Family Works [May 26, 2019]
Speaking on Eating Disorder …
Family Works [May 26, 2019]
Speaking on Eating Disorder Prevention
Females are thin-obsessed. I can state this with confidence and without fear of being sexist because I know the research and the research overwhelmingly supports this reality.
More than 90 percent of all eating disorders belong to females. That’s no surprise. What comes as a surprise is why females are likely to be so obsessed with being thin.
A natural assumption would be that thinness translates into attractiveness to men. After all, it’s the girl/guy thing that keeps the world turning. But, this simply isn’t the case.
Guys actually are more attracted to females with “a little meat on their bones” than they are to women who appear so fragile that a good guy-hug might break them. The truth is women are in competition with one another and part of this competition is to out-skinny other rivals.
Judging from the fashion and media industries, there appears to be no end in sight to the female thinness craze.
Understanding the pressure (especially for teenage girls) to conform to societal expectations, (especially this one) parents need guidelines to assist their young girls as they face this madness.
According to the latest research, parents can be far more influential than anyone. Brown University has extensively studied this issue and offers the following helpful tips for parents.
1. Be a healthy role model for your children. As a mother, be comfortable with your body and openly express your pleasure and satisfaction with the body you have.
2. Never criticize the appearance of your daughter or other women. Phrases like “thunder thighs” and “bubble butt” may be said in jest, but they still inflict significant wounds. Teasing isn’t funny when it comes at the expense of hurting another person.
3. Focus on the importance of a healthy body, not a thin body. Our goal should be for a healthy and fit body, not a thin body.
4. Compliment your child for traits which reflect who they are such as loyalty, kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity, and such. Parents do their children a favor by teaching them that we are so much more than how we look.
5. Rather than diet (diets don’t work), teach your child early how to stick to a healthy routine of nutritious eating and fitness-promoting exercise. This is especially important as females who diet severely are 18 times more likely to develop an eating disorder.
Also, be careful not to demonize certain foods. By making food like French fries and ice cream “forbidden fruits” you may unintentionally create obsessions for particular foods. There really is no bad food in moderation.
6. Teach your girls about the natural changes that take place with puberty. Some girls fear that changing from a little girl to a young woman means becoming fat. Help them to accept and celebrate the wonderful changes that come with maturity.
7. Talk openly to your girls about the unrealistic images they see in magazines and on television. Share with them the absurdity of modeling their bodies after computer enhanced images at best or women who have already succumbed to an eating disorder at worse.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.
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