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Depression and your child’s eating disorder

Depression and your child's eating disorder

Your child’s eating disorder and depression are likely linked. Depression is both a risk factor and maintaining factor of an eating disorder. This is important, because both eating disorders and depression are common and increasing among all populations, particularly children and teens.

As with anxiety, your child’s treatment for depression first and foremost needs to focus on eating regular meals containing enough nutrition. If your child is weight suppressed, restricting, purging, and/or skipping meals, then the lack of nourishing food is likely contributing to and maintaining their depression symptoms. Even with treatment, it is unlikely that your child’s depression will decrease if they lack nutrition.

Additionally, depressive symptoms are strongly associated with both stress and a lack of sleep. Evaluate your child’s lifestyle right now and determine whether you need to take things off their plate to reduce stress and ensure they are able to get the hours of sleep recommended for their age. Few people get enough sleep, but impaired sleep is both a risk factor and a symptom of depression, and it must be addressed for any other attempts to treat depression to work.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

Psychological symptoms of depression

Depression is both physical and psychological. Most people are familiar with and look for the psychological symptoms of depression, which include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide

Physical symptoms of depression

Parents should be aware that physical symptoms of depression are common. In fact, physical symptoms may be your child’s only symptoms of depression. There is a strong link between increased sensations of pain and depression based on a shared neurologic pathway. Physical symptoms of depression include: 

  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Limb pain
  • Back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements

Importantly, other physical symptoms of depression include gastrointestinal distress (stomachaches, nausea, etc.) and a change in appetite (either high or low), which makes it a major risk factor and maintaining factor for eating disorders.

Depression affects the way your child perceives food. Some kids with depression find that food looks and tastes “gray” and dull. This can exacerbate restrictive eating issues. Other kids will seek comfort and solace in food when they are depressed. It may be the one way they can “feel” something, which may lead to increased binge eating. In other words, your child’s depression is very likely interacting with their eating disorder behaviors.

What causes depression?

Many different factors cause depression. Like eating disorders, depression is a biopsychosocial disorder that combines biological, psychological and social risk factors, including:

Biological risk factors: Reduced production of the neurotransmitters in the brain including serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, gamma – aminobutyric acid (GABA), cerebral nerve growth factor and more.

Psychological risk factors: Other mental disorders including anxiety, eating disorders, and depression (people who have one depressive episode are more likely to have another). Low self-esteem, emotional repression, cognitive distortions, a lack of emotional regulation, and low self-efficacy or agency.

Social risk factors: Adverse childhood events, childhood trauma, early adversity including food insecurity, stress, parental depression and substance use, non-supportive school or family environments, and social forces of oppression like sexism, racism, weight stigma, etc.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

How depression works

Like anxiety, depression occurs along a spectrum. Most people feel sadness and even despair regularly – even daily. Sadness is a natural human emotion that is ideally noticed and processed when it arises. However, if a person avoids feelings of sadness and represses their experiences of sadness, leaving those feelings unprocessed, they may experience a depressive episode.

“I often think of depression as “stuck sadness.” In fact, when clients come in for therapy and tell me that they are depressed, my first thought is, “What is the sadness they are not allowing themselves to experience?”

Elaine Carney Gibson / Your Family Revealed

In a depressive episode, clinically called “major depression,” a person has persistent symptoms for at least two weeks. However, if the episode extends to two years, it is called persistent depressive disorder. Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in people who die by suicide, making it an important condition to treat, especially when combined with an eating disorder.  

Treating depression and your child’s eating disorder

If your child is in a depressive episode, they should receive therapy to treat it. The most common treatment for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Another evidence-based treatment for depression is interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), which focuses on improving interpersonal functioning.

I have seen success in treating depression with Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy as well as somatic therapies. Your child’s doctor may recommend psychiatric medications. These medications are short-term interventions and should be used in conjunction with psychotherapy and emotional development. If your child does not learn emotional processing skills they remain at risk for future depressive episodes.

Keep in mind that feeling sad sometimes – even every day – is not the same as being depressed. Sad is a core human emotion and is both normal and natural. Support your child in feeling their feelings and emotions during eating disorder recovery. Most feelings, even the hard ones like anger, jealousy, and sadness, pass in about 30-90 seconds. The danger is not feeling sadness, but rather repressing or getting lost in it. If your child’s sadness is persistent and feels hopeless for two weeks, seek professional support for depression. 

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

See Our Parent’s Guide To Mental Health And Eating Disorders

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Anxiety and your child’s eating disorder

Anxiety and your child's eating disorder

Anxiety disorders, which very often show up with an eating disorder, are both the most common and the most treatable mental disorders. And parents who have been trained in how to respond to kids’ anxiety are the most powerful treatment providers.

The biggest barrier to recovering from an anxiety disorder is the belief that “being anxious” is a personality type rather than a pattern that can be changed. When we have a child with an anxiety disorder and we say “oh, that’s just how they are,” we miss an important opportunity to help them learn the skills that will free them from the tyranny of an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety is a common underlying and co-occurring factor in eating disorders. And like eating disorders, anxiety is on the rise. Almost 12% of kids had anxiety in 2012, up 20% from 2007. In 2020, those numbers nearly doubled, with reports showing that more than 20% of kids struggle with anxiety symptoms.

The good news is that there are things that parents can do to reduce kids’ anxiety, and this work will benefit eating disorder recovery. The more parents understand and respond to anxiety strategically, the better their chances of success.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feedback loop between the body and mind.  All animals have anxiety because it’s essential to survival. However, our modern lifestyles bear almost no resemblance to the environments in which our brains evolved. Today our most common threats are not to our bodies (predators, enemies, and natural disasters), but our emotional safety (attachment and self-worth). Instead of protecting us from physical danger and death, as they were designed to do, today our anxiety system reacts to non-deadly threats to emotional safety.

Our incredible minds are what makes us susceptible to anxiety disorders, and they are also the solution to anxiety disorders. Here’s how anxiety works:

1. Body-based anxiety

Anxiety is an emotion we feel in our bodies. It comes from the nervous system and is a body-based alert to perceived danger from things we see, smell, taste, touch, or hear, the sensation of our internal organs, and even other people’s emotional states.

When alerted to danger, our nervous system automatically sends an alert to the thinking mind. Think of it as a smoke alarm. There may be smoke, there may be fire, or the smoke alarm may be over-reacting. Regardless, the smoke alarm makes a noise to get the mind to pay attention to the risk and take action.

Something to consider is that a major reason for a smoke alarm to overreact is hunger. A hungry brain is an anxious brain. If your child is weight-suppressed, restricting, purging, and/or eating chaotically, this needs to be addressed immediately in order for anxiety symptoms to reduce. If you need help getting your child weight-restored, consider increasing their level of care. Weight gain and consistent eating should be a priority, since weight suppression and chaotic eating will interfere with all other treatment approaches. 

2. Mind-based anxiety

When the smoke alarm is triggered, the mind responds. This is a healthy response to feeling anxious. After all, if there’s fire, you need your mind to kick into action fast. If you are in physical danger, you need your mind to respond and tell your legs to run. But if there’s not actually a fire, the body and mind can get stuck in a loop of anxiety, ramping each other up. Here’s what this looks like:

Body: I sense danger!

Mind: We’re in danger!

Body: We’re in serious danger!

Mind: We’re going to die!

Body: Run!

But since we’re almost never in true physical danger, this is an over-reactive pattern. Here’s a more mindful response:

Body: I sense danger!

Mind: OK – let me look around and see if we’re in danger

Body: I feel nervous

Mind: Makes sense, but we’re actually safe. Thanks for the warning though!

Body: OK

Our bodies are going to alert us to danger because that’s what they are designed to do. Recovering from an anxiety disorder means learning to use the power of our minds to evaluate the risk rather than overreact to the body’s alarm system. Over time, our body’s alarm system learns that it doesn’t have to be quite so reactive, and our anxiety reduces though it never disappears because that would be dangerous. Anxiety is a feature, not a flaw. We just need to learn to work with it.

Luckily, there is a lot parents can do to reduce kids’ anxiety. Studies show that parents have a tremendous impact on kids’ anxiety. And the good news is that parents can learn to reliably reduce their kids’ anxiety by acknowledging it and helping kids mindfully engage with anxiety rather than automatically reacting to it. You can help your child interrupt the anxious body-mind loop and teach them to step back and recognize false alarms. With practice, the smoke alarm gets less alarming and life gets a lot easier.

What doesn’t work

There are a lot of things that parents do when anxiety shows up that are well-meaning and automatic but simply don’t work. If they worked, they would decrease anxiety, stress, and worry over time, but that’s not usually the case. They include:

  • Reassuring, rescuing & overprotecting
  • Providing certainty and making promises
  • Identifying your child’s anxiety disorder as a personality trait rather than a treatable condition
  • Allowing behavior like yelling, swearing, tantrums, hitting, refusing to eat, over-exercising, and purging because it’s driven by anxiety 
  • Responding to your child’s anxiety with your anxiety 
  • Pushing too hard to shut anxiety down, becoming angry, explosive, and punishing 

Unfortunately, most of the time, when we respond in these ways, our kids’ anxiety gets bigger (not smaller) over time.

An example of anxiety in an eating disorder

Anxiety feels terrible. There’s no fire, but the body and mind are activated. They want to take action. The want to DO SOMETHING! There are two ways people with anxiety disorders try to calm their anxiety. First, they seek certainty, and second, they seek reassurance

Seeking certainty typically looks like trying to control what’s happening or what could happen. For example, your child may feel anxious in fast food restaurants so they refuse to go into fast food restaurants. It seems like if they follow this rule, they will not feel anxious. But it doesn’t work. Soon it becomes all restaurants, then parties, then family meals. Their anxiety keeps expanding despite their best efforts to control it.

Seeking reassurance looks like getting people around you to tell you things are OK. For example, your child may complain about their body. You respond by engaging in long, fruitless conversations about their body, but it doesn’t make the anxiety go away. In fact, the more you debate, the worse it gets.

The key with anxiety is that the more your child tries to control things and seek certainty, the more anxious they will become. This is why anxiety and eating disorders typically worsen over time if this anxious pattern isn’t interrupted. 

An unintended impact

Well-meaning parents don’t want their kids to be anxious. Of course we don’t! Anxiety is terrible! But when we accommodate anxiety’s demands for certainty and control, we accidentally make it more likely the anxiety and eating disorder behaviors will get stronger over time. 

Parental accommodation looks like this: if the child is seeking certainty by not eating carbs, parents allow them not to eat carbs. If the child seeks reassurance by body-bashing themselves, parents engage in long, drawn-out conversations about how beautiful their child’s body is. 

Again, if these responses worked and made the anxiety and eating disorder better, that would be great. But typically, we see an increase in symptoms when we accommodate anxiety-driven eating disorder behaviors.

How parents can respond to anxiety differently

To help kids recover from their eating disorders, parents can respond to anxiety differently and ensure they aren’t accommodating certainty- and reassurance-seeking. Instead, try this:

  1. Expect anxiety to show up. Stop being surprised by each new occurrence of anxiety. Look for anxiety, especially when your child is eating or thinking about their body.
  2. Manage your emotions first. If you are anxious, your child’s anxiety is likely to get worse. Learn how to recognize your anxiety and respond to it with self-compassion.
  3. Validate your child’s feelings of anxiety. Don’t ignore anxiety or jump into action with certainty and reassurance. Acknowledge that they are having feelings like worry, stress, and anxiety.
  4. Support your child in doing and thinking things that make them feel anxious. Don’t accommodate them and help them avoid doing or feeling the things that make them feel anxious. 

