But what about the “thin at any cost” messages that are resulting in a generation of young people afraid to eat, whose self-esteem is damaged when the image they see in the mirror doesn’t conform to the unrealistic standard of beauty perpetuated by the glamour industry?
Children Afraid to Eat
According to Frances Berg, who wrote the book Children and Teens Afraid to Eat – Helping Youth in Today’s Weight-Obsessed World (Healthy Weight Network, 2001), parents should be equally concerned about children who are spending an inordinate amount of energy on unhealthy diets and who are developing potentially deadly eating disorders.
The truth of the matter is that healthy people come in all shapes and sizes. Children should be encouraged to eat a well-balanced diet, avoid a sedentary lifestyle and love the person they see looking back in the mirror.
Walks in the woods, working in the garden, playing chase with kids in the neighborhood and romping with the family dog in the park all work well. You don’t have to belong to a gym to be fit.
But when thin-as-a-rail seven-year-old girls are complaining that their thighs are too fat and perfectly healthy kindergartners beg their parents to let them go on a diet - something is wrong in the messages adults are sending them.
The emphasis should be on health, wellness, balance and moderation (and not size and shape).
My oldest daughter is seven. She’s lean and strong and athletic and healthy. But she’s already spending a lot of time in front of the mirror. As the first important man in her life, I just hope I have the wisdom to help her through these next few tricky years.
I’ll be a frequent visitor to Berg’s Healthy Weight Network website.
Andrea’s Voice – Resource for Information on Bulimia, Other Eating Disorders
Another valuable resource is Andrea’s Voice Foundation (AVF). Its website, Andrea's Voice, provides information and support for parents baffled by their child’s eating behavior.