As February comes to a close, it is marked with an important week in physical and mental health. National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is February 25th to March 3rd, and while it sometimes goes overlooked, The Colony ER Hospital believes that bringing proper attention to these complex disorders is important for our community health.
While eating disorders can manifest in different ways, there are often two similarities between them—unhealthy body image and an unhealthy relationship with food. In an effort to raise awareness of eating disorders, we want to give families advice on how to support a positive body image and a positive relationship with food. These approaches can not only help parents feel more secure with themselves but can also help children and teens have a healthy emotional and mental relationship with their own reflections.
Make Food Fun
Many times, unhealthy relationships with food can begin at home. If there is a family member that is obsessed with calories, diets, or what people around them eat, others in the family might pick up on that. Their family member’s preoccupation with food leads them to thoughts and behaviors that impact the way they see food. This makes building a healthy relationship with food important, and it starts at home with even the youngest members of the household.
To help your family have a positive attitude about food and meals, try to make meal planning and cooking a fun activity for everyone. Make weekly grocery lists, take the kids with you shopping, and bring new recipes into the kitchen. Let younger kids have a night where they pick what will be made for dinner or let older kids be responsible for making certain meals. This will get them excited to eat the right kinds of foods, and help you set the building blocks for a healthy relationship with their meals. Being aware and mindful of what you eat is important, not obsessing over calories.
Give Your Body Praise
Developing a healthy body image can be difficult for kids and adults alike. With modern media constantly showing us images of the “ideal” body shapes and “perfect” bodies, it can be hard for many of us to feel like our bodies are attractive or healthy as they are. That is why it is important for parents to show their children what a positive self-image looks like.
While actively loving your body can be difficult to do, there are some steps you can take to help you get on the right track. Here are some tips to help you love your own body more, so you can become a role model of positive body image for those around you:
- Admire yourself in front of the mirror. As silly as it might seem, say out loud the things you like about yourself. Maybe you start out with saying you love your hair, but as you keep doing this exercise, you will notice other things about yourself that you like. With time, you will notice that you feel more at ease with yourself—flaws and all. Doing this exercise with your family not only shows your family that you love yourself, but it teaches them to appreciate things about themselves they might not have noticed before.
- Don’t make negative comments about your appearance. When you make negative comments about your appearance, even if it’s just a joke, you are showing your children that it is okay to criticize yourself, and that certain features are bad or ugly. If a child loves their mother’s hair and then hears their mother saying, “I hate my hair,” it can make that child develop a negative association with body image. So, try to not make negative comments about yourself and instead focus on the things about yourself you do like.
- Don’t make negative comments about the appearance of others. Just as important as never depreciating yourself, no one should depreciate the appearance of others. When we tie someone else’s appearance to their personal value, it leads people to be sensitive and anxious about their appearance in an effort to be accepted by others. This can cause self-esteem issues in children as well as adults. If you’re worried about someone’s appearance, try expressing concern without directly commenting on how they look. Instead of saying, “You look terrible, are you feeling okay?” Try saying, “You seem tired, are you feeling well?”
- Experiment with new styles and looks. This piece of advice is particularly relevant to parents with teens and tweens. A lot of adolescent kids will want to explore new interests and ideas, sometimes in their personal style. While this can be unnerving for a lot of parents, it is important to give your children support as they try new styles.
Creating a positive body image isn’t easy, but with a little effort and time, you can build a positive self-esteem in yourself and others. Doing this creates a foundation of support and love in your family that will help children and adults both to feel more secure with their bodies and their health.
Don’t Focus on Weight
Weight is an issue that can have effects on how we view not only our bodies, but our health. Focusing on the number on a scale can cause people anxiety and lead them to have harmful thought patterns and habits related to weight and food. However, personal health varies from person to person and depends on many factors like genetics, metabolisms, muscle mass, bone density, and others. A number cannot fully tell you that you are healthy or unhealthy.
When thinking about your weight, don’t look at numbers but at your overall health and how you feel. If you feel that you are suffering from any weight-related health risks, talk to your doctor about positive changes you can make in your life. If you are physically healthy but unsatisfied with your current lifestyle, then start making changes to better yourself outside of weight tracking. Avoiding stigmas that center around weight can be a huge step in the right direction for many people and be a positive example for kids who might be struggling with body image.
Issues surrounding body image are complex and eating disorders are no different. They can be caused by a multitude of factors but maintaining a positive self-image and a positive relationship with food are good ways to lower the risks for developing one. Parents should teach children self-love and how to have a healthy relationship with food from a young age. This way, they will feel more secure with themselves and be less likely to use food and eating in a harmful way.
The Colony ER Hospital supports every member of our community during this important health awareness week. Our facility is open 24/7 with only the best in concierge-level emergency care and with a staff made up of compassionate professionals. If you’d like to learn more about how to encourage positive body images in your home, then you can see Kids Health’s article about positive body-image for various ages here.
Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on The Colony Emergency Room Hospital or any one of our concierge-level, freestanding emergency facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.