My favorite phrase when validating and supporting a child through anxiety is: I get it – this is hard, but you can handle it.

Anxiety disorders are both the most common and the most treatable mental disorders. Anxiety disorders do not need to be a life sentence. Changing your natural, loving, and understandable accommodation patterns when your child is anxious is really hard. But it can also transform recovery and support your child in feeling much better. If you’d like to learn precisely how to stop parental accommodation, check out Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE). Also, you can see our guide to psychology and eating disorders.

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

See Our Parent’s Guide To Mental Health And Eating Disorders

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Almond moms and eating disorders

Almond moms and eating disorders

The recent TikTok trend of calling out mothers for being “almond moms” brings up the obvious question: are almond moms related to eating disorders? The answer is nuanced.

The almond mom trend blew up on TikTok in late 2022. It’s primarily driven by teens and young women posting videos that mock their moms for diet behavior like undereating and overexercising. These posts parody the mothers as being stuck in diet culture and eating disorder behavior. The mothers are presented as being rigid and ridiculous in their own weight control behavior. They also blame these mothers for inflicting diet culture on their daughters, even causing disordered eating and eating disorders. 

Body Image Printable Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to feel calmer and more confident in their body!

  • Boost confidence
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase media literacy

Almond moms are parodied saying things like:

  • “Are you sure you’re still hungry, or are you just bored?”
  • “I’m starving … I’ll just eat a few almonds, and that’s plenty.”
  • “Sugar is the devil.”
  • “A moment on your lips, a lifetime on your hips.”
  • “I want you to eat healthy, so no junk food.”
  • “No chips for you – have a couple of almonds instead.”

Is an almond mom helpful or harmful?

In the TikTok videos, an almond mom is presented as being silly, harmful, and sometimes traumatic. Almond moms are shown using classic diet behavior that were actively taught to girls and women in the 1990s, like cutting food into tiny bites, ignoring cravings, substituting desired food for less-palatable low-calorie food, ignoring hunger cues, counting calories/points, and believing that being in a small body is essential.

In the parodies these moms are passing these diet culture beliefs onto their kids. They teach their kids diet behaviors and restrict the food available in the home (e.g. no junk food). Almond moms also critique their kids’ hunger and appetite.  

Can almond mom behaviors be linked to kids’ eating disorders?

Diet culture is a known contributor to eating disorders. Therefore, perpetuating and modeling diet culture at home can be linked to eating disorders. We know that how a family talks about eating, exercise and weight impacts how kids feel about them. 

As biopsychosocial disorders, eating disorders are highly responsive to the home culture. So yes, almond moms may be linked to eating disorders, but it’s not a simple cause and effect. Eating disorders affect about 10% of the population. But I estimate that almond parent (diet) behavior is present in at least 80% of American households. 

Not everyone with an “almond mom” will develop an eating disorder. And, of course, people who don’t have an “almond mom” may develop an eating disorder. In other words, having an almond mom may be a risk factor for an eating disorder, but it’s not the sole cause.

Do almond moms have eating disorders?

Many almond moms may be women with disordered eating and/or an unrecognized/undertreated eating disorder. Remember, moms today were raised in a highly body-toxic environment that actively taught girls and women to adopt diet culture. Women are both the primary target of the ~$80 billion diet industry and are mocked and vilified when they follow its rules. Ouch. 

Surveys have identified disordered eating behaviors among at least three out of four American women. In 2013–2016, 49.1% of U.S. adults tried to lose weight in the last 12 months. All weight loss efforts utilize eating disorder behaviors, and intentional weight loss is a significant risk factor for developing an eating disorder. 

Many adult women have active eating disorders that have never been identified or treated because they follow what the diet industry calls a “healthy lifestyle.” It is effortless for eating disorders to fly under the radar in our body-toxic diet culture.

It is impossible to diagnose strangers on the Internet, but I think we can have compassion for women being called almond moms because they may be living with some form of disordered eating, if not full eating disorders.

My opinion on the almond mom trend

I think the almond mom trend exposes a dangerous thing that we know is common in homes. It’s a conversation we must have. However, I don’t think publicly shaming women is a helpful way to resolve the pernicious nature of diet culture.

The truth is that when parents (including dads!) are stuck in disordered eating and diet culture, they can’t help but model that for their kids. Even parents who say they are focused on health, not weight, show their kids that weight is a huge deal by controlling their own body size with disordered eating and exercise patterns.

The fact is that when parents are stuck in diet culture, their kids are at higher risk of eating disorders. So I think we need to have more conversations about how parents’ attitudes towards food and weight issues need to change. 

At the same time, I’ve seen some really upsetting TikTok videos in which “almond moms” are filmed without their knowledge and mocked for their disordered behaviors while eating. I’m absolutely not a fan of public shaming or invasions of privacy, especially when it comes to something as personal and fraught as a woman eating. 

If you’re an almond mom

If you think you might be an almond mom, thank you for being vulnerable to notice that! It’s hard to look at ourselves in a negative light. If you have been accused of being an almond mom, I’m sorry. It’s not nice to be called names. 

Either way, being an almond mom is a call to action. I invite you to explore your beliefs and behaviors about eating, exercise, and weight. Diet culture is virtually invisible when we’re stuck inside its tangled web. I know – I’ve been there! But it’s essential that you do the work to uncover diet culture beliefs and heal from your harmful behaviors, for your kids’ sake and your own.

Here are some steps to get started:

  1. Learn about diet culture and a non-diet approach to health
  2. Talk to a non-diet dietitian, therapist, or coach for expert feedback and advice
  3. Ask yourself how your beliefs about your weight have shaped your health behaviors
  4. Consider the impact of your weight-control behaviors on your child(ren)
  5. Heal your relationship with eating, exercise, and weight so you can pursue a healthy lifestyle without weight control
  6. Talk to your child about what you’re learning and apologize for past behavior if necessary
  7. Don’t stop exploring! Diet culture is deeply ingrained. Keep working to counteract weight stigma and weight control beliefs and behaviors.

While I don’t like the method, I think the almond mom trend on TikTok has a lot to teach parents everywhere. Our kids are watching us all the time, and they are affected by our beliefs about weight, eating, and exercise. If you think you might have an eating disorder, please reach out for help and support. You deserve 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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

See Our Parent’s Guide To Diet Culture And Eating Disorders

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How to fight weight stigma for your “big kid”

How to parent a “big kid” and counteract weight stigma

If your child is considered a “big kid,” they will very likely be subject to harmful weight stigma.

A big kid may spend their life feeling objectified and criticized for merely existing in their body. Your child may be called names like “fat” and told they need to “watch” their weight. This is psychologically painful, but it also has serious physical consequences that have nothing to do with the weight itself, but rather our society’s vast and deeply embedded weight stigma

How you parent your big kid can make a huge difference in their lifelong health. All parents should learn about weight stigma, but it is especially important for parents who have kids who are at the higher end of the weight spectrum. 

Body Image Printable Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to feel calmer and more confident in their body!

  • Boost confidence
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase media literacy

What is weight stigma?

Put simply, weight stigma is the belief that people in larger bodies are bad, and people in small bodies are good. The most common emotion associated with weight stigma is disgust. The greatest challenge with weight stigma is that it is largely unconscious. This means that many people who would never openly criticize someone for being larger still feel disgust when looking at a larger body.

“People can’t change the color of their skin, but there’s this perception that people can diet their way out of obesity—that if somebody has a larger body, it’s 100% their fault.”

Janet Tomiyama

Like other forms of discrimination, weight stigma is based on false beliefs that are both conscious and unconscious. Despite being incorrect, these beliefs are overtly and subtly perpetuated at every level of our society. Like racism, ableism, and homophobia, weight stigma is wrong on every level. However, it is barely recognized as a form of discrimination and is legal in almost all states.  

  • More than 40% of U.S. adults report experiencing weight stigma at some point in their life (International Journal of Obesity; PLOS ONE
  • Forty-two percent of U.S. adults say they have faced some form of weight stigma, such as being teased about their weight or treated unfairly because of it, with physicians as one of the most common sources (International Journal of Obesity; International Journal of Obesity)
  • Among children, weight-based bullying is more common than bullying based on race, sexual orientation, or disability status, and family members and romantic partners are high on the list of perpetrators. (Journal of Adolescence)

Why do parents need to learn about weight stigma?

Weight stigma is woven into the fabric of our culture. Parents, coaches, teachers, and doctors are the most common adults to perpetuate weight stigma with children. And this is deeply problematic because it means that these adults who are meant to be guiding and supporting a child are feeling disgust about the child’s body.

And children are finely attuned to how adults feel about them. Adults can say all the right things and outwardly approve of a child, but if weight stigma is below the surface (and it almost always is), the child will sense how the adult feels about their body. 

Children lack advanced cognitive reasoning skills. So while they can sense the adult’s disgust, they don’t have the cognitive ability to know that it’s wrong. Instead, they internalize the sense that there is something wrong about who they are. They automatically internalize that an adult’s negative feelings about their body means they (as a person) are bad. When adults feel disgust about a child’s body, children internalize low self-worth and shame.

The dangers of weight stigma for heavier kids

Low self-worth and shame are deeply corrosive and impact every aspect of human development. They are associated with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, suicidality, and many other challenging mental disorders. They are also correlated with poor health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers, and autoimmune diseases. 

“There’s a perception that weight stigma might feel bad but [that] it’s tough love and it’s going to motivate people. But research shows that this isn’t true.”

Sarah Novak

That’s right. Adults worry about fat cells. But the real danger to kids’ lifelong health is weight stigma. And ironically, kids who are exposed to weight stigma are more likely to gain weight than those who are not. That’s right. When adults worry about kids’ weight, they create conditions that make it more likely a child will gain more weight than they would without that worry.

  • Weight stigma undermines health behaviors and preventive care, causing disordered eating, decreased physical activity, health care avoidance, and weight gain (Appetite
  • Children who are victims of weight stigma tend to gain more weight than those who are not (Obesity, JAMA Pediatrics)
  • Over the long term, weight stigma increases the risk of mortality (Psychological Science)
  • Weight stigma increases a person’s risk for mental health problems such as substance use and suicidality (Obesity; International Journal of Obesity)
  • Weight stigma leads to a decrease in health-seeking behaviors and an increase in weight. Regardless of their body mass index (BMI), people who face weight stigma are more likely to engage in disordered eating. They are also more likely to avoid exercising and to report feeling uncomfortable exercising in public (Appetite; Obesity)
  • It also increases risk for psychological problems including depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicidality (Obesity Reviews)

What parents can do if they have a larger kid

1. Learn about weight stigma

The first essential step in protecting your child who is a big kid from the dangers of weight stigma is to educate yourself. Remember that the greatest danger of weight stigma is that it is often unconscious and therefore invisible. You must dig deep to uncover your unconscious biases and disgust about fat bodies to raise a healthy child. The basics are: bodies are naturally diverse; fat bodies are not bad; body weight is largely out of an individual’s control; weight stigma is wrong; and intentional weight loss is dangerous.

2. Invest in unlearning weight stigma

Because weight stigma is invisible to most of us, you will need help learning a new way of thinking about bodies. Just like the idea of being “color blind” was an abject failure in the anti-racism movement, mainstream body positivity will be inadequate if you want to protect your child from weight stigma and counteract its harmful effects. Find a coach or therapist who can work with you on your conscious and unconscious beliefs about fat. This is an investment in your child’s lifelong health. Think back on your life: how much have you spent on diet programs, weight loss books, and diet foods? Apply at least that much time, money, and effort to unlearning weight stigma.

