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Books that promote body acceptance

Parents should become well-versed in the concepts of body acceptance and Health at Every Size if they want to raise kids who are resilient against eating disorders, disordered eating, and body dysmorphia.

One of the biggest challenges facing many parents today is that we can see that the fatphobic culture in which we live is hurting our kids’ self-esteem, but we don’t know enough about health and weight to avoid perpetuating toxic ideals at home. Luckily, there are some great books to help build a positive body attitude. Body acceptance isn’t about “giving up,” ignoring our health, or unicorns and rainbows – body acceptance is rooted in the science of health and body weight.

Here are some recommendations for books that can help you learn the concepts behind body acceptance and Health at Every Size.

Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, by Linda Bacon, Ph.D. and Lucy Aphramor, Ph.D., R.D.

This book does an excellent job of explaining the many factors driving the Health at Every Size movement, namely that weight loss is not the key to health, diet and exercise are not effective weight-loss strategies, and fatness is not a death sentence. Parents who understand this book will understand why they can relax about their child’s weight status and focus on the behaviors that are actually health-promoting, which include mental health and enjoyable physical movement.

Body Kindness: Transform Your Health from the Inside Out – and Never Say Diet Again by Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN

This book provides a wonderful framework for caring for our health without focusing on weight. So much of our societal messages about weight are shame-based. These messages damage how we feel about our own bodies, and they also damage how our kids feel about their bodies. Body Kindness shows the way to health and well-being attained by understanding how to love, connect, and care for yourself—and that includes your mind as well as your body.

You Have The Right To Remain Fat, by Virgie Tovar

Virgie Tovar is a wonderful fat-positive writer, speaker, and activist. She proudly identifies as fat, and does an excellent job of explaining what it was like to grow up as a fat girl who believed that her body was something to be fixed. After decades of trying to be smaller, she found freedom when she discovered that her body is not the problem – our fatphobic society is the problem. This book is valuable for people of all sizes, but it is especially important reading for parents who have children who are living in larger bodies.

Body Positive Power: How to stop dieting, make peace with your body and live, by Megan Jayne Crabbe

Like many of us, Megan Crabbe’s body image issues began when she was just five years old. She chased thinness and developed anorexia at fourteen. She recovered from the worst of the disorder, but still spent years stuck in disordered eating – dieting, binge eating, losing and gaining weight. She discovered the body positive movement and quit dieting forever. This book is an upbeat and positive personal story of eating disorder recovery followed by a period of disordered eating and finding peach with a body-positive approach.

ebook body image for girls

You’re Fine! Body Image for Girls – FREE eBook!

We created this light and easy eBook to quickly cover the concepts of Health at Every Size, Body Positivity, and Intuitive Eating. It’s designed to reduce negative body image and eating disorders.While it is written for a young teen audience, it applies to all bodies of all ages and is a great introduction to how we can talk about and think about bodies respectfully and peacefully.

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.

See Our Parent’s Guide To Body Image And Eating Disorders

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The terrors of middle school body harassment; help your child deal with body shaming

Body shaming is so common in middle school that many people don’t even notice it. But it’s hurtful and harmful to our kids. Here’s an example that’s very common:

“Are you pregnant?” asks the 11-year old boy, pointing at her stomach and immediately breaking into laughter, encouraging everyone around him to look and laugh as well.

And the girl, stunned, looks down at her belly and wonders, perhaps for the first time, that her body is bad. Shame rises and fills her whole body.

People say terrible things, but it is perhaps never more common than in middle school. The body-shaming and fat-shaming that runs rampant in middle school is ruthless and without boundaries. People of all sizes and shapes are harassed at this most vulnerable and awkward time of body development. But of course, it is far worse for kids who have larger bodies.

Middle school teasing

Kids are creative, and they can find countless reasons to tease their peers. This teasing can be traumatic, particularly at the difficult stage of development during middle school. Most teasing focuses on various common body traits, including:

  • Weight
  • Height
  • Skin (color and appearance)
  • Hair
  • Features (nose, ears, feet, etc.)
  • Visible differences and disabilities

The list of body-based taunts is seemingly endless, and middle schoolers seem inherently gifted when it comes to creating them. And while all body-shaming teasing and bullying should be dealt with quickly by adults, fat-shaming, in particular, is very dangerous since it’s linked to eating disorders, the second-most deadly mental disorder and the cause of much suffering and heartache.

Talking to kids about middle school body shaming

If you have a child who is in middle school, remember that body shaming can happen to kids of all genders and of all body types, though it is far worse for kids with larger bodies. Both boys and girls are the recipients and the perpetrators of body shaming. Here’s what I recommend:

1. Talk about body shaming

Talk about body shaming and fat-shaming early and often with your child. Become educated about Health at Every Size®  and make sure that you are not your child’s primary body bully.

2. Explore your own feelings about your kid’s body

As your child’s body changes in middle school, make sure you are not criticizing or objectifying it. This is hard. In our culture, we are trained to objectify and criticize bodies, particularly girls’ bodies. Work on your own feelings and thoughts about your kid’s body. Children are extremely sensitive to parental judgment, so if you have negative feelings about your child’s body, they will almost certainly sense your disapproval.

3. Don’t body-shame yourself or anyone else

It’s absolutely essential that you don’t ever body-shame or fat-shame your child. But it’s also important that you don’t bully your own body or that of anyone else. This includes criticizing people in the airport, on buses, and on television for their body sizes. Take a weight-neutral approach to everyone with the belief that other people’s bodies are none of your business.

4. Teach them to respond to body shaming

The fact is that we live in a body-shaming society. Teach your child some good responses for when other people make comments about their bodies.

Help them develop a few scripts ready to go for the most common body taunts. Work on these with your child so they have the confidence to use them. Ideally, the responses should be crisp and maintain a sense of personal power. For example:

  • I don’t recall asking you for your opinion on my body.
  • Dude, what are you, a body-shamer? Dumb.
  • Haven’t you heard? It’s 2022 and people aren’t body shaming any more.
  • No, I’m not pregnant. Are you?
  • The last thing I care about is what you think about my body.
  • Stop talking about my body.
  • I like my body. Thankfully my opinion of myself is not dependent on your opinion of me.

The old advice to just ignore it or walk away may work sometimes, but if your child is physically safe and emotionally supported, you can encourage them to speak up for themselves. The key is for them to feel confident and as if they deserve to talk back to a body bully (which they do!).

5. Teach them to be an upstander

You want your child to be prepared if body-shaming comes their way. But also make sure they are not the perpetrators of body shaming and that they stand up for people who are being body-shamed in front of them. Your child may never be body-shamed, but they are still a victim of our society’s body hate if they stand by while it’s happening to someone else. And they are perpetuating great harm if they body-shame someone else.

6. Shake it off

It would be great if nobody was ever body-shamed again. But it’s unlikely that we’ll see a massive cultural shift as long as your child is living with you. So for now, it helps to teach your child some tricks for shaking off body-shaming comments. Here is some advice for shaking off the negative feelings we get after encountering body-shaming:

  • Talk it out with someone you can trust. Shame thrives in secrecy, so talking about body shaming incidents can help reduce the sting.
  • Remember that other people’s words do not define who you are as a person.
  • Think about whether you can/should take any corrective action.
  • Stay away from the person/people who body shamed you.
  • Block and report online body shamers on social media platforms.
  • Block body shamers from texting or phoning you.

7. Report bullying

It’s true that we can’t protect our children from all forms of body shaming and fat-shaming. In fact, most of us experience body shaming in our own homes! However, if you suspect that your child is being bullied in a way that is dangerous to their mental and physical health, please reach out for support.

It can help to keep a record of incidents to document the body bullying. This should log the date, time, person(s) involved, verbal and physical actions.

Speak with your child’s school principal and school psychologist and get a copy of the school’s bullying policy. Hopefully, they will respond to the situation adequately. If you feel your child’s school is not doing enough to protect your child, seek the support of someone who can help you navigate the tricky task of parenting a child who is being bullied. They should be able to support you in both reporting the problem and helping your child through this situation.

Body shaming and eating disorders

Eating disorders frequently begin during middle school. Eating disorders are linked with body-based bullying and our society’s obsession with appearance, particularly the avoidance of fat (fatphobia).

Bodies, particularly girls’ bodies, change drastically during middle school. It’s not uncommon for girls to gain about 40 lbs during puberty, and it can take years for that additional weight, which is a critical part of their development, to shift and settle into the adult body taking shape. A girls’ body becomes open to admiration, objectification, criticism, and ridicule during puberty, and all are harmful predictors of eating disorders.

Parents can help kids avoid eating disorders with the following steps:

Never Do These 3 Things:

1. Body-Shaming: do not body-shame your child, yourself, or anyone else. Body shaming is the act of judging a person for their body size, shape, color, weight, ability, and appearance. Parents frequently are unintentional body shamers who are trying to help their children “be healthy” which in our society means to lose weight and be thin.

