There are several ways we can help kids avoid eating disorders.
1. Address Body Dissatisfaction: A large part of the reason young people become dissatisfied with their bodies is because they believe they aren’t measuring up – they are not performing their lives the way the culture is telling them is adequate. They believe they can’t control the narrative of the culture, so they try to control their bodies instead. We need to have these conversations with kids, help them recognize that the problem is in the culture – not them – and support them in managing the difficult feelings entailed.
2. Examine Weight Biases: Examine our own biases about body size, weight, and health and start to shift our own attitudes. That will allow us to provide our kids with more than one story to tell themselves about what an acceptable body looks like and what their value is based on.
3. Inclusive Media: We need to push for more inclusive images in the media and to expose young people to those images. This includes social media – there are so many incredible communities online celebrating bodies of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders and abilities. The more we surround ourselves with these communities, the more possibilities expand for us.
4. Media Literacy: We can also help kids develop their media literacy skills so they can identify the misinformation and lessen their vulnerability.
5. Institutional Change: We also need to advocate for institutional change so bodies of all sizes and kinds are valued and treated fairly and respectfully. That includes correcting size bias and discrimination in places like the legal system, workplaces, and medical practices.
6. Intersectional Lens: Our efforts for change need to happen through an intersectional lens, meaning that we recognize that we can’t tease weightism out of the context of other oppressions. Weightism for women of color, for example, cannot be separated from racism or gendered oppression, and is experienced very differently than the weightism experienced by white men. If we don’t simultaneously address other oppressions we’ll make little headway in the individual arenas.
Dr. Linda Bacon is a professor, researcher, co-author of Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, author of Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, and international speaker. Dr. Bacon is changing lives through her teaching, research, writing, and transformative workshops and seminars. Website