Body Image Printable Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to feel calmer and more confident in their body!

  • Boost confidence
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase media literacy

3. Discuss weight with your child safely

All parents should talk about weight stigma with their children. But if your child is at or above the 50th percentile on their weight chart, then it is even more important. It’s best to avoid having conversations about your child’s weight until you have invested the time and resources in unlearning weight stigma. Talking about your child’s weight is a delicate, sensitive issue. Not because there is anything wrong with their body (there isn’t!) but because we live in a body-toxic culture that is full of weight stigma. Talking about weight without stigma is an essential skill that parents need to learn.

4. Protect your child from weight stigma

You should be actively watching for weight stigma in your child’s life. Start with your own home. How do people talk about bodies in your home? Make sure that weight stigma isn’t normalized or accepted in your home. That includes when relatives are visiting. Don’t keep diet books in the house, and don’t have magazine covers that glorify thin bodies and vilify fat ones. Watch out for TV shows, social media, movies, and video games that perpetuate weight stigma. Next, keep an eye on your child’s doctors, coaches, and teachers. Intervene in situations in which you believe your child is a victim of weight stigma from these important adults.

5. Teach your child to respond to weight stigma

Once you have done your own work around weight stigma, it’s time to teach your child to respond to weight stigma assertively. Your child should be able to recognize weight stigma when it comes from friends, peers, family members, doctors, coaches, teachers, and other adults. They should have a variety of responses they can use to shut weight stigma down when it happens. No child should be expected to endure weight stigma from anyone. Rejecting weight stigma is an essential health activity!

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

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TikTok is dangerous for body image and eating disorders

TikTok is dangerous to kids' body image and likely increases the risk of eating disorders.

A new study found that TikTok videos focusing on “health” are dangerous for body image, promote weight loss, and may encourage eating disorders.

TikTok’s most-viral “health” videos overwhelmingly say that weight loss and thinness are achievable and desirable for all. TikTok is a major force in our kids’ lives, and it perpetuates harmful weight stigma and diet culture. It’s no surprise that the rise of social media coincides with the fact that eating disorders are skyrocketing.

Research has linked social media usage in adolescents and young adults to disordered eating and negative body image. This is most likely due to the prevalence of diet culture themes on social media, a primary source of information for many kids, teens, and young adults. Additionally, adolescent girls who report more time spent on social media are more likely to have high internalization of the thin ideal, a risk factor for eating disorders. TikTok is dangerous to kids’ body image and likely increases the risk of eating disorders.

Body Image Printable Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to feel calmer and more confident in their body!

  • Boost confidence
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase media literacy

The danger of TikTok

“Each day, millions of teens and young adults are being fed content on TikTok that paints a very unrealistic and inaccurate picture of food, nutrition, and health,” said Lizzy Pope, associate professor and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at UVM.

Kids, teens, and young adults who create and engage with weight or food-related content on TikTok are at higher risk of having internalized body image and disordered eating behaviors. TikTok’s viral weight loss content is a powerful megaphone for diet culture. TikTok videos spread common beliefs: 1) you should lose weight; and 2) you should eat less and move more to lose weight. However, the data shows that these beliefs are inaccurate and harmful. Also, they are the foundation of eating disorder beliefs and behaviors. 

Eating disorders are pernicious and deadly. The last thing we need is a powerful social media app feeding our kids warped messages about health and wellness. But that’s what we’ve got. Here’s some more information for parents about TikTok and the risk it poses to body image and eating disorders. Keep reading for guidelines to protect your kids from the dangers of TikTok.

What is TikTok?

TikTok went worldwide in 2018 and has been downloaded over two billion times globally. Most TikTok users are Gen-Z (born in the mid-1990s to mid-2010s). In July 2020, TikTok reported that one-third of its 49 million daily users were at or below the age of 14. This youthful market means that TikTok is an important driver of cultural trends. 

TikTok is like Instagram or Twitter in that you can follow and like posts from specific accounts. But the app doesn’t require a person to follow certain accounts to view posts tailored to them. The default page for the app is a “for you” page with endless, algorithmically curated videos that the app has determined fit your preferences. Users report that the “for you” page on TikTok is eerie in its ability to create a crave-worthy feed that feels custom-made. 

TikTok is driven by a powerful algorithm that learns a person’s likes and preferences. That means the more a person interacts with kitten and puppy content, the more kittens and puppies they will see. Similarly, the more they interact with diet culture and weight-stigmatizing content, the more of that they will see. This is why TikTok is so risky to kids’ body image and promotes eating disorders.

What is a hashtag?

Hashtags are a way that social media algorithms group similar content together. It’s the # symbol followed by a word or phrase. On TikTok, users can add hashtags to their captions to help the algorithm direct people to their content. Hashtags are a serious driver of the powerful TikTok algorithm, which is credited with its massive popularity among young people. However, hashtags and the algorithm are also why TikTok is especially dangerous when it comes to eating and body image. If someone starts liking content associated with weight stigma and diet culture, they will receive much more of that content. 

The following data about TikTok is from this study: Weight-normative messaging predominates on TikTok—A qualitative content analysis, published November 1, 2022, in PLOS One

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Glorification of weight loss

“The majority of posts presented a weight normative view of health, with less than 3% coded as weight-inclusive,”

Weight-normative messaging predominates on TikTok—A qualitative content analysis  

Nearly 44% of all videos examined in the study had content about weight loss, and 20% showed a weight transformation in the video. A recurring theme is that if you just try hard enough, you can lose weight. These messages are often wrapped up with health claims that weight loss and low body weight are healthy.

The weightloss hashtag alone has almost 10 billion views at the time of the study. Many videos depicted weight loss transformation achieved through exercise routines and diet plans, often showing weigh-ins and clothing “downsizing.” Exercise was portrayed not for its many health benefits but for its potential to aid weight loss. 

The videos use phrases like “no excuses,” “get up,” and “if you want it bad enough, you’ll do it.” This is a siren song for anyone with an eating disorder, cheering on the eating disorder behaviors and exacerbating the illness.

Diets and fads

Thirty-eight percent of videos explicitly showed food (cooking, eating, getting take-out, etc.), and 11.9% of videos featured active cooking. However, there was a clear theme that food was seen as a way of pursuing health or wellness rather than something fun and enjoyable. 

In 47% of videos with the hashtag “nutrition,” the video provided nutrition advice about what foods to eat. As expected, most offered advice about how to eat for weight loss. It was common for the video to pair a weight loss transformation with a “what they ate” sequence showing how they achieved their weight loss. 

Diets were presented as a way to achieve a “body goal.” About 14% of videos mentioned a specific fad diet or dieting behaviors. The most popular fad diets on TikTok are: 

  • High-protein
  • Low-calorie
  • Liquid cleanses
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Weight loss or detox teas or drinks

Another popular trend on TikTok is to make “healthy” versions of “junk” food. This messaging perpetuates the myth that food carries the moral qualities of being either good or bad.  

Who is creating viral body-toxic content?

“Most posts were created by white, female adolescents and young adults.”

Weight-normative messaging predominates on TikTok—A qualitative content analysis  

The study found that 42% of the most popular posts were created by college-aged young adults, 28% by millennials and 11% were created by high school students. More than 64% of the videos were created by female presenting users and 56% by white-presenting individuals. 

There was a notable lack of body diversity. Only 16% of posts showed someone with a larger body. This means the viral content on TikTok perpetuates the thin ideal, a major contributor to eating disorders.

Of all the videos about nutrition, just 1.4% were created by registered dietitians. This means that users are sharing nutrition tips with zero qualifications to do so.

TikTok guidelines for parents

TikTok is an important part of kids’ lives today. You can shut down all access to TikTok in the short term if you are currently dealing with an eating disorder crisis. However, over time you will want to support your child in learning to manage limits and manage social media since it’s likely to be an ongoing part of their life. Here are some guidelines for doing this:

1. Set social media expectations and limits

Your child will not like you setting social media expectations and limits. Of course not. But this is an essential safety issue. Explain to your child that you own their phone and can access or confiscate it anytime. 

This feels harsh, but it is a required safety action that parents must take when a child is at risk. Just like requiring a seat belt in the car, you must insist upon social media oversight to keep your child safe. 

tiktok body image eating disorders

Help your child understand that access to social media apps like TikTok is contingent on healthy consumption of TikTok. Let them know you’re going to monitor their use to ensure safety. You will need to do random checks of your child’s TikTok “for you” feed. The benefit of TikTok’s powerful algorithm is that your child can’t hide the type of content they are engaging with. If they engage with diet and weight loss content, their “for you” feed will be full of it. If they aren’t, it won’t.

2. Set up a phone contract

Some basic rules for phone use should be: 

  • You may not actively engage in diet and weight loss content or content that I believe is weight shaming and harmful. We’ll keep talking about this, so you understand what I mean.
  • You’ll hand me your phone on request without protest as often as I ask. Failure to give me access to your phone will result in me confiscating it for hours, days, or a full week, depending on the situation.
  • You will not turn off or change the parental controls I set. If you believe something should change, talk to me and gain permission. If you make changes without permission, I will confiscate your phone. 
  • I will open and review your apps, for example, to see what’s in your “for you” feed on TikTok.
  • If I can see that you are unable to resist diet and weight loss content, I will remove TikTok and other social media apps from your phone indefinitely. If you add it back without permission, I will confiscate your phone.
  • I will not open and read your DMs unless I am concerned.
  • I will not open and read your text messages and emails unless I have reason to be concerned.
  • The more I see that you are using social media in a healthy way, the less I will check, but it will never be never.

If you’d like a complete list of rules you can edit and present to your child, you can get it here.

3. Set up parental controls

You can set up the following parental controls. 

  1. Set the account to private. Tap the menu icon in the upper-right corner of the profile and select Settings and Privacy, and choose Privacy. On the next screen, tap the button text to Private Account. 
  2. Set a time limit. Set daily time limits on using TikTok, schedule mandatory breaks that lock your child out of the app, and see a summary of how much time was spent using the app.
  3. Filter keywords. Within settings, go to Content Preferences to set the app to block videos containing certain keywords. Tap Filter Video Keywords to add keywords and hashtags you want to be restricted. You can also choose which feeds to filter.
  4. Restricted mode. Within settings, go to Content Preferences to enable the password-protected Restricted Mode. This attempts to limit exposure to videos that the platform deems unsuitable for all ages. You can enable the mode by selecting it on the Content Preferences screen and setting a password so it can’t be easily disabled.
  5. Link your account to theirs. The Family Pairing feature allows you to link your TikTok account to your child’s for remote supervision and management. You can control who can send your child direct messages and who can comment on videos.

Note: you may also want to set parental controls on your child’s phone.

tiktok body image eating disorders

Hashtags to restrict/avoid on TikTok 

  • #thinspiration
  • #fitspiration
  • #cheatmeal
  • #weightloss
  • #quarantine15
  • #diet
  • #weightlossjourney
  • #fatloss
  • #weightlosscheck
  • #whatieatinaday

4. Increase media literacy

A condition of using social media must be ongoing conversations about the risks and impact of social media. I suggest you talk about social media at least once per week. Ask your child questions like: 

  • Who do you follow?
  • What do you see on your “for you” page?
  • How do you feel when you look at diet and weight loss content?
  • Do you think the people who go viral with diet and weight loss tips are credible sources of health information?
  • Why do you think diet and weight loss content is so popular on TikTok?
  • What do you think is the formula for a viral video on TikTok?
  • How can you protect yourself from harmful content on TikTok?
  • What is some TikTok content that you think is healthy? Why? How can you get more of that in your feed?

Participation in these conversations should be a condition of continued social media access.

