Eating Disorders Awareness Week: How Parents Can Help

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which is sponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA).

Like I said in my post on Weightless, I believe that awareness means spreading accurate information about eating disorders.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that parents cause eating disorders. They don’t!

In fact, many complex factors are involved in predisposing a person to an eating disorder. According to eating disorder specialist Sarah Ravin, Ph.D:
“…the development of an eating disorder is influenced very heavily by genetics, neurobiology, individual personality traits, and co-morbid disorders. Environment clearly plays a role in the development of eating disorders, but environment alone is not sufficient to cause them.”
(Check out her blog post for more.)

But while parents don’t cause eating disorders, they can make a difference in their child’s life by creating a safe, diet-free and nurturing environment.

As Kenneth L. Weiner, M.D., co-founder and CEO of the Eating Recovery Center, said recently:
“Because eating disorders are genetic, an individual who has a family history is much more likely to be sensitive to others’ words and actions surrounding food and body image. It’s important for families to talk about these deadly diseases and avoid behaviors and actions that could act as eating disorder triggers.”
Below Dr. Weiner and other eating disorder specialists from the Eating Recovery Center share some of the ways you can help your child. (I think these tips are relevant for all kids):
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Men Get Eating Disorders Too

Ginger Emas has written an interesting piece about men and eating disorders. It piqued my interest because a friend of mine once asked me if she should be concerned about her son's eating habits. He counted calories, stayed away from sweets, and was a tad obsessive about a healthy diet. I told her not to sweat it, buying into the cultural myth that boys don't get eating disorders. Now I know they do. To get to Ginger's original article on ShareWIK, click here. I have reprinted it with permission below.

Usually when we talk about body image issues, we're talking about girls. But did you know that more than one million boys and men struggle with eating disorders? More than 80 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. More than 10 percent of middle school boys have used steroids. These are boys who don't understand why they should brush their teeth every night; how can they possibly understand the repercussions of starving or using steroids?

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Obesity or an Eating Disorder: Which Is Worse?

I fear that I'm giving my daughter an eating disorder with intentions of teaching her how to eat right. Which begs the question: which is more harmful -- obesity (and diabetes) or an eating disorder?

I've implemented a "one-treat rule" in our home, which simply means that if my kids get ice-cream after school, they have already had their treat and don't get dessert after dinner. I try to explain as delicately as I can that too many sweets and too much junk food makes you sick. Fat too, yes. But, more importantly, sick.

"What happens when you eat more than one treat?" my daughter asked me awhile back. And, well, I'm not proud of this, but I think I said, while my mind was somewhere else: "You blow up."

So yesterday she had a snow cone at the pool. That was supposed to be her treat for the day. But when we went to a lacrosse party later that day, a fellow mom trained at Le Cordon Bleu made these amazing cupcakes with the team's logo designed with butter cream icing. Katherine instinctively grabbed one, but then ran to me, asking, "Will I blow up if I eat this?"

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Fat Talk Free Week

Talking about our weight, the circumference of our thighs or our disastrous double chin is as natural (and hard to resist) as comparing ourselves to others, which is as natural (and hard to resist) as blinking. And apparently, it brings us together. According to one study, we bond over fat talk. When everyone’s doing it, it can be tough not to join in.

“Because women feel pressured to follow the fat talk norm, they are more likely to engage in fat talk with...
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Q&A with Julie Holland

Julie Holland, MHS, CEDS, is recognized in the industry as both a clinician and public speaker. A certified eating disorders specialist, she has directed marketing and customer relationship management programs at several leading eating disorder treatment programs across the country. Ms. Holland has specialized...
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Minding the Media: Ralph Lauren Sinks Lower and Lower

Model Filippa Hamilton -- 5'10" and 120 pounds -- recently was fired from Ralph Lauren for being fat.

According to Hamilton, who had worked for the designer since 2002, “they fired me because they said I was overweight and I couldn't fit in their clothes anymore.”

After initially picking my jaw up off the floor, I wondered, “Should we really be flabbergasted?” Unfortunately, most of us are well aware of the fashion industry’s skewed standards. Just recently fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld had this to...
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What Is Normal Eating?

Today, the definition of normal eating is blurry. It’s gotten lost amid buzz words like “diet,” “restriction,” “willpower” and “flat abs.” It’s sandwiched between the sizable stacks of “shoulds”: I should diet. I should abstain from dessert. I should count calories. I should avoid “bad” foods. I should have an invisible stomach, smaller hips and thin thighs.

While reading Purge: Rehab Diaries (stay tuned for the review) by Nicole Johns,...
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Comfort Food, My Crack Cocaine

It has been proven time and time again that a middle aged woman has about as much chance of losing the last ten pounds of unwanted body fat as she has to be abducted by little green (skinny) aliens. The odds get worse if said middle aged woman has a food addiction.

Last week was an emotionally hard week. A dear family member was offended by something I wrote in my blog, my landlord called to tell me more...
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Dads, Daughters and Body Image

We’ve already talked about how moms and daughters can help boost each other’s body image. However, moms aren’t the only influential ones. Dads, too, play a pivotal role in shaping their daughter’s body image. And parents today have a lot to contend with; our society isn’t getting any easier on girls (or boys). It’s tough enough on full-grown women to navigate the treacherous world of women’s magazines, double-zero...
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10 Ways to Manage Your Weight on Psych Meds

Awhile back, a Beyond Blue reader asked me to address the problem of weight gain and medication. "How do you deal with this yourself?" she asked me.

I'll be perfectly honest -- it's a battle. As someone with a history of an eating disorder, I've had to work very hard on getting to a place where I eat when I'm hungry. For that reason, I won't go near drugs like Zyprexa, because...
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