinny” and “fat” days, and if so, do I think more highly of myself, and am I kinder to myself, when I feel skinny?
- How does my attitude towards others change when they are overweight? Do I assess other peoples’ worth or importance on whether or not they have a desirable body? (Remember, the attitudes that you have towards others determine how you relate to yourself!)
- In terms of priorities, where does achieving or maintaining a certain body fit in for you? Realistically, where should this rank in relation to other priorities – job, family, personal growth, etc.?
– As Parents
Parents play a huge role in creating the environment in which adolescents mature and form opinions. As parents, you have the opportunity to help create a body-positive attitude in your children; however, if you are not careful, you also might accidentally affirm the body-negative attitude that pervades Western culture. Try to cultivate a household in which body size and shape are approachable topics, without allowing your own personal insecurities or the cultural prejudice against fat enter the picture. While it’s true that many of the most negative messages are received through mediums outside the home, never underestimate your impact in shaping your children’s attitudes and beliefs.
If you are a parent, ask yourself a few questions:
- What is your attitude towards your own weight? Do you express dissatisfaction about your appearance in front of your children?
- What is the familial attitude towards the overweight or obese? Does family conversation affirm negative stereotypes?
- Does your attitude towards your children change based on whether they are fat or thin? Might your children perceive a change in attitude, even if it is not truly the case?
- Do you consistently affirm your children for qualities that are not related to their appearance? This is important because the other environments in which your children receive affirmation may place disproportionate significance on appearance, weight, and fitness.
- Do you act as a mediator between your children and the media? While you cannot prevent your children from all media exposure, you can shape their attitude towards it. A child that can distinguish a body-positive from a body-negative message will be much better equipped than one who has been shielded from those messages entirely.