2. Food Policing: do not police your child’s food or suggest they will be better if they eat a certain way. It’s common to judge kids for choosing “unhealthy” or “bad” food. Parents frequently are unintentional food shamers who are trying to help their children “make good choices” which in our society means avoiding foods that supposedly lead to weight gain (e.g. carbs, fat, etc.). 

3. Dieting: do not diet or allow dieting in your family. Eating disorders almost always begin with a diet. Dieting is defined as any eating and/or exercise conducted with the purpose (sometimes unconscious) of weight loss. Most “wellness lifestyles” are diets in disguise. Parents frequently introduce dieting to their children, despite the fact that diets do not improve health and lead to weight gain and eating disorders.

Body-shaming online and offline

About 30% of girls and 24% of boys report daily bullying, teasing and/or rejection based on their body size. These numbers are doubled (63% of girls and 58% of boys) for high school students who are living in larger bodies. [source]

It’s dangerous online, too. Way back in 2011, 16% of high school students were victims of electronic bullying in the previous year. [source] This number has undoubtedly skyrocketed since then.

This is why it’s important for parents to talk with their kids early and often about body shaming and eating disorders. Parents should also avoid food policing and prevent dieting. Our kids are going to be exposed to all of these dangerous practices, and the best protection we can offer is education and support as they navigate the culture in which we live.

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.

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Teaching your child media literacy in the age of false claims and fake news on Instagram

Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms among teenagers and young adults. Many people spend at least an hour each day scrolling through their Instagram feed. This is a challenge for parents, since Instagram is full of false claims and fake news about health and wellness. It is a veritable hotbed of diet culture and bizarre and dangerous eating fads.

The celery juice fad

The latest food fad to hit Instagram is the celery juice fad. Yes, that bland, bitter vegetable that many of us crunched to trick our bodies into thinking we were eating nourishing food when we were starving on a diet, is back. But this time celery has been fully updated for the Instagram wellness circuit. Now it must be juiced and drunk in the morning to help you achieve almost every health goal known to our society.

Lose weight! Better digestion! Detox! Better Skin! Lower blood pressure! Reverse heart disease! Improve thyroid function! The claims about celery juice are almost endless, and not a single one of them carries any medical or scientific evidence.

The trend was started by an Instagram influencer who has zero medical, scientific, or nutrition training. He just “feels” things, and he “feels” that celery juice is a wonder-drug. His feelings, unfortunately, have taken over Instagram news feeds and have spilled over into online and print news media.

The celery juice trend is not innately dangerous. It is absurdly over-priced ($7 for celery juice) and doesn’t taste very good, but it is unlikely that our kids will get sick by drinking celery juice. The real concern is the speed at which unfounded claims can be developed and spread via Instagram and are quickly believed by hundreds of thousands of people.

The dangers of health fads

This is why media literacy is critically important for our children. Health fads may seem harmless, but our kids are consuming them at increasingly alarming rates. Our culture of assigning moral judgement to food – celery juice is “good” and carbs are “bad” – is creating massive problems for our children at a critical time in their physical and emotional development.

Falling prey to fad food trends may seem harmless, but each time our kids jump on another bandwagon, they become less connected with their innate appetite and food preferences. Each time they are told that they are putting their health at risk unless they follow any number of rules promoted by “wellness” gurus on Instagram, they lose faith in their own bodies.

Media literacy is critical in this time of food and body wars, because our kids are being constantly bombarded with information that is misleading and false. The confusion caused by this information can encourage our children to restrict foods they love and ban foods that are actually good for their bodies out of fear of doing something wrong according to “wellness culture.”

It’s not just weight loss

Instagram is full of before-and-after images and direct weight loss promotions. Every other wellness post mentions weight loss as a “surprise benefit” of eating a certain way.

But intentional weight loss is actually worse for the body than staying the same weight due to the tremendous stress that weight loss puts on the body and the inevitable weight cycling that occurs following weight loss. And intentional weight loss led to eating disorders in 25% of girls in one study.

Read more about the problems with intentional weight loss.

But we don’t just need to worry about weight loss on Instagram. We need to worry about all the food fads, including celery juices, cleanses, detox teas, nutritional supplements, appetite supressants, and more.

All of these trends lack scientific evidence and can even cause harm. They can definitely support eating disorders by supporting the idea that the body must be controlled, hacked, tweaked, and optimized by external factors. These trends directly discount the idea that a person can intuitively listen to their body and find health without going to any extremes or building an identity around how and what they eat.

Media literacy

Media literacy is a critical skill that we must teach our children in a world in which it is increasingly easy to access false claims and “fake news.” The human brain is primed to accept and believe attractive messages, especially when they are delivered in a friendly setting like social media.

Media literacy is the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending. It requires media consumers to carefully evaluate media messages and not take them for granted as fact.

Here are some guidelines for teaching your kids media literacy:

  • Ask questions. Teach your children to ask questions of all claims. What information was included? What information wasn’t included? Who says this is true? How substantial is the scientific evidence of this claim? Is there a company, industry, or person who will profit off me believing this information? How does this information fit with information I already know?
  • Spot magical thinking. We have a strong trend right now to see magical claims of a single product accomplishing a laundry list of solutions. For example, celery juice is attributed to better digestion, weight loss, lower blood pressure, better thyroid function, better skin, fight infections, increasing blood flow … and sooo many more claims. It is very unlikely that a single food item can accomplish these things all by itself. Furthermore, how is it possible that we have made it this far without ever recognizing the magical properties of celery juice? And why does it have to be juiced, not whole?
  • Look for point of view. We all have a point of view. Many of us don’t realize that when we’re consuming media, we are consuming a single person’s point of view. Identify the writer’s point of view and consider how it influences their claim. For example, an Instagram influencer is heavily motivated to gain followers and likes. Many of the most successful influencers make money by companies that want to reach their followers. This means that we must always weigh what they say against their need to be followed, liked, and paid.
  • Understand the goal. Media is created to influence the way we think about things. Consider what the person who created the media wants to influence. What is their goal? Are they trying to get you to buy something? Do something? Change something? Hint: anyone who writes anything is trying to influence. That’s not wrong. But it’s naïve to consume media without considering the goals of the person presenting it.
  • Be suspicious of testimonials. Testimonials are the favorite marketing technique in the weight loss and wellness arenas. Companies use testimonials as a way to make claims that are not backed up by any data. This is because a testimonial is a first-person account of a single experience using a product or technique, and therefore it is not judged in the same way that a company statement is. Testimonials are incredibly powerful and have built the $65 billion weight loss industry. Companies cannot provide good data to support their programs, but they can (and do) use testimonials liberally to convince consumers of their efficacy. Media literacy requires approaching any first-person testimonials with extreme caution. If claims are made via testimonial, they should be considered highly prejudiced, especially if there is no scientifically valid data to support one person’s (or even hundreds of individual people’s) experience.
  • Be a rebel. Many parents fear their children’s rebellion, but when it comes to media literacy, a little rebellion can go a long way. Teach them that just because an Instagrammer has 5 million followers that does not mean they need to do what they say. Our children should be encouraged to make informed choices about what they believe, not follow blindly in someone’s footsteps just because they are popular. Support your child in not following the trends and finding their confidence in being themselves.

There is very little we can do to control false and misleading messages on Instagram and similar social media platforms, but that doesn’t make us powerless. Talking to our kids (constantly) about media literacy can help them become more critical consumers of media and hopefully help them start to spot false and misleading wellness claims.

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.

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What parents and educators need to know about diet culture, by Dana Suchow

What parents and educators need to know about diet culture, by Dana Suchow

Diet culture is a system that demonizes and hates fat. It tells us that even though 95% of diets fail, we should still maintain an endless pursuit of weight loss. Diet culture tells us that we’ll only be healthy if we’re thin, even though we know that thin doesn’t equal health.

The culture overrides our logic and scientific intelligence, and it makes perfect sense since diet companies make more than $66 billion per year by creating body insecurities where none existed before. They do this because an insecure person is an exploitable person. You’re just not going to spend money to fix your body if you don’t think your body was broken to begin with. They spend billions of dollars on advertising to create a problem that doesn’t exist so that they can sell products to solve it.

“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population. isa tractable one.

Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

What is diet culture?

Diet culture is literally a system that says that thinness and weight loss is more important than any quality a person can have. It says that thinness is more important than being kind. More important than being loving, empathetic, smart, or caring.

Diet culture says that being thin is more important than mental health your emotional health your physical health. It says that being thin is more important than education. It’s a system that demonizes and hates fat.

Diet culture is a system that marginalizes fat people. 95% of diets fail yet we are on an endless path towards weight loss. We do this because diet culture says that you’ll be healthy if you’re thin. And this is even though we know thin doesn’t equal health. Diet culture says that if you lose weight you’ll be healthy no matter how you lost that weight.