5. Teach your child to tell TikTok not to show more diet and weight loss videos

The best thing your child can do is not engage with body and food content. But TikTok’s algorithm will likely continue to add diet and weight loss content to their “for you” page. Ask your child to actively select “not interested” when this content appears. This is how to do it:

tiktok body image eating disorders

I wish we could trust our kids to use social media safely, but that’s unrealistic. TikTok is dangerous to body image and increases the risk of eating disorders. It’s built on a compelling algorithm. And just like we don’t let kids jump in the car when they want to go somewhere without oversight and conditions, we can’t let them go on TikTok without safety measures to protect them.

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

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

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What to do when your child feels body shame

What to do when your child feels body shame

Eric has noticed that his child Mackenzie feels a lot of body shame. “It started with a few comments here and there,” he says. “But now she is constantly talking about how terrible her body is. She compares her body to everyone else’s and spends hours looking at herself in the mirror, pinching and criticizing herself.” 

Eric is not alone. Unfortunately, body shame is a common side effect of living in our culture. We have the perfect conditions for kids, particularly female and nonbinary kids, to feel self-conscious about how their bodies look. 

While many parents assume this is normal and a passing phase, Eric has good reason to be worried. Body shame is linked to low self-worth. It is a precursor to many mental disorders, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders. While we can say that body shame is normal in our society, it is definitely not healthy. And parents can and should intervene to support their kids’ lifetime health and wellness. 

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  • Boost confidence
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase media literacy

What is body shame?

Shame is a feeling that your whole self is wrong, not related to a specific behavior or event. When a person has body shame, it means they believe their body is intrinsically, essentially wrong and bad. They may attempt to make themselves feel better by manipulating their appearance. But it doesn’t work because body shame runs much deeper than appearance.

1. Understand our society and culture

Our society and culture are cruel to bodies. Bodies are constantly criticized, dominated, and treated as subservient to our brains. In our culture we worship at the altar of diet culture. This says that bodies should be thin, and that not-thin bodies must be controlled with diet and exercise. Diet culture also says that people who are not thin are less intelligent, beautiful, and worthy of time, attention, and love.

There is zero evidence of success in maintaining weight loss following a diet. And there is substantial evidence that dieting predicts weight gain. Yet the U.S. weight loss market reached a record $78 billion in 2019. Meanwhile, eating disorders are skyrocketing. And it’s no surprise: diet programs are basically how-to manuals for eating disorders. 

⭐ If your child feels body shame, you need to understand the cultural context. Body shame is baked into our society. Parents must consciously and intentionally counteract society’s discrimination against and domination of bodies. Parents also need to monitor social media use. They should limit overall time and reduce the number of body-toxic accounts that kids follow.

2. Understand your family’s culture

Families are the mini-culture in which our kids live. So how families feel about their bodies has a significant impact on how kids feel about their bodies. Families that criticize and dominate their bodies in the pursuit of thinness are more likely to have kids with eating disorders and disordered eating. They are also more likely to raise kids who diet. Dieting and weight control in childhood and adolescence predict higher BMI in adulthood.

Family cultures that assume that thin bodies are better than fat bodies cause significant harm to kids’ body image and lifelong health. This can be done actively, by telling kids that thin people are healthier and smarter than fat people. It can also be done passively, by never counteracting the societal messages that say those things.

⭐ If your child feels body shame, look hard at your family culture. This is not coming from a place of blame. If your family culture is body-negative, you are part of the vast majority of our culture. However, a body-negative family culture is a serious risk factor for kids. So take action to change your family culture around food, eating, and weight.

A word about the word “fat”

The term “fat” can be used as a slur or a neutral descriptor. In its neutral form, saying “fat” is the same as saying “tall” or “brown-eyed.” Other words for fat bodies, such as “overweight” and “obese,” are currently considered to be stigmatizing. Many fat justice leaders have reclaimed the word “fat” as the preferred neutral descriptor for their bodies.

However, we should not call someone “fat” unless we 1) are doing so kindly 2) have zero thoughts that they should lose weight; and 3) clearly have their permission to do so. And nobody should ever use “fat” as an insult. It’s always best to let people who live in marginalized bodies to define themselves rather than assuming a label on their behalf. And never tell a person in a larger body that they are “not fat” or should be proud to be fat. It’s their body and their choice to define themselves on their own terms.

3. Understand the link between body image and self-image

Two things are true. First, body image is a reflection of self-image. And second, self-image is often directly tied to body image due to our body-negative culture. Therefore, we simply cannot separate a child’s body image from their self-image, and vice versa. A child who feels shame about their body also feels shame about who they are as a person. Because our body is our physical manifestation of our personhood.

It’s a mistake to assume that body image is separate from self-image. This is why our body-negative culture is so deeply damaging to kids. A child who grows up in a body-negative culture is more likely to feel shame about themselves as a person. And shame is toxic to physical and mental health. 

⭐ If your child feels body shame, then remember that it’s not only about their body. Body image is directly linked to self-image, and the two cannot be extricated from each other. Don’t assume that you can “fix” body image without going deeper and addressing self-image and self-worth. Body image isn’t ever fixed by working on outside appearance. It will not be improved with a diet, weight loss, or exercise program. A fitness class or personal trainer can only superficially improve your child’s body image. Body image is an inside job. If necessary, get your child a weight-neutral therapist, coach, or counselor who can help them develop a healthy sense of self.

4. Change how you talk about bodies

Because we live in a body-negative culture, most people speak poorly of bodies. We were raised in these conditions and will unconsciously perpetuate them unless we actively work to overcome toxic patterns. Speaking as if weight is a moral responsibility, as if weight is within people’s control, and as if weight is directly linked to how much a person eats and exercises is harmful. This sort of language encourages eating disorder behavior and body shame. It also encourages discriminatory and incorrect beliefs about larger people. 

Learn why a non-diet approach to health is the healthiest. Find out why weight is largely out of individual control. And why it’s better for our health never to diet than to attempt to change our weight on purpose. Next, change your language about bodies. Remember that body image and self-image are the same things. And never speak about another person as if their body is an object to be manipulated. The body is an essential part of each person’s existence as a human being. All bodies deserve to be spoken of with dignity and respect. 

⭐ If your child feels body shame, they may bring up a lot of negative self-talk about their bodies. They may cry and scream about their bodies. Do not accept this as “normal” and wait for it to pass. How you respond to negative self-talk makes a huge difference, and it’s not easy. Learn how to respond to body bashing and negative self-talk to help your child build self-worth. 

Support your child’s self-respect and body respect

We live in a body-toxic culture. If I could change the culture, I would. But since cultural change starts at home, let’s focus on our families and the people we love. Learn to talk about bodies with respect. Stop dieting and trying to control bodies. And actively counteract our society’s harmful messages about bodies to help your child stop feeling ashamed of themselves. Your actions really make a difference!

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

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

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What purpose does an eating disorder serve?

Meaning, purpose, and eating disorder recovery

Bridget’s daughter Sadie has an eating disorder. “It’s so hard to watch her,” says Bridget. “It seems as if her entire purpose in life has become her body. I can’t understand why this happened. I’ve never taught her or modeled that her body is this important. So why is this happening?”

Bridget’s concern and confusion make sense. It’s upsetting when a child finds purpose and meaning in an eating disorder. From the outside, an eating disorder seems destructive and harmful. So why do kids like Sadie find comfort and purpose in managing their bodies like it’s the most important thing in the world?

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The answer is complicated. There is no single reason why an eating disorder shows up. However, it’s not uncommon for eating disorder beliefs and behaviors to add meaning to a person’s life. Seeing eating disorders as purely destructive interferes with our ability to understand and treat the disorder. When we understand the purpose, we can address it.

💥 Note: an eating disorder may serve a purpose, but an eating disorder is not on purpose. 💥

Meaning, purpose, and eating disorder recovery

Like all of us, kids like Sadie are seeking meaning and purpose in life. It is human nature to seek purpose, and in our individualistic culture, it’s all too easy to turn our sights on our bodies as a worthy purpose. 

But when your own body becomes your purpose, things can get a bit messy. This is what we see with eating disorders. 

Purpose is our reason for being, the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning, the thing that lights us up. Purpose is usually about something larger than ourselves. We are communal creatures, and thus purpose usually revolves around community. Each person’s purpose is different, but we do know that all people seek purpose and meaning in their lives. 

But sometimes our kids can’t find a purpose. And between COVID, school shootings, the news, and everything that’s been going on in the last decade in our society, many kids are feeling overwhelmed and lack hope. And without hope, it’s hard to find purpose.

So sometimes an eating disorder can come in and fill the need for purpose in a person’s life. It can fill a hole and give a person a reason for living. And I know it doesn’t seem like an eating disorder is a worthy purpose, but it may be the best way they can get through the day right now. 

Of course parents would like to see their kids seek purpose outside of their bodies. And we definitely want kids to seek purpose outside of their eating disorders. But it’s very hard to turn the tide when you don’t know what you’re looking at. Here are some examples of how purpose can get wrapped up in eating disorder behaviors: 

Weight control

Most eating disorders begin with a goal to lose weight. Our culture is obsessed with diet and fitness, and harmful diet messages are everywhere. Our kids pick up on the importance of staying small from a very early age. Doctors, teachers, and the media all promote weight control as essential. Weight control can feel like a very worthy goal in our culture even if it’s not coming directly from the parents. This is why it’s such a significant cause of eating disorders.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies


Binge eating disorder, bulimia, anorexia, and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) typically involve the core behavior of restricting food and the belief that doing so will result in a thinner body. Restricting food can feel powerful and strong even if the result is the opposite. Overcoming physical urges can become a compulsion because it gives a sense of control and mastery.


Eating disorders may provide hope. Hope that, in this overwhelming world, at least we can control our bodies. Hope that we can succeed at restriction or achieve a certain weight. Hope that life will be better and more fulfilling if we can meet the body ideal and/or control our actions. Hope that manipulating eating and exercise will bring happiness.


In addition to promoting thin bodies, our culture also promotes strength as an important virtue. We all want to feel strong and powerful in life. An eating disorder can come in and show someone they are strong enough to resist eating food. Strong enough to keep running even when exhausted. Strong enough to force food out of their body after it’s been consumed.

Eating disorders often serve a purpose in someone’s life. They provide important benefits that can be hard to see but are nonetheless powerful. Treating an eating disorder without addressing the purpose it serves in someone’s life can lead to incomplete recovery.

Finding purpose outside an eating disorder

Your goal should be to support your child in finding joy and purpose outside of their eating disorder. Generally, a good purpose has something to do with being part of something larger than yourself. Here are some examples of broad categories that might appeal to your child:

  • Social justice
  • Animals
  • Nature
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Leadership
  • Caregiving
  • Community
  • Athletics (With a focus on camaraderie and connection rather than individual performance)
  • The arts

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

Once your child has a general idea of what they might be interested in, you can help them nurture their purpose in the following ways: 


An eating disorder is typically a disembodied experience. Denying hunger, counting calories, binge eating, over-exercising, and purging require a separation of mind and body. Having a mindfulness practice will help your child develop an awareness of their needs and desires, which is essential to finding purpose. I really like the Wheel of Awareness program from Dr. Dan Siegel.


When a child finds purpose in their eating disorder, they are applying their valuable skills and resources to their own personal body project. Help your child find a place to volunteer their time, energy, and talents. This will build their sense of community and help them see how applying themselves to others is more fulfilling than focusing on their own body. 


