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> Back to Self-Care Excerpts List

Self-Care Excerpt from Don't Weight

Do It for the Children

If sometimes you feel bad about your body and you make negative comments about your body in public then you are having an effect on the people around you ... some of those people are children. If self-acceptance and healthy living are very difficult problems for you, you may find motivation from this awareness. Think about the children in your life.

Are you a mom, dad, aunt, uncle, teacher, coach, nurse, doctor, or friend to a child? Are you a public figure who children can see or hear in the media? Then the way you think, what you say, how you live, affects the children in your life too. Perhaps you can find some motivation to take better care of yourself because it will help them.

As stated in the New England Journal of Medicine, in the January 1998 issue, "anorexia and bulimia are epidemic in this population -- and dangerous, with a mortality rate as high as twenty percent. Although many girls caught up in these practices are well aware of the hazards they would rather risk death than fall short in their attempts to attain the contemporary esthetic "ideal" of extreme thinness".

Anorexia is the most fatal of all the mental illnesses. Yes, more people die from anorexia than from any other mental illness. Bulimia destroys the digestive tract, the teeth, and can cause fatal heart arrhythmia. Compulsive overeating is often the result of restrained eating involved in dieting behaviors. With an awareness of the pain and suffering that can be triggered by dieting, you probably wish that future generations could be spared the pain of body loathing and eating disorders.

For many people who have battled their weight all their lives, the fear that a child who they care about may suffer from an eating disorder is very real. When a child gets an eating disorder, it is not the "fault" of the adults in his/her life. Eating disorders are complex, and your role as an adult who affects the child is just one of many factors. Yet the question remains: "What can I do, as a parent, an aunt, a teacher, a coach, a nurse or doctor, to decrease the likelihood that the child I care about will suffer body loathing and eating disorders?"

You can do plenty. You can either contribute to the problem or the solution. The choice is yours.

When uniqueness is valued,
children have more room
to value what is special and unique
about themselves,
including their body size.

This boils down to a few basic actions to help kids feel better about themselves:

  • Clean up your own act. Change your mind about body size and beauty. Kids can tell what you really think.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle and take actions to end body loathing in your life and in the world. Kids learn from what you do more than from what you say.
  • Expand your view of beauty to include all sizes, ages, and ethnicities. Kids learn their aesthetics from their environment.

Appreciating diversity lets children have room to appreciate themselves as unique individuals. Help children experience eating and attitudes outside of your usual patterns. Expand children's choices for healthy foods and new attitudes about body image.

These are just some ideas for the prevention of eating disorders. There are many ways to approach this important topic. None of this is simple. Some of it is fun. All of these processes are worth your time and effort. The payoff is not only a healthier you, but children who are less likely to develop eating disorders and more likely to feel good about themselves.

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By Kelly Bliss M.Ed., A.C.E. author of Don’t Weight, Eat Healthy & Get Moving NOW!
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