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It’s swimsuit season — a time when bodies are on display, and when body image issues are more noticeable.
Nearly half of the nation’s girls are unhappy with their bodies. The National Eating Disorders Association says by age 6, girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. By the time they hit college, nearly all will be dieting and more than 10 percent will have life-threatening eating disorders.
Kids begin forming perceptions of their bodies in early childhood, especially when puberty hits. At this time, girls and boys become more aware of their appearance. They are exposed to thin body images as the “ideal” in the media, and they receive similar feedback about how they look from peers, family members and others.
All of these factors can lead to body insecurities, most commonly in girls but many boys also suffer as well. Symptoms of an unhealthy or negative body image may include:
When kids become concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat, it can have dangerous consequences on health and well-being. While eating disorders certainly have a genetic basis, research suggests body image concerns and eating disorders often go hand in hand. In fact, body dissatisfaction is one of the most important risk factors for an eating disorder.
Fortunately, parents can help promote a healthy body image in their kids. Use these tips to teach your child to feel good about her body:
Above all, let your child know that weight and body size and shape aren’t the most important things about someone. All bodies are different; what matters most is being healthy.
If your child is struggling with a negative body image, consider professional counseling. Additional support can give her the tools she needs to counter social pressure and feel good about her body — and ultimately herself.
If you’re concerned that your child may have an eating disorder, don’t ignore it. The sooner an eating disorder is treated, the easier the recovery. Know the signs of an eating disorder and when to get help.
Learn more about eating disorders and treatment at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.
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