The risks of diet culture

Diet culture is directly linked to:

  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Body dysmorphia
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Bullying
  • Drug abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Binge partying
  • Suicide

If we didn’t have diet culture, I know that I wouldn’t have developed my own eating disorder, and that’s why I work to help parents, educators, and caregivers learn about diet culture so that we can reduce its terrible impact on kids, teens, and adults.

80% of teen girls are unhappy with their bodies

Dove Research, Girls on Beauty

Diet culture hurts all of us

Diet culture is hurting you and your children. It is having a direct impact on how our kids feel about themselves, and it is hurting their ability to live a life fully present life. Instead, they spend their time and energy protecting themselves against the fear of being judged by diet culture.

It is becoming normal for kids to diet and to worry constantly about their appearance. We have 5-year-olds who say they would rather lose a parent than get fat.

Eating disorder behaviors like dieting, restricting, and over-exercising have become so common – so normal – that it’s actually becoming difficult for researchers to say how many people actually have eating disorders. One recent study put the number as high as 65% of all girls and women.

65% of girls and women have an eating disorder

Dove Research, Girls on Beauty

All bodies deserve to be seen

Over and over again, diet culture tells children, teens, and adults that their exterior appearance is more important than anything else. We are a society that is so focused on the exterior that we have forgotten our interiors. And the problem is, that when we are focused on our exteriors and not our interiors, we’re not present for our life. When we are thinking about our external and not our internal, we are holding ourselves back.

All bodies deserve to be seen. All bodies deserve representation. And your kids’ bodies deserve to exist in the world exactly as they are, without dieting, restricting, and over-exercising. Without appetite-suppressing lollipops, laxative teas and juice cleanses. Your kids deserve to live a life free of diet culture.

There’s hope. We just have to work together. You have the power to fight diet culture. We have the power to create change. You have the power to help your children.

Dana presented on this topic in a TED-style talk – you can watch it here:

dana suchow

Dana Suchow is an award-winning speaker, educator, and coach. Since overcoming Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder and exercise compulsion that resulted in permanent injuries, Dana Suchow has become an expert in the field of body image and eating disorder prevention. Offering a nonclinical and holistic approach, Dana offers tools, talks, 1:1 training, and other resources to help parents, educators, and caregivers. You can find Dana on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

More about diet culture

Diet culture is a major concern because it’s directly linked to eating disorder development. The truth is that we live in a culture that promotes and admires dieting and food restriction. Yet this culture makes us sick. And worse, it makes our kids sick. Eating disorders continue to rise, and they are showing up in younger kids than ever. Learning about diet culture is essential to protecting your children from eating disorders and/or helping them recover from eating disorders.

Living in a society that is cruel and dominating towards bodies is hard. And it’s difficult to raise a body-confident child in this culture. But it is possible. You can raise a child who is free from body hate, disordered eating, and eating disorders if you protect her from the worst impacts of diet culture. Here are some more articles about this:

How to protect your daughter from diet culture and fatphobia

If you have a daughter, then you can and should protect her from fatphobia and diet culture. While this isn’t one of the things most of us think about when we have a child, it has become critically important as body hate, disordered eating, and eating disorders are on the rise.  Women in our society…

What parents need to know about diet culture and eating disorder recovery

Diet culture promotes the idea that weight loss is a meaningful, good and healthy pursuit in life. This belief can be deeply dangerous for anyone at risk of an eating disorder. Diet culture promotes eating disorder behaviors and increase a person’s chance of developing an eating disorder. To avoid and heal from eating disorders, we…

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Quiz: are you body positive? Plus, how to be a body positive parent

Take this quiz to find out whether you are body positive. If you’re a parent, this is really important, because our feelings about our own bodies impact how our kids feel about theirs.

Eating disorders are much more complex than body image, but negative body image is a hallmark of an eating disorder. We live in a culture that is strongly weight-biased and fatphobic. Our cultural messages assert that a person is healthier, smarter, and more worthy if they live in a smaller body. Weight stigma is very harmful to all of us, but it is especially damaging to people who live in larger bodies and people who are susceptible to eating disorders.

Parents who want to prevent eating disorders or help a child who has an eating disorder to recover can learn about weight stigma and adopt a non-diet, weight-neutral, and body positive attitude.

Quiz: Are You Body Positive?

Most of us have assumptions about body size, eating behaviors and exercise patterns. To help our child develop a healthy body image and recover from an eating disorder, it can be very helpful if we challenge our own assumptions about bodies, weight, and health. Take this quiz to see how you do.

What is body positivity?

Body positivity is a trending hashtag, but it’s also so much more. It was started in 1967 as a movement to stop deadly weight stigma and anti-fatness. More than just “loving your body,” body positivity is a social justice, activist movement. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) was founded in 1969 in an effort to bring awareness to the fact that bodies, especially fat bodies, are marginalized and abused in our culture. To be body positive is about accepting that most of what we think we know about fat is wrong, and that judging people for being fat is ignorant and harmful.

Body positive parenting

Our society is steeped in weight stigma. Many of us make body-based, weight-stigmatizing comments without even thinking of it – it’s just a part of our culture. But if a parent can learn to stop these automatic statements, we can help our child reduce the focus on the body as a signal of “goodness” and even “health” and instead help them recognize that they are inherently worthy, and fat is not the worst thing a person can be. This approach will reduce eating disorders since fatphobia is a known contributor.

Here are some things we recommend parents stop doing to create a body positive environment for their children:

1. Do not praise/criticize individual body parts

Look at those abs! She has a tummy roll. Your legs are so long. You have such a tiny waist. She has huge thighs.
We are not objects, but whole people. Avoid picking apart human beings based on their individual body parts. Don’t do this with your own body, your child’s body, or any other person’s body. Human beings are much more than any one part of themselves. While these comments may seem positive of “factual,” they bring the focus onto the body, and one of our goals is to develop a holistic view of health and bodies rather than a parts-based perspective.

2. Do not provide feedback on weight loss 

You’ve lost weight! She lost a ton of weight last year. You look great – did you lose weight? 
We need to stop assuming that weight loss is a positive thing that we can openly make comments about. It may seem normal to mention that someone has lost weight, but the assumption that weight loss is always a positive supports some of the fundamental disordered thoughts that drive eating disorders.

3. Do not provide feedback about “flattering” clothes

That’s so slimming on you. I look fat in this. That’s really flattering. That shirt makes her look huge. That belt makes her waist look tiny.
When we comment on clothing as either “flattering” or “not flattering,” what we are really saying is that everyone should aspire to look thin. This supports the notion that thinness is best, and fuels disordered eating. If you struggle to accept body positivity, then begin by not using the words “flattering” or “slimming.” Also avoid commenting on the physical appearance of yourself, your children, and other people.

4. Avoid feedback on eating and exercise behaviors

You’re so healthy for running every day. She’s such a good/healthy eater. She eats like a pig. He’s a total slob.
Our culture has promoted many unhealthy ideas about eating and physical behavior. Basically, we believe that people who are thin eat only “healthy” foods and exercise regularly. This is not actually true, and the only information we gain by looking at someone is our own level of weight bias. We need to stop praising “health” behaviors to help our children find an intuitive way to relate to their bodies that involve eating foods that make them feel good and exercising in ways that bring happiness, not pain.

Body positive resources

Body positive parenting can help our children avoid and/or recover from an eating disorder. It’s OK if this is all new to you – there are a lot of resources available to help! The first step in becoming body positive is dropping weight stigma. Great ways to do this is to read one of these books:

When “body positive” is not body positive

Many brands and influencers have noticed that the term “body positive” has gained social traction. As a result, they are taking on the term as a marketing opportunity rather than truly understanding the purpose of the movement. Specifically, Instagram is littered with accounts that use the hashtag #bodypositive or one of its variations, but they still espouse diet culture and are decidedly not weight-neutral or fat-positive. Some signs to look for to establish whether a brand or influencer is truly body-positive include:

  • Are the models/images primarily showing white, cisgender, able-bodied, Photoshop-enhanced, conventionally attractive, thin people? Body positivity is about inclusivity, so you should see a range of skin colors, gender identities, and body sizes, shapes, and abilities.
  • If it’s a clothing brand, does the brand offer sizing above 12/14? About 60% of the population wears plus sizes, yet plus-size models are a rarity. If a brand says it is “body positive” but does not provide clothing for people living in larger bodies, then it’s co-opting the movement for marketing purposes.
  • Does the text contain messages about weight loss and/or weight maintenance as if that is a good/positive/healthy pursuit? Body positivity must operate from a weight-neutral perspective.
  • Does the messaging suggest that the pursuit of health is defined as eating a certain way or exercising? Body positivity must operate from a behavior-neutral standpoint and not place value judgments on food choices or exercise behaviors.

