Statistics don’t lie. Today, there are more than 1 million Australians with an eating disorder, which equates to over four million Australians affected because we know the whole family is impacted by an eating disorder diagnosis.
There is an alarming rise in the presentation of eating disorders, and increasingly in the younger population.
The good news is prevention is possible and early intervention is the key to a full recovery and shorter duration of illness.
Eating Disorder Prevention is possible
But where and how to start?
Let’s start by learning to adapt healthy attitudes around body shape and weight.
Our Top Tips for Parents
- Be a positive role model for your children. Make an effort to maintain positive, healthy attitudes and behaviours ie; refrain from making comments, evaluations or judgements , negative or positive on the physical appearance of others.
- Compliment others on their smile, the colour they are wearing, the kindness they show to others etc.
- Don’t apologise or talk negatively about your own body. Children learn from the things we say and do!
- Manage and educate children on the dangers of social media images and messages.
- Build your child’s confidence and self esteem in intellectual, athletic, social and holistic endeavours. Give both genders the same opportunities and encouragement.
- Avoid categorizing foods as “good/safe” vs. “bad/dangerous.” Remember that we all need to eat a balanced variety of foods.
- Be aware. Develop an understanding of eating disorders and what to look out for. If you’re worried, take the early intervention test Feed Your Instinct here and ROAR here.
- Look closely at your goals for your children. Are they body or appearance focused?
- Look deeply into yourself to understand if your values are aligned with larger and fatter being ‘bad’ or smaller or thinner is ‘good’ ie; a sense of fat-phobia.
- Educate boys and girls about various forms of prejudice, including weightism, and help them understand their responsibilities for preventing them.
- Encourage your children to be active and to enjoy what their bodies can do and feel like. Do not limit their energy intake unless a medical practitioner has advised you to do so.
Risk Factors for Eating Disorders
There are many factors that may contribute toward an adolescent developing an unhealthy relationship with food and eating patterns.
These factors can be one, or a combination of psychological, social, environmental or biological factors that trigger a person with a specific vulnerability.
Psychological Risk Factors
There are certain personality traits that make a person more vulnerable to developing an eating disorder. These traits may include;
- low self-esteem
- difficulties expressing feelings like anger or anxiety
- being a ‘people pleaser’
- difficulties being assertive with others
- fear of adulthood
- obsessive or compulsive tendancies
- feelings of not ‘fitting in’
- fear of failure
What to look for if you are worried
- strict, restrictive diet
- an obsession with healthy eating ie; ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ foods
- avoiding meals
- constant talk about weight, fat, shape or body image
- focus on calories
- fear of eating textures – colours, type, smells, flavours (sensory)
- use of laxatives
- avoiding meals
- avoiding food groups
- avoiding social activities that may involve food
- excessive exercising, or obsessive exercise patterns
- frequent visits to the toilet after eating, long showers
- loss of tooth enamel from vomiting
- eating secretly
- consuming more food at one time than is considered normal
There are different types of eating disorders, and each has their own characteristics and symptoms. Learn more about the different types of eating disorders here.
Partnership with The Pretty Foundation
EDFA is excited to announce a new partnership with The Pretty Foundation, and a special offer for EDFA members.
Pretty Foundation’s mission is empowering girls aged 2 – 6 to nurture a positive body image. Recognising that the foundations of a positive body image are laid in early childhood and that prevention is key, they develop programs and resources that instil positive body images in children.
Special Offer for EDFA members
50% off children’s body confidence book series
Research shows that 38% of 4 year-old girls in Australia are dissatisfied with their bodies.
That’s why Pretty Foundation have created Charlie’s Tales – a children’s book series (suitable for girls and boys under 7) containing positive body image messages to help your little ones realise that their true value is in who they are, not what they look like.
Recognising that the foundations for a positive body image are laid in early childhood and that prevention is key, Pretty Foundation have also developed parents’ kits to accompany each book to help you further instil the message through fun activities you can do at home.
Butterfly Foundation ‘Body Bright’ Program for Primary School Children
Butterfly Body Bright takes a whole school approach to support positive body image in children. Developed by Butterfly’s Prevention Team, Body Bright is a strength-based, evidence-informed program designed for Australian primary schools
Butterfly Foundation ‘Body Kind’ Program for Teenagers
Body Kind Schools is Australia’s largest annual positive body image movement for young people. Body Kind Schools takes an evidence-informed approach to promoting positive body image and asks young people to find ways to be kind to their own body and to others
Ready to learn more about Eating Disorder Prevention?
We have compiled a range of resources and printables to help up-skill your knowledge of eating disorder prevention.