Even more central to our health and well being than what we eat, are our attitudes and beliefs about food and eating, or how we feel about what we eat. Eating disorders are, relatively speaking, rare. The misguided attitudes about food and weight management that lead to eating dysfunction however, are not. Abigail Natenshon, author of When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder, offers some tips to ensure healthy attitudes toward food.
The consequences of these poor attitudes toward eating can be devastating — rampant dieting, body image concerns and disordered eating, all of which can put their victims at high risk to develop eating disorders, the most lethal of all the mental health disorders.
Kids learn these attitudes from their parents, through what parents say and what they do, through role modeling and imitation. Attitudes and issues are passed down as a legacy from one generation to the next.
The following are ways that parents can insure healthy attitudes and a healthy eating lifestyle in their child:
1. Become knowledgeable about what physical fitness and healthy eating really means.
2. Become aware of your own personal attitudes and issues about food and weight.
3. Consistently prepare and serve nutritionally dense meals to the entire family.
4. Sit down with the family as often as you can, and emotionally connect with loved ones over meals. The dining table is the best place to discover what they are feeling and thinking not only about food and weight, but about life in general.
5. Turn off the television, particularly at mealtimes and particularly when the television is in the dining area.
6. Model healthy eating behaviors, and spend quality time with your family. The roots of a child’s healthy body image lie in feelings of self-acceptance and self-esteem, not in his or her actual size or shape.
7. Remain emotionally involved with your teenager and young adult. In some respects, they need your input now as much as they did when they were little. The nature of the parent/child connection will change throughout the years and life stage, though the quality and constancy of that connection is for keeps.
8. Think “out loud”