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.

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Self-esteem, body image, and eating disorders – what parents can do to help

Eating disorders are strongly associated with low self‐esteem and poor body image. [1, 2] Self-esteem and body image must be improved in order to heal fully from an eating disorder because we can’t change a behavior until we change the predisposing factors that drive that behavior. [3]

If we tell a child that she’s beautiful and doesn’t need to starve herself anymore, we are unlikely to help her recover from an eating disorder because we have maintained the focus on her body and done nothing to change her underlying beliefs about her body and her self.

We tend to think of girls when we think of body image problems, but poor body image impacts boys, too. Rates of male eating disorders are increasing rapidly, alongside studies finding that men’s bodies are increasingly being objectified in the media. Studies find that males display substantial body dissatisfaction and that this dissatisfaction is closely associated with eating disorders and low self-esteem. [4]

While we may think the best way to help our child recover from an eating disorder is to educate them about the dangers of eating disorder behaviors, what we really need to do is help our kids see themselves as worthy of love and respect regardless of their eating habits, weight, exercise patterns, or any other behavior. [5]

This is good news for parents. We don’t have to learn everything about nutrition and body image to have a positive impact on a child’s eating disorder recovery. We just need to learn how to help our child see themselves as worthy, and this is something that parents are uniquely positioned to do well.

But please use caution – parents can cause unintentional harm if they approach self-esteem automatically and without research. We need to learn about the words and behaviors that actually increase our children’s self-esteem rather than acting on instinct, not because we are bad people, but just because we live in a culture that inflicts accidental psychological damage on a daily basis.

Steps to improve a child’s self-esteem

Here are some things parents can do to improve a child’s self-esteem:

1. Offer choices. Help your child experience “agency” – the ability to influence their own life outcomes – by not limiting them to one option. They may need to do homework, but they can choose the order in which to do their homework. They may need to take out the trash by 9 p.m., but they can choose when they do it before then.

2. Don’t jump in. It can be tempting to jump in and solve problems for our kids or give them step by step instructions for solving a problem. This is especially hard when we are trying to help a child recover from an eating disorder. But self-esteem comes from believing that you can accomplish tasks by yourself. We have to be patient and let our kids solve their own problems whenever possible.

3. Work against perfectionism. Perfectionism is an underlying factor in many eating disorders. Perfectionism is the belief that if I do something wrong I will lose love and admiration. Parents can help kids recover from perfectionism by openly acknowledging mistakes without shame or blame and reminding kids who are suffering because they made a mistake that nobody is perfect and everybody makes mistakes.

4. Praise your child’s positive actions. Our kids crave our praise, but it’s important to avoid common praise pitfalls. Praise like “you’re so talented!” rings hollow and also demonstrates a fixed mindset: either you’re talented or you’re not. Parents should embrace the growth mindset by praising their children for how they approach difficult things in life. And it’s important to never praise a child for their body size or eating behaviors.

5. Give them responsibility. Even in the midst of eating disorder treatment, appropriate household chores should be a part of your child’s life. Participating in the household chores helps children feel they are competent and bolsters their problem-solving skills. Be careful about how you set this up – we don’t want to constantly remind our child of their responsibility – nagging has a negative impact on self-esteem.

6. Give them one-on-one time. Each child wants to feel unique and special in their parents’ eyes. Take time to spend time alone with your child at least once per week. Even if they resist your efforts, keep showing up. Our kids need us more than we (or they!) know, even as they grow up. Don’t let your child’s social schedule get in the way of time for you to connect with them and build your parent-child bond. Being close with a parent has a significant impact on lifetime self-esteem.

Unconditional acceptance

A child must work towards self-esteem on many levels, but a parent can impact a child’s self-esteem by providing consistent acceptance and reassurance. It’s important to know that “acceptance” is not the same as “approval.” For example, you may not approve of your child’s eating disorder, but you can still accept your child as they are. Here are some statements we can use to demonstrate unconditional acceptance:

  1. I love you.
  2. I admire you.
  3. I accept you.
  4. I hear you.
  5. I believe you.
  6. I understand.
  7. I don’t need you to be perfect.

The only caveat is that you need to actually believe these things when you say them. Kids have a fine-tuned bullshit meter, so make sure you are speaking the truth. If you can’t say these things truthfully, then please seek help from a therapist or counselor. You may have some personal work you need to undergo before you can provide your child with unconditional acceptance.

Also, never add the word “but” to any of these statements. When we say “I love you, but I wish you would take the trash out,” we are suggesting that our love is conditional on our child’s behavior. The whole point of saying these things is to be unconditional in our love and approval.

“Loving someone fully and without judgment is the opposite of being a weak pushover. It requires tremendous strength, fortitude, emotional maturity, and self-awareness.” — Andrea Miller, Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love

Avoid body image pitfalls

As we help a child build stronger self-esteem and body image, we must avoid giving body-based feedback. Here are a few rules about giving feedback to a child who has low self-esteem and negative body image:

  1. Do not provide feedback on a body part (e.g. your legs are so strong! You have such a tiny waist! Your biceps are so big!)
  2. Do not provide feedback on body weight (e.g. you’ve gained weight! You’ve lost weight!)
  3. Do not provide feedback on physical appearance (e.g. that’s so slimming on you! You look fat in that!)
  4. Avoid feedback on body and eating behaviors (e.g. you finished everything! You ran every day this week!)
  5. Avoid the words “good” and “bad” (e.g. you’re such a good student! You ate really badly yesterday.)

To increase self-esteem in a child who has an eating disorder we must focus on the non-body and non-eating or exercise aspects of our child’s life. We also want to avoid triggering their desire to be “good” via behaviors. We want our child to believe they are inherently good, regardless of what they do or how they appear.

Positive feedback with the growth mindset

Giving positive feedback can be difficult so it can be helpful to review information about the “Growth Mindset” that many teachers are learning to help children go from feeling fixed and stuck to feeling they can accomplish hard things.

Fixed MindsetGrowth Mindset
You are so creative.I love how you approached that project with so much patience and thought.
You are a great swimmer.It’s great how you make time for swim practice.
You’re so smart.You really studied for this test – I’m proud of you.
You’re so talented.It makes me happy to hear you practicing the violin every day.
You’re so athletic.You work so hard at soccer, and being on the team seems to make you happy.
I knew you could do it.I like the way you tried all kinds of strategies until you finally got it.
You’re such a good friend.I love the way you showed up for your friend when she really needed you.

Remember that building a child’s self-esteem and body image is not about telling them they are great – it’s about building their own perception of themselves as worthy human beings. Self-esteem and positive body image can be influenced by a parent’s unconditional love and approval, but it ultimately has to come from within the person. This is a long-term effort. Invest time and energy in learning more about self-esteem and body image and just keep working towards it.

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.


[1] Self‐esteem, eating problems, and psychological well‐being in a cohort of schoolgirls aged 15‐16: A questionnaire and interview study Eric J. Button Philippa Loan Jo Davies Edmund J. S. Sonuga‐Barke International Journal of Eating Disorders January 1997

[2] Self‐esteem, personality, and eating disorders: Baseline assessment of a prospective population‐based cohort, Pilar Gual Marta Pérez‐Gaspar Miguel Angel Martínez‐González Francisca Lahortiga Jokin de Irala‐Estévez Salvador Cervera‐Enguix, International Journal of Eating Disorders, March 2002

[3] e.g., body image; Bandura, 1986

[4] Biceps and Body Image: The Relationship Between Muscularity and Self-Esteem, Depression, and Eating Disorder Symptoms Roberto Olivardia, Harrison G. Pope Jr., John J. Borowiecki III, and Geoffrey H. Cohane Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 2004

[5] Garner, 1985; Carter, Stewart, Dunn, & Fairburn, 1997; Mann et al., 1997

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Ask Ginny: Should I tell my daughter that an outfit is not flattering?

Ask Ginny: Should I tell my daughter that an outfit is not flattering?

Dear Ginny, 

I need to be able to tell my daughter that her outfit is not flattering! My daughter is plus size. Going shopping can be a real struggle since there are a lot of things that don’t fit and just aren’t flattering. When I tell her that something isn’t flattering, she gets really angry. How can I say it in a nice way. I’d like her to avoid buying things that make her look even larger than she is.

Signed, Shopping Mama

Dear Shopping Mama,

I understand that buying clothes when we live in a larger body can be stressful. Clothing designers have done a terrible job at clothing us, and it’s hard not to feel ashamed doing something that other people seem to enjoy so much.

I hear you when you say that you want to be able to tell your daughter that an outfit is not flattering.

