Let’s talk about body image with our kids: body dissatisfaction and dieting are frequent precursors to eating disorders and eating disorder relapse

Eating disorders are not so simple that they can be distilled into body image alone. They are deep, emotionally-charged conditions that typically co-exist with other mental disorders including anxiety, depression, and OCD. The fact that eating disorders are illnesses expressed using the body, however, means that we can find ways to understand the eating disorders by paying attention to body image.

Body dissatisfaction and dieting are frequently the precursors to eating disorders, and typically show up prior to a relapse for someone who is recovering from an eating disorder. We believe that having conversations about body image is critical.

We should talk to our children early and often about body image, and openly address the bodies we typically see in the media compared to what the average body looks like, we can better understand how they feel about their bodies.

Here are some facts from a report published by the Common Sense Media Group.

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More than half of girls and approximately a third of boys age 6-8 say their ideal body is smaller than their actual body.

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Between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders among children under the age of 12 spiked 119%.

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By age 6, children are aware of dieting and may have tried it.

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26% of 5-year-olds recommend dieting as a solution for a person who has gained weight.

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By the time they’re 7 years old, 25% of children have engaged in some kind of dieting behavior.

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Girls whose fathers express concern about the girls’ weight judged themselves to be less physically able than those whose fathers did not.

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Nearly half of girls age 13-17 wish they were as skinny as the models they saw in fashion magazines and said fashion magazines gave them a body image to strive for.

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80% of teenage girls compare themselves to images they see of celebrities and, of that group, nearly half say the images make them feel dissatisfied with the way they look.


Ginny Jones is the editor of More-Love.org. She writes about parenting, body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders. Ginny is also a Parent Coach who helps parents handle their kids’ food and body issues.


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Common Sense is the leading independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology. We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives. Website

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  1. Pingback: Four things parents can do to help their child heal – completely – from an eating disorder – More Love

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