Clearly from all we have discussed previously and our own experiences around food, there is a need to better understand how to develop an appropriately healthy relationship with it. Habits, attitudes, and perceptions regarding food are developed in children as young as 6! That is really, really young. There have been studies conducted on this age group that have found 5 to 6-year old’s to be clear on concepts such as fit versus unfit and even worse, that are struggling with body image and weight issues, verbalizing their desire for thinner and leaner bodies. This is such an unnecessary and harmful burden for them to bear.
In order to create positive and beneficial patterns and alter any unhealthy ones, we must institute positive body image and self-image programs at the most appropriate and helpful ages.
That said, the girls are not the only ones who need help and guidance. Parents, educators, and health professionals all need to understand our community’s unique and contributing risk factors for both disordered eating and eating disorders, how to recognize the symptoms and signs that accompany them, and the specific, unintended role that they might play in creating these food and appearance issues. These programs also offer suggestions and support in how to help our daughters if they are beginning to struggle.
In order to successfully do this, eating disorder education, awareness, and prevention programs must be instituted in our schools as well. These programs also work to bolster healthy eating habits, increase nutrition knowledge, and offer that much needed body-image and self-esteem support. Knowledge is power and education is the most positive and informed path forward. When we take the time to better understand the evolution and onset of eating disorders, how they take hold, and how to head them off, there will be less of our girls struggling with them and along the way the rest of us may learn how to improve our own relationship with food and our body-image.
There is a great deal of research supporting the success of these programs when implemented with the appropriate age and audience in mind. Let’s give our children the tools they need to develop positive relationships with themselves. This will pay itself forward to our future generations. This is my passion – let me help in your daughter’s school.