How to reduce the risk of your child developing an eating disorder

The number of children being treated for eating disorders tripled last year. Here are some simple ways to reduce food anxiety for your child

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In a world of selfies and risqué music videos, our children are being bombarded with images of slim models, TV and pop stars.

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But it’s not just teenagers who are at risk. Experts say this body-conscious celebrity culture is having a negative effect on increasing numbers of our pre-teen children.

So how do you make sure your child has a healthy body image?

A spokeswoman from eating disorders charity Beat says: “Drawing too much attention to and making your child overly conscious of calorie intake is a dangerous path to take. We should be protecting our children in a nurturing way, not by public humiliation.

“The good news is that helping a child have a really positive attitude to their growing body can prevent eating disorders.”

Read our 7 ways to reduce food anxiety in children:

  1. Sit down together for family meal times and enjoy the food.
  2. Talk about something other than just the food at meal times.
  3. Give your child praise, compliments and encouragement for a whole range of things – being kind, helpful, generous, funny – and not just their appearance or shape.
  4. Consider you own behaviours around food and your own body – even little ones pick up things very quickly.  If you make negative comments about yourself or others’ shape, size and eating habits they will take that on board. Try to avoid discussions around calorie intake and even be careful about the use of the word ‘fat’.  Children who show signs of being afraid of becoming fat and are afraid of the fat in food itself could then be at risk.
  5. Don’t give your child low-fat and ‘diet’ food. Children need a greater percentage of fat in their diet than adults do to grow and develop their bodies. ‘Diet’ foods should only be given to children under medical supervision.
  6. Body Mass Index (BMI) is not a reliable measure of the healthy weight for children and shouldn’t be used to assess their weight. This is because children are still growing and BMI is based on a calculation of adult height charts.
  7. If you do have a worry about your child’s weight – for whatever reason – do seek advice from your GP or nurse. They would rather reassure you than think you were not getting the help you may need.
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For more information visit Beat eating disorders charity.

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