But I need to challenge you immediately on your belief that your child should only buy clothing that is “flattering,” which I think you mean “slimming.” Your daughter should buy clothing that fits her body, that feels good, and that she likes. Her clothing should not be chosen to minimize her body size or make her appear to be anything other than the beautiful person she is. You need to let go of the idea that she will be more beautiful if she is thinner.

Our children are living in a disordered eating ecosystem. This means that they are bombarded daily with messages about the thin ideal and see images of models who weigh less than almost any other person can without seriously disordered eating and/or an eating disorder.

When parents tell a daughter that her outfit not flattering, what they are really saying is that their child’s body is unacceptable.

Our children live in this ecosystem, and they know what they *should* look like. They know exactly what the weight loss, fashion, and beauty industries say is “beautiful.” And there is not a single chance in hell that they will ever look exactly as they are told they could/should look.

Going into any clothing store is a stressful time for most people living in a larger body. Most of us suffer from some form of body dissatisfaction if not full-on body dysmorphia.

When a child who is living in a larger body goes shopping with her mom, she is exquisitely aware of the fact that many of the clothes she sees will not fit her or, if they do, will not look “good” on her body.

You may think it’s kind to tell your daughter that an outfit not flattering. But all kids know that “not flattering” is code for “not slimming” or, if we’re really being honest, “makes you look fat.”

If we want to raise children who are truly healthy, then we need to help them feel completely accepted and loved by their parents, regardless of their body size. When we make comments about how their bodies look in clothes, even though they may come from what we believe is a good place, we draw attention to their bodies, which does not help their self-confidence.

If you go shopping with your child, and a piece of clothing doesn’t look good to you, look at your child’s face. Look into her eyes. Does she feel happy? Does she like that t-shirt? Then let her enjoy it. Ask her what she likes about it.

Does she seem insecure? Ask her what she thinks of the color, and how the fabric feels against her skin. Ask her if the clothing allows her to move the way she wants to. There’s no need to reference her body size at all.

If she asks you “do I look OK?” tell her that what matters is how she feels in her clothes. It’s OK if she rolls her eyes. Even if she pushes you, don’t fall for the culturally-prescribed bait of women asking whether they “look fat.” Fat is not a look. Fat is not a feeling. Fat is a cellular structure on our bodies. Push her to define beauty on her own terms, not anybody else’s.

Then step back, and let her make her own choices. You may see them as fashion mistakes, but you have been engaged in this fashion/beauty/diet culture, too. So just relax, and remember that your child is wonderful no matter what she wears.

Here are some of the thoughts that may go through your mind. These are ‘normal’ thoughts, but that doesn’t mean you have to believe them. There’s a rule that says that the first thought is socially-constructed. Read on for the second thought, which is where we want to try and arrive for our child’s sake.

But she could look so much better if she wears something else. 

Your child is not an ornament to be admired. She is a human being with much more important things to think about than how a t-shirt looks on her body. Parents don’t ever need to instill cultural body ideals upon their children – our culture does that all by itself. Be a safe haven in a culture that is very cruel to bodies.

But she will be teased if she wears that. 

One of the first reasons kids get teased is that they feel insecure. If a mom has suggested that a shirt is “not flattering” and a kid wears it anyway, she will get teased because she feels insecure, not because of the shirt itself. If a child knows that she is not an ornament and a t-shirt is just a freaking t-shirt, then she may get teased, but she won’t care, and the teasing won’t continue, nor will it impact her sense of self-worth.

I know a lot about fashion, and I’ve learned a lot about what flatters me. I have so much wisdom to impart! 

It’s OK if you really care about fashion and what people think about your appearance, but please don’t impose those beliefs on your child. Clothing does not make a child healthy and happy. Parental attachment and self-confidence make a child healthy and happy. If your child wants to wear a neon yellow t-shirt with a unicorn on it, and you think the color “washes her out” and you think it makes her belly look large, get over it. She is responsible for her body’s presentation, not you.

She’ll only wear it once, and then she’ll never wear it again. 

First of all, that may happen. It happens with all people of all sizes. Everyone makes clothing selections that we later decide we don’t like. It’s not different because of her body size. Secondly, look carefully at past patterns. It’s quite possible that previously when you disagreed over a piece of clothing, you gave in and purchased the item, but first made your opinion that it was “unflattering” clear. Then, when she put it on at home, you wrinkled your nose in disgust and said something like “I still don’t like it.” Hmmmm. Maybe that has something to do with why she never wore it again.

I owe it to her to tell the truth. 

First: you owe it to her to love and accept her for who she is, not for how she looks.

Next: the truth according to whom? According to the diet, fashion and beauty industries that show body types that can only be achieved by 5% of the population and, even then, require Photoshopping? Watch your bias carefully here. We have all grown up in this toxic ecosystem, but we can also do better for our children.

Don’t subject your daughter to the same narrow view about her body to which you have been subjected. There is no objective “truth” about what looks good or doesn’t look good. Self-confidence is the greatest beauty trick we can teach our children, and self-confidence doesn’t come off the rack.

Check your bias at the door and remember: your child is a person, not an ornament. Give more love, not more fashion advice.

Sending Love … Ginny

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.

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We suffer when we believe we are bodies first and people second – watch this awesome TED Talk by Dr. Lindsay Kite

body image and eating disorders ted talk with dr. lindsay kite of beauty redefined

Our children who have eating disorders need to separate their souls from their bodies. This is extremely difficult, because they are surrounded by loud messages stating that their bodies drive who they are as people. We must educate our children about the media agenda that objectifies our bodies and turns them into the single most important aspect of our selves. We must fight back. This TED Talk is an excellent place to start.


Girls and women aren’t only suffering because of the unattainable ways beauty is being defined, they’re suffering because they are being *defined by beauty.* They are bodies first and people second.

So, rather than working to sure more women’s bodies are viewed as valuable, we are working to make sure women are valued as more than bodies to view. Our work is founded on the premise that positive body image isn’t believing your body looks good; it is believing your body is good, regardless of how it looks. 

We have to learn to see more in ourselves and everyone else. Once we see more, we can be more. More than objects. More than beautiful. More than a body.

– Dr. Lindsay Kite, Co-Director of Beauty Redefined


Beauty Redefined is a nonprofit organization run by Lexie Kite, Ph.D. and Lindsay Kite, Ph.D. It is dedicated to promoting positive body image. Beauty Redefined changes the conversation about body image by telling girls and women they are MORE than beautiful. The Beauty Redefined mantra is: “Women are more than just bodies. See more. Be more.” Website

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10 facts about Instagram and body image in girls

Instagram and body image in girls

It’s fun to scroll through Instagram, but it can have a negative impact on body image in girls. Instagram is not inherently bad, but research suggests that people who use Instagram – particularly young women – need to be cautious about managing what they see on their feeds.

Curated feeds and sexy poses

The greatest danger for young women on Instagram is images of other women. These images are typically highly curated, Photoshopped or otherwise edited, and staged.

Furthermore, Instagram provides a platform that directly rewards women for posting sexy poses that focus on the body’s shape. This leads to something called “self-objectification,” a dangerous condition linked to eating disorders. We created a video showing how this works:

“Body image disturbance is one of the most common clinical features attributed to eating disorders.” (Eating Disorder Hope)

Instagram use has been directly correlated with poor body image in young women. Monitoring social media use may be very helpful in preventing and reducing the impact of eating disorders. This is why we believe it is critical for parents to talk to their daughters about the dangers of Instagram.

Parenting for positive food and body

10 facts about Instagram and body image in girls

Here are 10 facts about Instagram and its impact on young women’s body image and therefore potential for disordered eating:

1. Instagram ranked the worst app for mental health and body image, especially for young women. [1]

2. Instagram encourages young women to compare themselves against unrealistic versions of reality [2]

3. Instagram makes it easy for girls and women to feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as they ar.e [2]

4. Young women who spend more than 2 hours on Instagram and other social networking sites report poor mental health. [2]

5. As little as 30 minutes per day on Instagram can make women fixate negatively on their weight and appearance. [3]

6. The more frequently that young women look at #fitspo images, the unhappier they felt about their own bodies. [3]

7. Looking at fitness influencers and models on Instagram has a negative influence on self-esteem, which could predict eating disorders. [4]

8. Women are less satisfied with their bodies after looking at #fitspo images compared to travel images on Instagram. [4]

9. When a teenager’s post gets a lot of “likes” on Instagram, her brain responds in a similar way to seeing loved ones or winning money. [5]

10. When young women make social media comparisons, they report being more likely to start unhealthy weight-loss activities. [3]

body image for girls ebook

What parents can do to help

Parents can help reduce the impact of Instagram on girls’ body image by doing the following:


Keep an eye on how much time your child spends on Instagram. Try to keep total social media time to an hour or less per day. Your child will grumble, but it’s important to stand strong. Every half hour spent on Instagram can decrease body satisfaction.