Help your child explore their natural and instinctive passions. One problem is that often we start with a natural passion and quickly turn it into a career goal. For example, did they like to sing until they turned it into a passion for being a rock star? Scale it back and just enjoy the passion of singing without tying it to an outcome. The lack of talent or future financial success is no reason not to enjoy a passion.


Finding purpose is usually rooted in social connection and the greater good, so finding a community to belong to can be a great start. Help your child find a community where they feel they belong and are contributing to the group. Look for school clubs, community groups, sports or arts, or anything else that brings like-minded people together.  


Of course you want your child to have a purpose beyond their eating disorder. So how are you feeling about your purpose? Do you have a vision statement for yourself? What gets you up in the morning? Start talking with your child about your purpose, and if you aren’t sure what it is yet, talk about that. Telling our kids to find a purpose will be much more powerful if we’re modeling how to do that and talking about the benefits in our own lives.  


Purpose can’t be rushed. It took time for your child to develop an eating disorder. And it will take time for them to replace their eating disorder with healthier pursuits. When it comes to purpose, it’s often a slow and steady process rather than a single event or declaration.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

Getting started

Bridget listened to this advice and realized she had to start with herself. “I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t think I’ve worked on this for myself yet,” she says. “I’ve been so focused on Sadie having a purpose and I guess I forgot that these things have to start with me. Maybe it’s not so much that I taught her that her purpose is her body, but that I didn’t show her how to build a purpose.” 

Bridget spent some time coming up with the things that light her up and started participating in activities that helped her make progress on her purpose.

Bringing it to Sadie

Once she was working on her own purpose, Bridget started to have conversations with Sadie about her purpose. It’s been challenging at times, but overall Sadie has been surprisingly open with the idea of finding purpose outside her eating disorder. She has roughly identified that nature might be an area of interest for her and is slowly exploring possibilities.

“I think the biggest breakthrough has been in thinking about this differently,” says Bridget. “Before I was very much focused on getting Sadie to change. But now I’m really working on making changes in myself and our family. And I notice that Sadie is a lot more open to trying things and exploring her purpose with this approach. We’re still dealing with the eating disorder, but I feel much more hopeful today than I did before we started this.” 

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

For privacy, names and identifying details have been changed in this article.

See Our Parent’s Guide To The Causes Of Eating Disorders

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Loneliness and eating disorders: a guide for parents

loneliness eating disorder

Jill is beside herself with worry. Her daughter Melody has an eating disorder and is struggling with loneliness. Between treatment, COVID restrictions, and starting high school, she has become very isolated. “She has always been more on the introverted side,” says Jill. “But it’s gotten to the point where I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have a single good friend.”

“She has people she talks to in class,” says Jill. “But there’s nobody she can call or share notes with or hang out with after class or on the weekend. I think that loneliness is making it harder to recover from her eating disorder. But loneliness is also partly driven by the eating disorder. I don’t know what to do.”

Jill’s worry makes a lot of sense. And she’s right that loneliness is both a contributing factor to and a symptom of an eating disorder. Melody is naturally introverted. But she’s also been hit with a triple whammy: a pandemic, the transition to high school, and eating disorder recovery.

Loneliness and social isolation

Loneliness is a major factor in mental and physical health. In fact, social relationships are the most important lifestyle factor in longevity. Social connections are even more important to health than avoiding tobacco and alcohol. Humans are social beings, and connecting with others is essential to our health and well-being.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

How to help a child who has an eating disorder decrease loneliness

Of course parents like Jill desperately want their kids to form social connections and feel a sense of belonging. This is especially important during the teenage years, so it’s understandable that Jill is concerned. But what can she do? How can Jill help Melody reduce her loneliness during eating disorder recovery?

Friendships lead to positive life satisfactionminimize stress, and even contribute to better physical health outcomes. And the good news is that there is a lot that parents can do to support social connections. Here are five places to start:

1. Reduce the pressure

The first thing to know is that every person has a different need in terms of social connections. And while most of us think about a large pack of kids getting together on the weekends, it’s perfectly acceptable if your teenager has just one or two good friends. In fact, set your sights very low: one.

“The biggest return we get in friendship is going from zero to one friend in terms of its impact on our mental health and well-being,”  says Marisa Franco, author of Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make — and Keep — Friends. “If you can get that deep with one person, it’s going to be powerful and it’s going to be impactful, and you don’t need to have a ton of friends.”

Taking the pressure off having a large number of friends can be a great place to start. Find ways to weave this idea into your conversations with your child. You can talk about your own friends individually vs. as a group. And when your child complains about having no friends (plural), help them understand that just one friend would be awesome. Encourage them to look around for just one person at school who they can eat lunch with. Set your sights low, and normalize the idea of just one friend.

2. Family relationships

Your child wants and needs peer friendships, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get a lot of benefits from their social connections with family.

Our first social group is our family. How strong are your family ties? Does your child feel integrated and as if they “belong” to your family? Start by building family traditions and telling stories that help your child see how they fit into the family. Spend time building family integration every single day. A great place to begin is a family meal, which has countless health benefits, probably in part because of the social belonging it builds.

If possible, schedule activities with extended family members. It’s OK if you don’t have a strong connection with biological family – can you build a family of friends? Do what you can to expand your child’s social interactions within the scope of your family. And don’t forget to help them integrate into family activities. This may be uncomfortable if your child is feeling lonely and vulnerable, but parents can help grease the wheels of interaction!

3. Social skills

If your child is struggling with loneliness and an eating disorder, combined with COVID and a major transition like starting high school, they may need to brush up on their social skills. This can be a tricky area for parents to get involved, but the first thing to consider is whether your family is upholding and modeling good social skills.

Many families slip into dysfunctional patterns of not being friendly, not speaking politely to each other, not managing their emotions, and acting out against other family members. If you see these dynamics in your family, then get some coaching or family counseling to work on interpersonal boundaries and emotional regulation. Before you decide that your child is the one who has a problem with social skills, consider whether this is a family dynamic. It will hurt your child’s chances of success if you treat a family problem as if it is a personal failure.

Next, talk to your child about social skills. The easiest way to do this is to talk about your own experiences or use characters on TV and movies. Ask questions like: How would that behavior make you feel? What do you like about that character? How do you think that character could be a better friend? Remind your child that relationships can’t be adequately portrayed in the media, and that just like bodies, we need to take media relationships with a grain of salt.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

4. Formal social groups

Teens have undergone tremendous upheaval in the past few years, and lots of them are struggling with loneliness. This is the perfect time to use formal social groups and organizations to help support social development. Ask your child to investigate clubs at school.

Many schools have a wide variety of clubs that appeal to a broad array of personalities and interests, but you can also look for clubs in the community and at your place of worship if you have one.

Encourage your child to join at least one club. This may require some well-placed parental pressure. Someone who is lonely may resist the idea of joining a club because they are stuck in a cycle of feeling low. It’s OK for you to insist on some participation. You can’t force your child to go, but don’t underestimate the power you have to influence them to give it a try. Sometimes lonely kids need a lot of verbal encouragement and requests to get out of their rut.

5. Get help

If you do all these things and your child’s loneliness is not lifting at all, then you and your child need more help. Talk to your child’s eating disorder care team. They are probably as concerned about loneliness as you are. Find out if they have any suggestions or can help your child get involved in activities. Sometimes having a non-parent make these suggestions is the key to getting them done.

A worthy focus

Loneliness is a contributor to the psychology of an eating disorder, so supporting them in addressing this is a worthwhile activity. You want to understand your child’s loneliness and support them in feeling better. Loneliness has been correlated with eating disorders and other mental disorders. It is also correlated with the No. 2 and No. 3 mortality factors: tobacco and alcohol addiction.

Jill was relieved to know that she wasn’t being silly worrying about loneliness. “There was a part of me that thought maybe I was worrying about nothing,” she says. “Or that this is none of my business. But now I feel as if my worries make sense, and I’m going to take some action to start helping Melody feel better.”

loneliness eating disorder

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

See Our Parent’s Guide To Mental Health And Eating Disorders

Research links

Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review, Holt-Lunstad, Julianne, Smith, Timothy R., and Layton, Bradley J, PLOS Medicine, 2010

Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2015.

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The 3 types of stress and eating disorders

The 3 types of stress and eating disorders

Monique is very worried about her daughter Maya. After a few years of struggling to deal with stress, Maya is now deep into an eating disorder. Monique and her husband Leonard are dedicated to helping her recover, but they are worried that stress is a major ongoing problem. 

“I worry that unless we address her stress, she’s still going to struggle,” says Monique. “Eating disorder treatment is hard, and it seems to me like if we don’t figure out how to reduce her stress, we’re just treading water with her mental health. I just don’t know what to do about it.” 

Maya, 16, has always been a sensitive child. “When she was a toddler, she was really picky about her food and clothing,” says Monique. “So I adjusted her diet and made sure I didn’t buy her any clothes with tags. She seemed to do OK for years, but when puberty hit, she started spiraling into stress. Now it seems like she just can’t handle life, and it’s not as simple as it was when she was little and I could control everything and reduce the stressors.” 

Everything that Monique says makes sense. And she’s right: without addressing Maya’s struggles with stress, it will be hard to achieve eating disorder recovery and, ultimately, mental health. 

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

Why so stressed?

To get started, I asked Monique some questions about what stresses Maya out. Based on her childhood experiences, it sounds like Maya is a highly sensitive individual. This means that she is naturally more sensitive to stressors. But what exactly is creating so much stress for Maya right now?

I started by defining the three types of stress and how they appear when a person has an eating disorder. Stress is an important part of the psychology of an eating disorder. The three types of stress are:

1. Healthy stress

Not all stress is bad! We need stress to learn and grow. Without stress, we would never achieve maturity. This stress is healthy and adaptive, but that doesn’t mean it’s comfortable. In fact, healthy stress can trigger all the troubling signs of emotional dysregulation, including yelling, crying, and avoiding tasks that seem impossible. However, when a person faces their healthy stress with courage, their struggles build emotional resilience and maturity. A person cannot mature without healthy stress! 

It’s not really the type or size of the stress that you experience but your ability to cope with the stress that defines whether stress is helpful or toxic. 

Some forms of healthy stress that your child must navigate if they have an eating disorder include:

  • Eating enough food
  • Eating regularly throughout the day
  • Body changes (e.g. weight gain)
  • Going to therapy, medical, and nutrition appointments
  • Disagreeing with parents and siblings
  • Being assertive about needs and boundaries
  • Going to school
  • Completing difficult school tests and assignments 
  • Studying
  • Having reasonable expectations of extra curricular activities
  • Making new friends and socializing
  • Having social media limits
  • Getting to bed at a healthy time each night

🔑 The key if your child is experiencing healthy stress is to validate their experience (e.g. “this is hard”) while also expressing confidence in their ability to handle it (e.g. “I know you can handle this.”). Seek ways to support your child through healthy stress daily, and get coaching and support if this is a struggle for you.

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

2. Traumatic stress

This sort of stress is related to a specific event or action. It overwhelms a person’s coping resources and may become stuck if not processed. Common forms of traumatic stress include:

  • Serious accident 
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • Exposure to traumatic events at home, including domestic violence
  • Serious health problems, such as heart surgery, cancer, etc.
  • Having a sibling or parent with a chronic illness (physical or mental)
  • The death of someone close, such as a parent or sibling
  • Divorce
  • Vomiting, choking, and painful gastrointestinal episodes

The interesting thing about traumatic stress is that it doesn’t impact everyone equally. Two people can face the same traumatic event, and one may develop traumatic stress symptoms while the other may not. The difference between ongoing symptoms after traumatic stress is whether the event is processed healthily. Some people can do this by themselves, but many others need a lot of emotional support to process a traumatic event. 

