Next week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDAW). According to Identities.mic, one-half of 4th grade girls are on a diet. A new study found that more than half of girls and one-third of boys ages six to eight want thinner bodies. 1 in 4 children has engaged in some type of dieting behavior by age 7.
I had the honor of interviewing Eating Recovery Center of Washington’s Medical Director, Dr. Bakshi, earlier this month. I followed up with her and she shared some more tips with us, including: Body Image & Food: Tips for Encouraging a Healthy Dialogue with Your Child and 5 Tips for Helping Kids Develop Positive Body Image.
The following are attributed to: Dr. Neeru Bakshi, Medical Director, Eating Recovery Center of Washington, www.eatingrecoverycenterwa.com
Body Image & Food: Tips for Encouraging a Healthy Dialogue with Your Child
- Have as many family meals together each week as possible.
- Stop vilifying foods as “junk” or “healthy,” good” or bad”
- Make sure that a variety of foods are offered and accepted in the household
- Stop making disparaging comments about weight or appearance
- Emphasize the importance of body acceptance
- Educate girls and boys about normal change and body development, especially preparing them for puberty
- Do not push kids to engage in a sport or activity that they do not like – and if they grow tired of an activity, recognize that forcing them to continue can backfire
- Cook with your children as often as possible – kids often will eat a greater variety of foods if they have an opportunity to cook them
- Teach them critical thinking skills about images they see in the media
- Prepare them for negative “chatter” that they will hear from peers about food, weight and appearance
5 Tips for Helping Kids Develop Positive Body Image
- Set a good example for your kids: Modeling healthy attitudes and behaviors related to food, eating and body image is an important consideration for parents. Be aware of and do not surround your family with individuals (both females and males) that engage in denigrating conversation about their bodies. Comments from women/mothers: “My arms are so big,” or “These are my fat pants,” or from men/fathers: “You better watch out, your butt is getting big like your mother’s” or “Where are your muscles? You better start working out or you will be left behind!” exaggerate the meaning and importance of having a body “ideal” and can lead to serious consequences for your kids’ own body image. If you want to instill body confidence in your kids, show them your own self-confidence. Help your kids cultivate healthy attitudes toward food, body image and weight by striving to be positive role models, silencing “fat talk” and other negative messages, especially about yourself, but also related to others.
- Avoid bringing attention to how your child looks or how much they weigh – Talk to your kids about what it means to be healthy and urge them not to compare themselves to others or to an ideal reference weight or body size. I urge parents to never focus on how their children look—ie. body shape, size or weight—because we all come in different shapes and sizes. Additionally, when talking to your children about their bodies, stress the importance of what their bodies can do for them—run, stretch, climb, swim, etc.—rather than how it looks.
- Get your kids excited about activities they are interested in – Encourage your kids to concentrate on their skills or interests to help them develop confidence. Parental support and encouragement can be a powerful motivator for helping kids to develop confidence in various parts of their lives, and can help ward off insecurities related to body size, shape or weight.
- Show your kids the importance of eating well and being healthy – Model healthy attitudes and behaviors to ensure your child lives a healthy lifestyle. That includes providing a nutritious, well-balanced diet without labeling foods as “good” or “bad” or restricting entire food groups. Also, ensure your kids have the opportunity to get plenty of regular exercise, including sports, playing outside or turning physical activities into a full family affair. For example, cook nutritious meals with them and organize family outings that involve physical activity.
- Focus on who your child is, not what they are – Children who are struggling with body image issues don’t feel good about themselves despite how perfectionistic or accomplished they may be. Focus on a child’s self-esteem and sense of self, and not their accomplishments or how they look – this can help lay a critical foundation for avoiding eating disorders and setting the stage for positive body image in teenage years and beyond.
Dr. Bakshi, thank you again for your time.
About the Author:
Neeru Bakshi, MD, FAPA, Medical Director, Eating Recovery Center of Washington, www.eatingrecoverycenterwa.com
Neeru Bakshi, MD, FAPA, is a Board-certified adult psychiatrist who specializes in adult and adolescent psychiatry. She is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a member of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals. Prior to joining Eating Recovery Center of Washington team, Dr. Bakshi was the Medical Director of Overlake Hospital’s Day Hospital Program. Dr. Bakshi is also the Chairperson of the Department of Psychiatry at Overlake Hospital Medical Center. She is currently the Medical Director for Eating Recovery Center of Washington.
She attended George Washington University where she received a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and earned her medical degree from Texas A&M University Health Sciences Center College of Medicine. Dr. Bakshi completed her internship and residency at Baylor College of Medicine in the Meninnger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the University of Washington. Dr. Bakshi is an active member of the Washington State Psychiatric Association and the American Psychiatric Association.
Dr. Bakshi has a wide variety of practice experience including consultation/liaison psychiatry, inpatient psychiatry, emergency psychiatry, outpatient psychiatry and partial hospitalization psychiatry.
If you or a loved one need help finding a healthy balance with food. Please visit Eating Recovery Center of Washington’s Website at http://www.eatingrecoverycenterwa.com/ or call (425)-437-1147.
There is always hope and it is never too late.
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