Monitor who your child follows on Instagram. Talk about the content you see. Are women being treated as objects? Have they been airbrushed, filtered, and perfected? Are all women very thin with shapely breasts and butts? Encourage your child to follow people who don’t make her feel bad about herself.

Be especially aware of #fitspo accounts that promote weight loss methods and “healthy lifestyles.” These are often diets in disguise, and they can be very damaging. Obsession with weight and food are both symptoms of disordered eating. And eating disorders related to following social media influencers are on the rise.


Talk to your daughter about what she’s posting on social media. Is her content highly curated and heavily filtered? Is she posting photos of herself in sexy, pouty poses? Does she post photos that expose her body in ways that make you uncomfortable?

It’s OK to talk to her about what is and is not acceptable to you. You don’t need to be draconian or a sexist about this. It’s not about her “tempting pedophiles,” it’s about learning healthy boundaries in a society that objectifies women.


Pay attention to how your daughter behaves after consuming social media. Does she seem upset? Maybe she spends more time looking in the mirror. Talk to your daughter about how she feels. Let her know that a lot of people notice that they feel bad about themselves after going through their feed. This is a natural response to seeing a false world in which perfection rules.

It’s very common for people to clean out their Instagram accounts of anyone they follow who doesn’t make them feel good. If someone doesn’t make your daughter feel good about herself, they don’t belong in her feed!

This is serious parenting

Putting limits on a girl’s social media is not for the faint of heart. This is serious parenting. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself confused, tripped up, and frustrated when you’re trying to set boundaries on social media. Social media can be fun, but it needs boundaries to be safe. Stay strong!

Consider reading the book Getting to Yes for help with negotiating difficult conversations with your child.

Ginny Jones is the editor of She writes about parenting, body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders.


[1] CNN: Instagram worst social media app for young people’s mental health

[2] Royal Society for Public Health: Social media and young people’s mental health and wellbeing

[3] Macquarie University: Impact of Instagram use in young women

[4] New Media & Society journal: Instagram use and young women’s body image concerns and self-objectification

[5] UCLA Brain Mapping Center 

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Instagram hashtags to avoid when your child has anorexia

Instagram hashtags to avoid when your child has anorexia

Everybody loves Instagram, but there are some hashtags you should avoid if your child has anorexia.

Hashtags are fun ways to navigate social media channels, especially Instagram. When we search for something using a hashtag, we get to see hundreds, sometimes thousands of posts regarding that topic. It can be really fun to navigate these hashtags and find out what other people are posting. This is how Instagram custom-makes feeds based on each person’s unique preferences.

Unfortunately, Instagram hashtags may be an unhealthy method for furthering disordered thinking about bodies, health, and dieting. Sadly there are Instagram accounts dedicated to supporting anorexia. And there are accounts that teach people how to “get better” at being anorexic.

tiktok body image eating disorders

Why kids with anorexia may need to avoid Instagram

Instagram has lots of accounts that support anorexia, restrictive behaviors, and over-exercise. You may be surprised by the many hashtags that:

  • say that food restriction is healthy
  • teach people to over-exercise
  • promote having anorexia as good
  • glorify extreme thinness

There are also people who are in recovery for anorexia who use Instagram posts as a way to document their progress. But their ongoing disorder means that these posts can be disturbing.

Even if the posts aren’t directly promoting anorexia, there are literally thousands of accounts that actively promote disordered eating and exercise.

Instagram’s community guidelines and warnings for anorexia

Instagram recognizes that it has a problem. It is a perfect environment in which vulnerable populations can promote eating disorder behaviors.

A good thing is that Instagram has created community guidelines. It is attempting to curtail the dangerous promotion of eating disorders on its platform. For example, there is currently no hashtag for #proana. And if you search for #anorexia, you will be shown this warning message:

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 3.57.50 PM

This is an important step for Instagram. We applaud their work toward minimizing the dangers of social media platforms being used to promote eating disorders. But it’s not enough. Instagram is known to be harmful to mental health, and there are several lawsuits against the platform for encouraging anorexia.

Inadequate safety measures

It’s really great that Instagram puts up that warning about anorexia. But unfortunately, they leave the option to “Show posts” related to anorexia. If you click through to “Show posts,” there are thousands of images, quotes, and posts from people who are still active in their anorexia.

These posts can be deeply triggering. They can provide instructions and information about continuing and hiding anorexia. Also, since anorexia tends to have a competitive edge, it can exacerbate symptoms.

It’s not uncommon for people who have anorexia to compare their bodies. They may strive for the lowest body weight and the highest degree of danger from the disorder. This is true even when they say they want to recover. It’s confusing and conflicting. Both are true. But Instagram can make it harder to overcome the drive to be thin.

Triggers are everywhere

Instagram is full of triggers and has millions of posts promoting diet culture. The culture promotes extreme eating, weight loss, and over-exercising as moral behavior. Diet culture persists in hating body fat and promoting weight loss. As a platform, Instagram is an excellent channel to support anorexia.

Even people who are in full recovery and enjoy Instagram often find triggering and upsetting images. This happens when they go to see our search results, or if they stumble across a positive hashtag like #health. Many people in early recovery find it easiest to avoid Instagram entirely.

While your child is in eating disorder recovery, you should consider eliminating social media from their daily activities. Until your child is fully stable, Instagram may be too much. It can trigger relapse and the desire to return to disordered behaviors. Of course, this is a hard thing to ask. Other options include limiting the time you allow them to access social media and insisting on reviewing their social media activity.

tiktok body image eating disorders

Even recovery hashtags can hurt

Even seemingly “safe” hashtags such as #anarecovery and #anorexiarecovery may contain triggering posts. Avoid those, as well as #eatingdisorder, #anorexia, #bulimia, etc. It’s not that there are not good posts under those hashtags. In fact, we often post them @MoreLoveOrg. But they simply pose too many dangers to someone who is in active recovery.

The problem is that while people identify as being in recovery, they may still be using their eating disorder behaviors. They may still suffer from obsessive thoughts about food and their body.

This is why Instagram hashtags about anorexia often include photos of food and bodies. It’s not necessarily that the people want to promote the disorder. Instagram provides a window into the person’s inner struggle with anorexia. As a competitive disorder, posts like this can be hard to handle in recovery.

Save our #EDWarriors from Instagram

There are many, many wonderful and excellent Instagram accounts that are supportive of recovery. But disordered posts will encourage an eating disorder. Someone in recovery from anorexia should probably avoid Instagram unless it is carefully monitored. This is hard to do, but parents must protect kids from potentially harmful social messages.

Surprisingly dangerous hashtags on Instagram

#health #fitness #fit #fitnessaddict #fitspo #workout #bodybuilding #cardio #gym #train #training #health #healthy #instahealth #healthychoices #active #strong #motivation #instagood #determination #lifestyle #diet #getfit #cleaneating #eatclean #exercise #bodygoals #selfietime #femaleform #thefemalebody #21dayfix  #beforeandafter #beachbodycoach #shakeology #realbodies #toneitup #healthyshake #shakeologycoach #shakeology

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.

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The “news” headlines that make us sick with eating disorders

news headlines focusing on dieting, exercise and losing weight all carry misinformation that is dangerous for people who have eating disorders

These headlines are from news sources that promise to tell us the latest and greatest, research-based information about our health. For those of us who have/had eating disorders, these types of headlines are more than just clickbait – they tap into the obsessive side of ourselves that desperately wants to follow rules and be OK. Our eating disorder sees these headlines and wants to follow them. We have tied our body size to our self-worth, and we want to do what the “experts” tell us is “healthy.”

If you have a child who has an eating disorder, please open regular conversations about how headlines like this can trigger our disorders. Help us work through the painful act of rebelling against the words that tell us how to be healthy by restricting food, dieting, and over-exercising. Help us maintain recovery by reminding us that true health is accomplished only when we accept our bodies and don’t live in fear of food and fat.

Here are some key triggers for those of us who have/had eating disorders when we see headlines like this:

Headlines that suggest we should “eat less” or “exercise more.”

The assumption in these headlines is that we need to lose weight. Even if the headline doesn’t explicitly state weight loss as the goal, we all know that the reason why we want to “trick” ourselves into eating fewer calories or “motivate” ourselves to exercise more is to lose weight. This assumption is deeply triggering to someone who has an eating disorder.

In recovery, we work hard to realize that our bodies are fine just as they are and that we don’t need to control them, starve them, or purge them of food. Additionally, simply eating less and exercising more is not a recipe for losing weight long-term. Diets based on this recipe fail 95% of the time and actually result in weight gain. That’s a tremendous failure rate, and yet headlines continue to promote diets as if they are scientifically valid.

Headlines that suggest weight is linked to being “good” or “bad.”