For example, many kids get through their parents’ divorce without any PTSD, while others need some help processing their feelings about the divorce and its impact on the family.

🔑 If your child is experiencing traumatic stress, the key is to get them professional support to process their trauma. A therapist specializing in PTSD will support your child in facing their fear and overcoming the long-term impacts of traumatic stress. You can also learn skills to respond to your child’s PTSD appropriately.

3. Chronic stress

Chronic stress builds over time. A person experiencing chronic stress often feels stuck and unable to make changes to improve their life. This sort of stress is often entrenched and hard to break out of, but parents can help. According to Yale Medicine, some symptoms of chronic stress include: 

  • Aches and pains
  • Insomnia or sleepiness
  • A change in social behavior, such as staying in often
  • Low energy
  • Unfocused or cloudy thinking
  • Change in appetite
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Change in emotional responses to others
  • Emotional withdrawal

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

Common stressors to be aware of in your child’s life include:

  • Difficult family relationships, especially with parents and siblings
  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of family structure and support
  • A heavy workload at school 
  • Pressure to achieve certain grades and achievements
  • Intense sports activities/expectations
  • Pressure to perform at very high levels at school or in extracurricular activities
  • Bullying
  • Overuse of social media 

Chronic stress needs to be addressed to recover from an eating disorder. Your child’s lifestyle must change to reduce chronic stress and build experiences of healthy stress. 

🔑 There are two keys if your child is experiencing chronic stress. The first is to reduce unnecessary stressors in your child’s life. This can begin by looking at their schedule and removing non-essential activities and pressure to perform. The second is to turn the necessary stressors of life (e.g. eating, going to school) into healthy stress. With the right approach, you can help your child gradually turn chronic stress about eating and other stressors into healthy stress. 

Maya’s stress and eating disorder

I reviewed Maya’s stress with Monique using a worksheet I created. Together, we identified three primary issues that need to be addressed right away: 

Eating Stress (chronic)

Maya feels tremendous stress about eating. She is worried about food all day, and it is hard for Monique to calm Maya enough to get the nutrition she needs to recover. 

🔑  This is chronic stress that can be turned into healthy stress. In combination with Maya’s eating disorder treatment team, Monique can support Maya and help her face the stress of eating with courage and determination. Over time, she will learn to face eating and mealtimes as healthy stress. While eating may continue to be challenging for her, she can transform it from chronic stress to healthy stress. 


Sibling Stress (chronic/traumatic)

Maya and her brother Victor have a negative relationship. Victor is aggressive with Maya and frequently criticizes her. Sometimes he even gets physically violent and pushes or pinches her. 

🔑  This is chronic stress that needs to be eliminated. Monique and Leonard need to immediately seek therapy for Victor and set firm boundaries around how he treats his sister. Monique and Leonard must intervene whenever they observe Victor being aggressive, critical, and violent with Maya. There should be a zero-tolerance policy for these behaviors in the household. Additionally, they should have Maya see a trauma specialist who can determine how best to address any trauma resulting from her brother’s treatment.

Performance Stress (chronic)

Maya feels overloaded with homework and tests. She has a lifelong dream of attending an Ivy League university. The pressure to perform has become overwhelming, and Maya spends hours trying to motivate herself to do homework and study. Her grades have been steadily slipping, and she often stays up until 2 a.m. trying to complete her work.

🔑  This chronic stress needs to be adjusted. While academic goals can be a healthy form of stress, it is clear that they have crossed the boundary and become chronic stress. Maya needs support from her therapist to re-evaluate her goals and get healthy study habits and boundaries in place. Monique and Leonard should meet with Maya’s school counselor to determine reasonable expectations and help Maya manage her academic goals. 

Moving forward

Understanding Maya’s stress helps Monique and Leonard see how stress affects Maya and how they can help her start having less toxic stress in her life. Knowing the three types of stress affecting eating disorder recovery has given them the confidence to start making changes at home and in Maya’s treatment program. 

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

For privacy, names and identifying details have been changed in this article.

See Our Parent’s Guide To Mental Health And Eating Disorders

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Mental health checklist for eating disorder recovery (free download)

Mental health checklist for eating disorder recovery

If your child has an eating disorder, recovery means more than simply gaining weight and/or stopping eating disorder behaviors; it means becoming mentally healthy. Eating disorders are frequently misunderstood, and people don’t always realize that mental health, not just eating disorder recovery, is the goal. 

That’s why I’ve put together a mental health checklist to help you set expectations and goals as your child recovers from their eating disorder. This mental health checklist is especially important if your child is returning to college or independent living after undergoing recovery in your home and/or a treatment facility.

Eating disorders are often layered on top of poor mental health and other mental disorders, so if parents don’t pay attention to mental health overall, they risk having a boomerang effect of having a child leave and return to eating disorder treatment. While you can’t control their recovery, you can do your best to set your child up for success. Nobody wants your child to feel they are ready to return to independent living or go to college only to discover that they are not yet equipped to care for themselves, so the more you can help them build the skills they need to be mentally healthy, the better. A mental health checklist to be used during and after eating disorder recovery can help.

How to measure mental health

Mental health sometimes feels arbitrary. But in fact, we can measure mental health based on the behaviors that lead to and indicate mental health. It’s just like eating disorders. Except for medically-underweight anorexia, eating disorders don’t often have measurable physical symptoms. Instead, they are diagnosed based on the behaviors observed. 

For example, eating disorders are measured by how often a person eats, how much they eat, and how they feel about eating. Similarly, mental health can be measured by how well a person takes care of themselves and how they feel about themselves.

In addition to your child’s recovery process, they should be learning to take care of their physical health, which includes at a minimum: 

  • Getting adequate food and water
  • Moving their body appropriately
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Basic hygiene

Beyond basic physical healthcare, your child should also take care of their emotional health, which includes at a minimum: 

  • Connecting with others
  • Managing social media use
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Getting outdoors
  • Asking for help
  • Taking breaks
  • Having self-compassion

Physical self-care after an eating disorder

Even if your child is cleared of an active eating disorder diagnosis, they are still at risk of mental illness. They will need to care for their bodies and minds intentionally for life. This is important for every person, but particularly for someone who has/had an eating disorder. Here are the basic physical care steps that your child should take to improve mental health. 

Getting adequate food and water

All bodies need enough food and water to function. And a lack of food and water has a significant impact on both mental and physical health. When someone has/had an eating disorder, it’s an indication that they may need to be more vigilant than others about caring for this most basic element of self-care. As your child transitions to living independently from you, they should demonstrate an ability to feed themselves adequate quantities of food every 3-4 hours and drink at least 6-8 glasses of water daily. 

Moving their body appropriately

Our bodies are made to move. Regular movement is essential to both physical and mental health. The tricky part is that many people who have eating disorders incorporate excessive exercise and/or are at risk of serious health complications if they exercise. However, as your child recovers from their eating disorder, they should work in regular movement to maintain health. This can be functional like having a walking commute to work or school, going for a short walk each day, doing a brief home exercise routine, or joining a gym or attending fitness classes. Your child should demonstrate an ability to move their body regularly, not too much and not too little.

Getting enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is a cornerstone of mental health. Your child needs 8-9 hours of sleep per night. People with eating disorders and other behavioral and mental health problems often experience sleep loss. Your child may have insomnia or struggle to settle down and get to sleep. While it’s easy to dismiss sleep as unimportant, it is as important as food, water, and movement to the human body and mental health. Sleep loss is no joke for anyone, but it is particularly risky for someone who has been diagnosed with a mental disorder like an eating disorder. Losing sleep is a major risk for someone with a history of mental disorders. Therefore, your child should demonstrate an ability to get adequate sleep each night and wake up at an appropriate hour in the morning. 

Basic hygiene

While basic hygiene may seem like a given, it can be a major struggle for someone with an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, or other mental disorder. On the one hand, if your child has OCD, they may lead towards overdoing hygiene. Some people will wash and clean themselves excessively. On the other hand, someone who is depressed or has ADHD may feel unable to clean themselves adequately. Either way, taking care of basic hygiene is essential to mental health. Like exercise, you’ll need to measure whether your child’s challenge is doing too much or too little and work from there. Set some basic expectations, like flossing and brushing teeth twice daily. Bathing can vary per person, but discuss the maximum number of days between showers and/or the maximum number of showers per day. Your child should demonstrate an ability to take care of their basic hygiene. 

Emotional self-care after an eating disorder

An eating disorder is a mental illness. This means that while physical symptoms and/or behaviors are used to diagnose an eating disorder, it is emotional and mental in nature. This means that your child needs to care for their emotional health. This is important for everyone, but particularly for someone who has/had an eating disorder. Here are the basic emotional self-care steps that your child should take to maintain their mental health. 

Connecting with others

Human connection is as important as food, water, sleep, and movement. It is a sign of mental health to reach out to other people. It doesn’t have to be lengthy or intense. Still, you should feel confident that your child has some human connection daily. It might be a phone call to a loved one, but it could also be as simple as going in person to get groceries or food and speaking to someone while getting it instead of ordering contactless delivery. 

Managing social media use

Social media can be a major impediment to mental health for numerous reasons. It is particularly dangerous for people who have/had eating disorders due to the algorithmic preference for very thin people who promote “healthy lifestyles” that include eating disorder behaviors and beliefs. While zero social media use might be ideal for mental health, it’s not realistic or necessary for most people. Your child should demonstrate that they can set limits on their usage. 

Practicing mindfulness

One of the symptoms of an eating disorder is a disconnection between the mind and the body. It’s as if the brain-body connection is severed. To recover and maintain mental health, your child needs to practice a mindful connection between the brain and body. Your child should have a daily mindfulness practice that actively connects the brain and body.

Getting outdoors

Studies have shown that being in nature, even for a few minutes daily, has numerous physical benefits, including less pain and lower diastolic blood pressure. It improves mood and reduces the risk of mental illness. Support your child in getting outdoors for at least a few minutes daily. They can combine this with either exercise or mindfulness, or both. They should take a few moments to feel the air in their lungs and look at the sky, a tree, or anything natural and not human-made.

Asking for help

There is a tendency when someone has a mental disorder like an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, etc., to self-isolate. They reach out less to people who care about them and say less about how they are feeling. You want to support your child in reaching out for help when they feel sad, scared, or angry. Nobody can take their feelings away, but sharing our feelings with other people is soothing and improves mental health. 

Taking breaks

The brain-body disconnection common in eating disorders often translates to ignoring signs of mental or physical fatigue. A mentally healthy person recognizes when they need a break and takes breaks to improve their health and performance. Help your child learn to take breaks when they are overwhelmed or having physical or mental symptoms of fatigue.

Having self-compassion

A mentally healthy person has compassion for themselves. They don’t beat themselves up when they make mistakes and don’t speak cruelly or dismissively to themselves. They know how to soothe themselves when things go wrong and treat themselves as they would a good friend. Help your child learn to speak to themself with self-compassion and love.

Giving your child a mental health checklist for eating disorder recovery

Discussing mental health with your child while they are still recovering from an eating disorder and preparing to leave your daily care will help them build mental health. You can create your own checklist or use the one I created. The checklist I created includes both daily actions and warning signs to keep in mind. You can provide this to your child and talk with them regularly about both elements: are they doing daily self-care, and are there any warning signs to address? This can help you communicate your concern for their mental health, even if your child isn’t living with you.

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

See Our Parent’s Guide To Mental Health And Eating Disorders

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Diet culture myths and eating disorders

Myths you should ignore to prevent eating disorders

So many of our cultural health norms are not actually healthy, which is why I’ve put together a list of the four diet culture myths you should ignore to prevent eating disorders.

Look, it’s not our fault that we’re confused about health. We’re surrounded by powerful industries that create and reinforce health myths. We have the diet industry, the food industry, and the fitness, beauty, and fashion industries. They are all motivated and skilled at making us believe they have the answer to being healthy. But while health does require the basics: food, housing, and food, consumer goods are not the path to health. Health is an inside job.

Raising healthy kids

Jon and Theresa always wanted the very best for their two kids. Theresa is a nurse and Jon runs marathons. Together, they thought they knew what to do to raise healthy kids. But now that their kids are tweens, they see signs of disordered eating.

“My first hint that something was wrong was when whole containers of peanut butter and loaves of bread would disappear,” says Theresa. “We don’t keep candy, cookies, or chips in the house, but when we went to parties I would see my kids hovering over the food table, grabbing every bit of junk food they could get their hands on. It was shocking to see them put away so much food so quickly. I tell them they will get stomachaches, but they don’t stop. It seems like they have a limitless capacity for junk food.”

Jon agreed. “At first I thought that meant we needed even stricter rules, but now I’m not so sure. It seems like maybe we’ve raised them in such a carefully-managed environment that they just go crazy when they’re out in the real world. I just don’t know how we can keep them healthy anymore – my rules don’t seem to be working very well.”

Body Image Printable Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to feel calmer and more confident in their body!

  • Boost confidence
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase media literacy

The relationship is what matters

Often parents worry so much about feeding kids a “junk-free” diet. But in doing so they don’t realize that their kids’ relationship with food and their body is what’s most important. And without a healthy relationship with food and their bodies, kids are susceptible to disordered eating and eating disorders.

Theresa and Jon are worried that their older daughter is developing binge eating disorder. “She’s eating a lot more than usual at night and then skipping breakfast and lunch almost every day,” says Jon. “Sometimes we catch her in the pantry at night, and she seems so desperate and unhappy. Last night she was sobbing in my arms about how much weight she is gaining. I told her she’s beautiful, but it didn’t help.”

“I realize that we have created a lot of food rules and restrictions in our house, and even though our goal was health, it’s not working out so well,” says Theresa. “We both grew up with SpaghettiOs, Pop-Tarts, Top Ramen, and frozen pizzas and burritos, and maybe being so strict with food as parents was an overcorrection.”

Theresa and Jon are not alone. We want to do everything we can to raise healthy kids, but sometimes common health advice gets in the way of them having a positive relationship with food and their body. Even though health myths are everywhere, parents can safely ignore most of them, especially if they want to prevent eating disorders. Health doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s not easy parenting in the midst of all these health myths. But we can do it!

Here are the four parenting myths you can ignore to prevent eating disorders:

Myth 1: my kids will never stop eating sugar and junk

There is a powerful myth in our culture that kids, and all people, are insatiably drawn to sugar and “junk” food. And while there is plenty of evidence that food companies strategically create food that appeals to our genetic predisposition to eating lots of life-giving calories, this doesn’t tell the full story.

Yes, our bodies are very attracted to sweet, salty, and fat-filled food. But bodies are not naturally insatiable unless they are experiencing restriction (famine). In fact, it’s becoming increasingly understood that eating an entire sleeve of Oreos is more likely based on the fact that you have negative beliefs about the Oreos and have told yourself not to eat them than the Oreos themselves. You read that right: restriction, not access to delicious food, breeds binge eating.

There are many people who raise kids using Intuitive Eating and/or Ellyn Satter’s Eating Competence method. With these eating styles, people feed themselves healthfully but don’t avoid foods(except for allergies), eat according to appetite, and don’t use weight as a measurement of success. These styles of eating have been associated with the highest levels of health across multiple domains, from cardiovascular to mental health. They are also protective against eating disorders.

Parents should serve kids regular meals featuring a variety of food. Meals should include starches, fats, vegetables/fruits, protein, and dairy (if there’s no lactose intolerance). To avoid binge eating or an unhealthy relationship with food, serve desserts and other tasty, highly palatable foods as part of your regular rotation. 

I know it’s hard to believe, but when you serve all the foods, you’ll raise kids who naturally modulate their food intake and don’t suffer from a scarcity mentality that drives binge eating and/or dieting and restriction. The best thing you can do for your child’s physical and mental health is to raise them to have a healthy relationship with food.

Myth 2: I need to lose weight to be healthy

We live in a culture that is cruel to bodies, so it’s not unusual for parents to be actively working to lose weight with diet and fitness programs. Or on the other hand, parents may feel so discouraged that they don’t feed their bodies well, move them enough, or otherwise treat them with kindness and respect. 

Disliking and tearing apart our bodies and trying to achieve health with weight loss is a cultural obsession that is linked to body dissatisfaction and eating disorders. Surprisingly, intentional weight loss is not associated with increased health and is associated with higher lifetime BMI

There are many myths linking weight loss to health, when in fact it is the most common precursor to weight gain and eating disorders.

Ask yourself: 

  • Am I actively trying to lose weight?
  • Would other people judge my exercise program as intense or extreme?
  • Do I think I need to lose weight?
  • Am I struggling with binge eating?
  • Would other people say that my eating is “pure,” “clean,” or otherwise admirable based on social media standards?
  • Am I avoiding events and celebrations because I feel ashamed of my body?
  • Before attending events and celebrations, do I try to lose weight so I look better?
  • Do I have bad body thoughts almost all day, every day?

One of the most important things we can do to prevent eating disorders is to heal our own relationship with food and our body. Our children listen when we groan and complain about our bellies, thighs, and other body parts. Our children are watching when we limit our dinner to a salad with no dressing. They know when our exercise is more compulsive than pleasurable.

It’s best if we can adopt a non-diet approach to health. This is not “letting ourselves go,” it is respecting our bodies. This includes eating healthfully (see what that means above), and movement, which is great for almost all bodies. But dieting to lose weight or adopting extreme fitness programs can have serious consequences for our own bodies and our kids.

Body Image Printable Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to feel calmer and more confident in their body!

  • Boost confidence
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase media literacy

Myth 3: I need to manage my kid’s weight

The essential health behaviors we need to manage for our kids are:

  • Meals and snacks: serve a variety of foods regularly, reliably, and in a pleasant environment
  • Movement: provide access to free play, P.E., individual/team sports, and/or family physical activities like hiking or dancing together in the living room
  • Sleep: depending on their age, our kids need 8-12 hours of sleep. Sleep is essential for both mental and physical health and should be carefully managed.

But should parents “manage” kids’ weight? Should we monitor it and restrict their food and/or increase exercise if their weight increases or has always been higher than we’d like it to be?

The simple answer is clear: no. The idea that parents need to control kids’ weight is one of the most harmful myths contributing to eating disorders.

And I’m not coddling kids by saying this. The most common outcome of parents who restrict kids’ food with the goal of weight loss is actually higher lifetime weight. That’s right: attempts to control weight actually increase weight. Dieting and weight control in childhood and adolescence predict higher BMI in adulthood. This is because of a syndrome called weight-cycling.

Basically, when you intentionally lose weight, your body kicks in a bunch of biological systems to deal with the perceived famine. Your body has many non-conscious methods such as slowing your metabolism and extracting every single calorie from your diet to try and maintain homeostasis. It will do everything it can to get you back to the weight you were before, often with a little extra to keep you safe.

Restrictive diets and intentional weight loss are both strong predictors of an eating disorder.

It makes sense in our society that parents worry about kids’ weight. Nonetheless, parents should not try to manage or reduce kids’ weight. Focus on healthful feeding, enjoyable movement, and sleep, and trust your child’s body to settle into the weight it’s meant to be.

Myth 4: health is something I can see

Multi-billion dollar industries are dedicated to convincing us that health is visible. After all, if we believe that health is something we can see, we are more likely to buy the products that promise to make us look healthier. Gorgeous models are hired and Photoshopped to sell us the idea that beauty and thinness equal health. But it’s simply not true.

The myths saying we can see health by observing someone’s weight contribute to eating disorders. Health is an inside job. Heavier people are just as likely to be healthy as thinner people. People who are not gorgeous can be just as healthy as gorgeous people. So what can parents actually do to improve kids’ health? Raise your kids in a healthy environment by following these guidelines: 

  1. Don’t diet and don’t let kids diet (dieting is associated with weight gain and eating disorders)
  2. Feed kids healthfully (using Ellyn Satter’s Eating Competence model)
  3. Get kids moving for fun and function (with friends and with you)
  4. Protect kids’ sleep (meet the minimum age-based requirements)
  5. Build healthy emotional connections with your children (enjoy them and make family time meaningful and fun)
  6. Help kids learn to self-regulate their emotions (begin by co-regulating with them to build this skill)

These are the basic foundations of health. If you achieve these six things, your child has the structure and support they need to be healthy. And if problems arise, as they probably will, you’ll have the tools to help your child feel better soon.

Moving forward

Theresa and Jon are getting parent coaching to help them build a food- and body-friendly household for their kids. They’re working on being a lot more flexible with how they define health and developing new communication and emotional skills. They can see that certain health myths were increasing their kids’ risk of eating disorders.

Their daughter has responded well to their changes. She is eating more regular meals and experiencing fewer binge-eating episodes. There is less stress around food and she can comfortably eat a few cookies without feeling the urge to binge eat all of them and then restrict afterward to try and make up for it.

Last week they went to an annual family event that is known for its delicious and formerly forbidden foods. This year, Jon and Theresa noticed that their kids ate and enjoyed the food, but they also spent far more time with their cousins. They were not chained to the food table, but rather socialized and enjoyed themselves.

Both kids are more relaxed around food. It took a little bit of time, but now they are showing all the signs of being competent eaters. Eating is a lot more fun and less stressful for everyone. And Jon and Theresa feel more confident and secure that they are raising their kids in a truly healthy environment. Diet culture and eating disorders are linked, so this is an important step forward in raising healthy kids.

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

For privacy, names and identifying details have been changed in this article.

See Our Parent’s Guide To Diet Culture And Eating Disorders

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3 brutal truths about kids’ body image

Kids’ body image report: 4 brutal facts

I’m going to level with you: I didn’t like writing this article about the brutal truths about kids’ body image. As someone on a mission to empower parents to raise kids who are free from body hate, it hurts my heart that this research indicates that our kids are definitely not free from body hate. 

From my perspective, two things are going on right now. First, we have high rates of dissatisfied body image in kids and the problems that arise from that, including eating disorders. Second, I see some progress in how our society treats bodies. We’re seeing more acceptance of the fat acceptance movement. And while the “body positive” movement is fairly problematic, it has expanded people’s ability to see beauty in a variety of body sizes.

Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls show is an example of a powerful shift in media. Her own performances on stage are athletic and powerful. And this show makes it clear that higher weight and fitness are not opposites.

Lizzo’s show is important because a significant driver of body image is the media. Our kids consume constant messages about bodies and so-called wellness programs, cleanses, weight-loss journeys, fitness challenges, and more. Engaging with media today almost always means learning dangerous beliefs and behaviors disguised as empowerment and self-care.

It’s not easy out there, but keep reading. Because at the end of the tough stuff I’m about to share, I’ll give you some ideas for how you can improve your child’s body image. There are a lot of things you can do, and you have the power to keep your child safe despite the fact that we live in a nasty societal soup of negative body image.

Here are three brutal truths about kids’ body image:

1. Most people have bad body image

All kids live with grownups, and that’s bad news for their body image. A Glamour magazine survey showed that 97% of women report having at least one negative thought about their body image every single day. Almost all women and about half of all men are dissatisfied with their body image.