Any suggestion that restricting food or exercising makes us ‘good’ can lead those of us who have eating disorders to feel intense shame and guilt. In our recovery, we need to learn inherent worthiness decouples from our weight, food intake or exercise patterns. Yet everywhere we go, we read about “cheat days,” and how to trick our bodies into either eating less or exercising more. These messages can upset our recovery chances and put us back on the road to our eating disorder.

Before and after images showing someone who has a larger belly and then a tighter belly.

This is the oldest diet marketing trick in the book. The image of someone’s belly looking distended and then tight, as magically influenced by a restriction-based diet and/or over-exercising induces a visceral response for most of us. Most of us feel disgusted by the ‘before’ and deeply desire the ‘after.’ Before and after images tell us that Fat is gross and controllable. This is deeply triggering for people who have eating disorders and have associated small body size with being worthy and “good.” These images are fatphobic and set unrealistic expectations for what a diet can accomplish.

Headlines that suggest a direct link between health and a specific food.

Nutrition science is limited to correlation. We simply cannot run human studies to determine whether there is causation between food, weight, and health. But media outlets love it when nutrition scientists find even a statistically insignificant correlative link between a particular food and a particular health outcome. Scientists frequently speak out against how their research has been presented in the media, but the media still persists in presenting statistically insignificant correlative data as fact.

Headlines that suggest there is a link between exercise and weight.

It has been proven that exercise, while it has many benefits, does not lead to weight loss. In fact, for many people, exercise increases appetite and therefore weight gain. But exercise-driven headlines are very popular. Over-exercising is a frequent precursor to eating disorders and often accompanies food-based restriction, binging and purging.

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.

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Mothers and daughters and body image

mothers have dreams for their daughters that may support eating disorder development

When Julia’s baby girl was handed to her, it began. “Is she perfect?” Julia asks. Of course, of course, she tells herself.

She checks each of her fingers and toes, strokes her head, and hopes for a future in which she will be happy and … well, to be honest, she hopes she will be thin. Because life is just easier for girls who are thin, she thinks. Because I want what’s best for her (and what’s best is to be thin), she thinks.

Thus begins a story of mothers, daughters, and body image.

At the playground, Julia watches her daughter and compares her body to the other children. She assesses: is she fatter than the others? Thinner?

Julia carefully observes all of the body types on the playground. Some are fatter, and some are thinner. Some are tall, and some are short. Is her daughter going to be “normal?” she wonders. Because normal is good. Normal is thin. And Julia wants what’s best for her baby girl.

All the right things

Julia makes sure to watch what her daughter eats. She’s careful about feeding her lots of fruits and vegetables. She prepares healthy whole foods and feels good about limiting sugar and snacks. When the doctor asks what she’s feeding her daughter, Julia feels proud and successful. She’s doing this right.

As she enters puberty, her daughter’s hips and thighs and belly and breasts get pudgy. Julia panics and worries, “is she going to get fat? That would be terrible! I need to help her avoid weight gain! It’s for her health! It’s for her future!”

Her daughter’s body grows and changes. Julia is very uncomfortable because now she sees a woman emerging. If she is not a thin woman, Julia believes she will suffer. She thinks that being thin is what we all want for our daughters, right?

Mothers and daughters typically have a shared body image. How Julia feels about her own body affects how she feels about her daughter’s body.

But something is wrong

Julia is not mean or bad. She hopes that her daughter has a socially acceptable body so she can avoid being teased, bullied, and discriminated against. She wants her to look great in photos and swimsuits. Julia hopes that when her daughter goes to the doctor, she’ll be told she’s healthy and well.

But Julia’s daughter is not healthy and well. Something’s wrong. Her mother’s careful attention to her body has interacted with a society that is cruel and dominating towards women’s bodies. She grew up in classrooms that taught some foods are good, and others are bad.

Julia’s daughter was weighed at school with her classmates and learned that weight is very, very important. She watched shows and movies where the heroines were thin, and the bad guys were fat. TikTok tells her that tiny waists and bare, tight midriffs are best.

In middle school, her friends start dieting, so she does too. Julia thinks it’s good that her daughter is taking responsibility for her health and making healthy choices.

At an early age, Julia’s daughter recognized the tremendous societal pressure to be thin. She internalized those beliefs. Now she believes that she is only worthy and can only be successful if she is thin.

An eating disorder

Julia’s daughter develops an eating disorder. Eating disorders are based on many factors. But it’s impossible to ignore the role of a very messed up social environment that tells females that to be successful, loved, and “good,” they must maintain small bodies.

It is impossible to ignore the relationship between mothers and daughters and body image. But eating disorders are not a mother’s fault. They are not a daughter’s fault.

Julia’s daughter’s eating disorder is not her fault. Her concern for her daughter’s weight makes perfect sense in our society. She has been doing the very best she could based on all the best information about how to raise a healthy child. But her well-meaning beliefs about fat and control interacted with our toxic culture, and now her daughter needs help.

A legacy of control

Julia grew up in the same sick environment as her daughter. And, of course, she couldn’t help but believe that raising a thin daughter is best. Being thin makes life easier. Being thin means her daughter will fall in love with someone wonderful. It means having an amazing career. if her daughter’s body is thin, it will never hold her back from living the life Julia dreams of for her.

And Julia has spent her life worrying about her own body. She doesn’t know another way. Julia sensed her own mother’s fear that she would be fat.

She spent her life watching her mother and every other woman she knew to watch her weight to fit the body ideal. Julia used Kate Moss, Monica Geller, and Ally McBeal for inspiration. She drank Slim-Fast and Diet Coke and did workout videos with Suzanne Sommers. Julia knows that to be successful and loved and worthy in this world means she must be thin.

Time to change

But now Julia sees now that it’s time to stop this madness. It’s time to realize that her daughter (and she herself) is worthy at any weight. That society’s messages about women, weight, and health are seriously messed up.

The problem is not Julia’s body or her daughter’s body; it is a society that tells women that they must stay tiny to be loved. It is a society that keeps half the population starving while simultaneously keeping us down, underpaid, and undervalued.

“No more!” says Julia.

Julia and her daughter decide that rather than try to control their bodies, they will accept themselves and each other. Rather than accept that their bodies need to be controlled and dominated and tiny, they’re going to love themselves and their bodies, no matter what they weigh or look like. Because they are more than bodies, and it’s time to start claiming their birthright and behaving like that’s true!

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.

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Talk to kids about the danger of advertising and how unrealistic images can impact self-esteem

Talk to kids about the danger of advertising and how unrealistic images can impact self-esteem

Advertising is a danger to kids’ self-esteem and body image. And since advertising is everywhere, this impact is deep-reaching and serious. When we were kids advertisements were on TV, billboards, magazines, and buses. But today we also get served advertisements on social media. And since teens spend an average of eight hours and 39 minutes per week, that’s serious.

Self-objectification and advertising

Self-objectification is the practice of comparing yourself to other people and, importantly, media and advertising images of people. Self-objectifying behavior looks like comparing your own body to those of your friends, strangers, family members, and, of course, models, actors, and social media influencers. It’s basing how you feel about yourself on whether someone else is better or worse than you due to their physical appearance.

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Our children (and we) are bombarded with unrealistic and dangerous advertisements everywhere we go.

We can’t protect our children from these images and messages. But we can speak up and let them know how dangerous these images and concepts are. Objectifying images are dangerous to everyone. Unrealistic advertising hurts our kids, and it hurts us. It is not benign.

Nobody admits they are impacted by advertising. But in fact, we are all susceptible to its subconscious power to influence what we think is “normal” and beautiful. This leads to unrealistic expectations for ourselves and our children.

This app is advertised on Instagram as a way to make this beautiful teen’s face unrecognizable.

Self-objectification and eating disorders

Almost all eating disorders are based on the desire to be thinner. Thus, most people who have eating disorders are engaging in self-objectification. Self-objectification is defined as looking at yourself as an object as if you are a third-party observer. When self-objectifying, most people are judging themselves as worthy or unworthy based on their physical appearance. This is particularly pervasive in girls and women due to the sexual objectification perpetuated in the media and advertising.

Fredrickson and Roberts identified self-objectification as “the first psychological consequence to emerge among girls and women as a result of living in a sexually objectifying cultural milieu.” Rather than valuing themselves based on how they feel or what they can do, someone who self-objectifies judges themselves based on how they appear to themselves as a third-party observer.

“An objectified body is a malleable, measureable, and controllable body. By viewing and treating themselves as sexual objects, it is argued that girls and women act as their own first surveyors in anticipation of being evaluated by others. Thus, the body becomes the site of reparative action and vigilant monitoring to manage the sexual objectification. When girls and women view themselves through this self-objectified lens, they take a peculiar stance on their own bodies that is fundamentally disruptive to the self–body relationship.”

Encyclopedia of Body Image and Human Appearance, Volume 2

Eating disorders are usually an attempt to control the body and make it appear more socially acceptable. When kids get stuck in eating disorder thoughts, we must consider how advertising has impacted them and whether self-objectification is a contributor to their eating disorder.

Talk about advertising

No matter how smart you are, and no matter how smart you think your children are, don’t be silent when it comes to advertising images and messages. Make sure you speak up every single time you see something that suggests impossible beauty standards or Photoshops away individual character.

Talk to your kids about how Photoshop has completely overtaken media, and that nobody can possibly look as good as the models do. Even “real people” on social media use apps to adjust themselves. They whiten their skin, remove “extra fat,” and slenderize themselves beyond recognition.

Our children deserve to feel good about themselves regardless of the size of their waist or color of their skin. They deserve to be more than a Photoshopped rendition of themselves.

Here’s a great TED Talk by Jean Kilbourne about the dangers of advertising and how it impacts us as a society.

How to respond to the danger of advertising on kids’ self-esteem

Parents must respond to the danger of advertising on kids’ self-esteem often. It’s not enough to have this conversation once or even twice. Given the huge quantity of media they are consuming on their phones, our kids need a lot of guidance on this topic. Here are seven things parents need to talk about to counteract the danger of advertising on kids’ self-esteem:

  1. Establish a firm household policy of body respect
  2. Don’t allow body bashing
  3. Don’t allow dieting or intentional weight-loss efforts
  4. Point out that most media images are “fake news.” Those people don’t really look like that – they are using filters, poses, lighting, makeup, and other techniques to look like that
  5. Talk about sexual objectification and how bodies are used to sell products and make money for corporations
  6. Discuss the extreme measures actors and models go to in order to look like that, including starving, steroids, and over-exercise
  7. Educate about the power of images and the impact of images on our brains. We must actively counteract the powerful media images in order to have a healthy body image

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.

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What to say to your children about Lady Gaga’s belly roll and fat shaming


Lady Gaga gave a killer performance at Super Bowl 2017. She jumped off the top of the stadium, played piano, and danced athletically the whole time. She must have spent hundreds of intense training hours preparing for the halftime show. But when she made her final costume change and exposed a tiny belly roll, the haters jumped in to attack her for being fat.

Lady Gaga could have eliminated that belly fat if she really wanted to, but she would have had to literally starve it away. She, like most women, has belly fat. All the hours she spends training for shows like this make her body strong and athletic, but only starving herself will eliminate that cute little belly roll.

Lady Gaga has been open about her struggles with eating disorders, including bulimia, which tends to be less acceptable for public consumption than anorexia. She says she has battled eating disorders and depression since her teens, and her body has been heavily criticized in the media, but she has consistenly fought back. In this case, not starving away that belly roll was a public f-you to body shamers, and a very positive move forward for feminism and body positivity.

How did you and your family react when you saw Lady Gaga’s belly roll? Did you raise your eyebrows in shock? Did people in the room say things like these ignorant Twitter posters?

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Were your children around when people said mean things like this? If so, please consider the following facts about women’s bodies:

  1. Belly fat is a natural part of a woman’s body – it is linked to our very purpose in life: to generate life.
  2. No matter how healthy a woman’s diet, and no matter how many crunches she does, most women cannot eliminate a belly roll without extreme food restriction.
  3. Lady Gaga has to be in excellent physical health to perform a show like that. Her belly roll is part of a strong, healthy body, not a sign of obesity.
  4. Even a woman who uses her body as part of her career, and who shows her bare belly on national television, deserves respect.
  5. No woman deserves to be called fat, no matter what size she is.

Whatever your feelings on Lady Gaga’s music or the woman herself (Stefani Germanotta), consider taking this opportunity to talk to your children about women’s bodies.

TX: Super Bowl LI - Lady Gaga Pepsi Zero Sugar Halftime Show

Ginny Jones is on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from eating disorders. She’s the founder of and a Parent Coach who helps parents navigate eating disorder recovery.

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5 ways to create positive body & food vibes at home, by Jennifer Kreatsoulas

“I want more cake!”

Ten minutes later…

“Can we have more cake tonight?”

These were the very first words out my 3- and 5-year old daughters’ mouths the morning after my birthday. It was 7 AM and their taste buds were already gearing up for chocolate cake with chocolate icing. “Let’s focus on breakfast first” was the best answer I could come up with!

As a parent in recovery from anorexia, conversations with my daughters like this one always leave me feeling a little unsettled. I question if my words and body language came from my heart versus my old “ED head” beliefs. Did I pass judgement on their hunger or the food they want to eat? Did I suggest that a food is “bad” or send the message that their pure passion and enjoyment for eating most foods is wrong or something they need to control, temper, ignore even?

Although my journeys of parenthood and recovery have at times run parallel to one another, they have also intersected and influenced one another in significant ways. I may question my “food parenting moments,” but at the root of my concern is my vigilant and diligent efforts to model healthy and uncomplicated relationships with and perspectives about nourishing our bodies.

My husband and I are equally dedicated to creating positive food and body vibes at home so that our girls have the most solid foundation possible from which to develop healthy relationships with food and their bodies. To help guide positive conversations with our girls, cultivate their self-confidence, respect their hunger cues, and teach them about healthy and balanced nutrition, my husband and I follow these five rules:

1. Don’t punish or reward with food

When you are at your wits end or tired from a long day, it’s so easy and tempting to use food as a motivator: “Stop whining and I will give you a cookie” or “No dessert tonight if you don’t clean up your toys.” But this is risky business, because then behavior becomes linked with food, and usually it’s a dessert or snack food. These associations of praise or punishment with food can follow a child through life and lead to disordered eating and thoughts related to those types of foods. Additionally, if food is held as a punishment or a reward, then food becomes about something other than the basic need of nourishment, which can lead to serious problems, including anxiety, low self-esteem, body image, and eating disorders.

2. All food is neutral

We live in a society that labels food groups as indulgences, fattening, and bad. Obviously, I could elaborate on this list. More important, however, is the message that food—all food—is neutral. It is the charge, labels, and beliefs that we pass on about food that endows it with such power. By calling some foods good and other foods bad, we teach children to be suspicious of food and, by extension, their cravings and appetite. If we teach that food is just food, that it is neutral, that it feeds our bodies and brains and gives us energy, we send a more positive message about food in general. As parents, we have the responsibility to model and teach about portions rather than demonize and/or forbid food groups.

3. Trust that the body knows

Our society also likes to have a say in when we should and shouldn’t be hungry. While children are young and not yet exposed to diet culture and headlines about curbing hunger, we have the privilege of encouraging connection with hunger and fullness cues. By encouraging children to check in with their bellies (ie, hunger and fullness), we teach them to respect their bodies’ needs. If we challenge the legitimacy of their hunger or fullness, we not only risk mucking with their bodies’ digestive system, but also teach them to question, doubt, or negate their own hunger and fullness. In the same way food is neutral, so is hunger and fullness. We serve our children best by not layering hunger and fullness with emotion or debate.

 4. Don’t comment on body parts or shape

Because of my eating disorder, my family and friends have the advantage of knowing to never comment on my body. That rule carries over to our girls’ bodies as well. And we teach our girls to not comment on others’ bodies. Most children begin with a carefree feeling about their bodies; they move without worry. They don’t see separate body parts or feel limited by the shape of their bodies. Instead, they live to the fullest in the moment. We serve our children best by praising them for all things big and small. If we build up their inner resilience, they are more likely to withstand the pressures they will face about their bodies as they grow up.

5. Don’t question each other’s preferences

We work very hard to not second guess our daughters when they express a desire or need. Whether it’s food, what they want to wear, the TV show they want to watch, or the color crayon they ask for, it is imperative to hear that request and not challenge it with questions like: Are you sure? What about this one? Don’t you want this instead? Do you want that or do you want X instead? When we question our children’s preferences, we send the message that we don’t trust their decisions or judgement. In turn, they may become less confident in their ability to connect with and articulate their needs. They may also become hypersensitive to pleasing the parent rather than fulfilling their own desires.

These rules have been extremely helpful in making sure me and my husband are on the same page when it comes to teaching and modeling positive food and body messages at home. For sure, raising children is a work in progress, and I imagine we will add a few more rules to this list, especially as we approach the teenage years! I’d love to hear how you and your family creates healthy food and body vibes in your household. Please feel free to email me with your suggestions and share about your experiences. I’d love to hear from you!


Jennifer Kreatsoulas, PhD, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist specializing in eating disorders and body image. In recovery herself, Jennifer is extremely passionate about helping others reconnect with their bodies and be empowered in their lives. Jennifer works with clients in person and via Skype. She also teaches yoga at the Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Philadelphia and is a partner with the Yoga and Body Image Coalition. She leads trauma-sensitive yoga classes and teaches weekly flow yoga classes. Jennifer contributes regularly to eating disorder and body image blogs and the YogaLiving Magazine. Website