In a 2019 survey of UK adults, one in five adults felt shame, 34% felt down or low, and 19% felt disgusted because of their body image in the last year. Around 35% of adults felt anxious and/or depressed about their body image. And 13% experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of their concerns about their body image. 

Many of these adults are parents, and body image issues tend to trickle down. A 2016 Journal of Pediatrics study found that more than half of children aged 9-14 years old were dissatisfied with their body shape. 

But of course, it’s not the parents’ fault. We live in a societal soup of body hate. Bodies are ridiculed, shamed, and discriminated against every day. 

Our kids’ doctors, teachers, coaches, friends, and extended family all teach them that bodies are something to be evaluated and judged. Add to that entertainment media like TV, movies, advertising, and video games, and harmful body image messages become inescapable. And that’s before social media, which is a known (and serious) contributor to poor body image.

Body Image Printable Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to feel calmer and more confident in their body!

  • Boost confidence
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase media literacy

2. Girls have bad body image

I think most people realize that girls are likely to have negative body image. After all, female bodies are constantly objectified, and the media, entertainment, beauty, and fashion industries endlessly promote very thin, white, and idealized female bodies. The pressure on the female body to be conventionally beautiful, thin, graceful, and “perfect” is intense. And the data shows that our girls feel this pressure.

  • 50% of 13-year-old U.S. girls and 80% of 17-year-old U.S. girls are unhappy with their bodies. [1]
  • 80% of teenage girls worry about becoming fat. [1]
  • 40-60% of elementary school girls are concerned about becoming “too fat.”[2]
  • 40-60% of girls reported feeling worried about their weight. [2]
  • 80% of teenage girls report fears of gaining weight and of being in a larger body. [1]
  • 36% of German girls felt fat, 22% were terrified of gaining weight, and 36% reported regularly feeling upset about their weight or shape. [3]
  • 50%  of Spanish girls expressed a desire for a thinner body, despite having a lower body weight. [4]

3. Boys also have bad body image

But it’s not only girls who suffer from bad body image. Boys are increasingly reporting negative body image. While girls almost always want to be thinner and conventionally beautiful, boys are just as likely to want to be more muscular and larger. In the past 10-20 years the highly-muscular male body has become increasingly idealized and objectified, driving boys and men to develop what’s called “bigorexia.” Boys increasingly use protein powders, special diets, extreme workouts, and sometimes steroids to pursue the ideal of a lean and muscular body.

  • 25% of U.S. boys were concerned about their muscularity and leanness and wished for toned and defined muscles. [5]
  • 17% of Australian boys were dissatisfied with their bodies. [6]
  • 3% of Australian teenage boys report body dysmorphic symptoms. [7]
  • 30% of U.S. teenage boys reported a desire to gain weight to be more muscular. [8]
  • 17% of U.S. teenage boys perceived themselves to be underweight, despite being of normal weight. [8]
  • Among Australian teenage boys, 12% met the criteria for an eating disorder characterized by marked body image disturbances. [8]
  • 20% of German boys felt fat, 15% were terrified of gaining weight, and 25% reported regularly feeling upset about weight or shape. [9]

What parents can do to improve kids’ body image

Parents have a significant impact on how kids feel about body image. We have the power to counteract the dangerous societal messages that teach kids to feel bad about themselves and strive for impossible body standards. Here are a few tips for parents who want to help kids have better body image: 

1. Respect your body

You are your child’s most important model. How you feel about and treat your body matters! Your body is not a project, and it’s not something that you need to control and dominate. The best science available shows that people who follow the principles of Intuitive Eating tend to have the greatest health. These principles include not trying to control for weight or achieve a specific weight or size. Learn to feed your body well, move it, rest it, and care for it with the dignity and respect it deserves. Your children are watching!

2. Respect other people’s bodies

Other people’s bodies are none of your business, and gossiping about them is wrong. Catch yourself when you’re tempted to comment on someone else’s body either positively or negatively. Focus instead on other qualities. If you hate someone, rather than focus on how fat they are, explore which character traits bother you, and talk about those. Their weight is not a character trait. If you love someone, rather than focus on how beautiful they are, find out what character traits draw you to them, and talk about those. Of course, you can point out neutral characteristics when necessary. Saying things like “she has long hair,” or “he’s very tall,” is not the same as making a character judgment based on someone’s weight. We should all know the difference and teach it to our kids.

3. Respect your child’s body

I know there is a ton of fear-mongering about kids’ bodies and weight out there. I get it. It’s scary to be a parent when it feels as if how we feed our kids is critically important to their health. The evidence shows that parents do influence lifelong health, but not in the way you think. A restricted diet, rigid exercise program, and worrying about their weight will not improve their relationship with their bodies. What does improve body image? Serve family meals daily and enjoy each other while eating. Serve a wide variety of foods, including fruits and veggies but also desserts and snacks. Be active and move your bodies as a family. Establish sleep schedules and keep them sacred (with age-appropriate modifications) all the way through high school. These actions will benefit your child’s lifelong health, regardless of their weight today or in the future because they are about respecting the body and treating it with love.

Body Image Printable Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to feel calmer and more confident in their body!

  • Boost confidence
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase media literacy

4. Teach media literacy

Most adults do not believe they are influenced by the media, but the data shows otherwise. We are all deeply impacted by media portrayals of what it means to be good, successful, and loved in our society. And in the current media and social media environments, thin people are portrayed as all of those things, while fat people are portrayed as bad, unsuccessful, and unhappy. Actively teach your child about media literacy and the impact of media representation on what we believe. Home is where our kids consume most of their media, so it’s important to regulate media consumption and talk about it regularly. Don’t let your 8-year-old consume social media without supervision and limits. You can gradually reduce your limits as your child ages, but never stop talking about the influence of media on how we feel about ourselves and others.

5. Look out for signs of trouble

In our society, it is extremely hard to feel 100% positive about your body all the time. Your child will likely have negative body image moments, days, and possibly more. But keep an eye out for if your child’s body image is impacting their psychology and/or behavior. Don’t allow dieting or food restriction of any kind in your home, as dieting is a major indicator of and driver of poor body image. It’s also the most significant precursor to eating disorders. If you believe your child has a negative body image that is impacting them in a significant way, seek support from a non-diet mental health professional who is trained in body image and eating disorder issues.

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

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


[1] Kearney Cooke, A., & Tieger, D. (2015). Body image disturbance and the development of eating disorders. In L. Smolak & M. D. Levine (Eds.), The Wiley Handbook of Eating Disorders (pp. 283-296). West Sussex, UK: Wiley

[2] Body Image, Second Edition: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention, Cash and Smolak, 2011

[3] Schuck, K., Munsch, S., & Schneider, S. (2018). Body image perceptions and symptoms of disturbed eating behavior among children and adolescents in Germany. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 

[4] del Mar Bibiloni, M., Pich, J., Pons, A., & Tur, J. A. (2013). Body image and eating patterns among adolescents. BMC public health, 13(1), 1-10

[5] Calzo JP, Masyn KE, Corliss HL, Scherer EA, Field AE, Austin SB. Patterns of body image concerns and disordered weight- and shape-related behaviors in heterosexual and sexual minority adolescent males. Dev Psychol. 2015;51(9):1216–25

[6] Mond J, Hall A, Bentley C, Harrison C, Gratwick-Sarll K, Lewis V. Eating-disordered behavior in adolescent boys: eating disorder examination questionnaire norms. Int J Ea t Disord. 2014;47(4):335–41

[7] Schneider, S. C., Mond, J., Turner, C. M., & Hudson, J. L. (2017). Subthreshold body dysmorphic disorder in adolescents: Prevalence and impact. Psychiatry research, 251, 125-130

[8] Nagata, J. M., Bibbins-Domingo, K., Garber, A. K., Griffiths, S., Vittinghoff, E., & Murray, S. B. (2019). Boys, bulk, and body ideals: Sex differences in weight-gain attempts among adolescents in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health, 64(4), 450-453

[9] Schuck, K., Munsch, S., & Schneider, S. (2018). Body image perceptions and symptoms of disturbed eating behavior among children and adolescents in Germany. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health

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How to talk about your daughter’s body

How to talk about your daughter’s body

Many parents wonder how they can talk about their daughter’s body without hurting her body image. I’ve come up with some guidelines for what to say and what not to say when you talk about your daughter’s body. I’ve also included the three things you should also be talking about that will impact your daughter’s body image and mental health. Combined, this advice will have a significant impact on how she feels about herself. 

What you can say about your daughter’s body

There are a lot of wonderful things you can say that will increase your daughter’s sense of worth and strength. But the fact is that female bodies are under tremendous pressure in our society. This means that when you talk about your daughter’s body you need to be aware of the social pressures on her body and adjust your comments accordingly. This will help her grow into a strong, resilient, and self-aware person.

Talk about what her body does

The majority of your comments about your daughter’s body should be related to what her body can do instead of what it looks like. For example, talk about how she uses her body to have fun, like turning cartwheels or running down a hill. Or you can talk about how she uses her body to get places and do things like walk to school, eat delicious food, and laugh with her friends. Her body is involved in all of those activities, and they have nothing to do with what her body looks like. When you talk about your daughter’s body you should spend most of your time focusing on her body’s incredible functionality. For example*:

  • Your legs were flying when you ran down that hill!
  • I’m really glad that you’re able to walk to school every day and that your body is able to get you where you want to go.
  • Aren’t you glad you have a tongue to taste this delicious ice cream?
  • Do your eyes see how delicious that pizza looks? I wonder if it tastes as good as it looks?

*My examples assume ability. Of course, not all bodies can do all things, and I acknowledge that.

Body Image Printable Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to feel calmer and more confident in their body!

  • Boost confidence
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase media literacy

Talk about how her body feels

It is a key skill for a woman to tune into whether she feels comfortable or uncomfortable, pleasure or discomfort. This is a skill that will keep her safe, healthy, and happy for life. You want her to be able to tune into her body’s signals and trust herself to make good choices. 

Therefore, try to avoid telling her what her body should feel and whether she is comfortable or uncomfortable. Instead, be curious about her experiences of comfort and discomfort. Here are some ways you can talk about her body’s comfort level and raise her self-awareness:

  • It looks like you feel uncomfortable in that shirt, is it itchy or scratchy?
  • Grandma’s hugs feel warm and cozy to me, how do they feel to you?
  • I’m sensing you might be cold, is that true?
  • Your body looks angry right now because your fists are clenched, is that true?
  • It seems like you’re feeling worried because you’re pacing around the room.
  • Would you like to hug Uncle Jeremy goodbye today?
  • You’re telling me your tummy is very full, which is uncomfortable. Let’s just rest here together for the next 20 minutes and see how you feel.

Talk about how she looks

There will be (hopefully many) moments when your daughter seems like she is the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s OK to think your daughter is beautiful! Beauty is something we find in nature every day. The important thing to notice is that natural beauty is never perfect. It also isn’t being marketed and sold to us. Unlike the beauty industry, which enforces harmful standards and extracts a hefty price, we don’t have to pay for nature, and it’s not selling us a solution to a manufactured problem. 

Look at your beautiful daughter as a part of nature. When you talk about your daughter’s beauty, you should feel deeply that she is 

beautiful inside and out …

with, not in spite of her flaws …

and she does not need* to do anything to make herself more beautiful.

*she may choose to do things like dress up, use makeup, etc., but those should be choices she’s making, not compulsions she’s performing to seek worthiness.

But sometimes it’s not a deep existential experience. You just want to give her a quick compliment and tell her she’s cute, adorable, or gorgeous. Maybe she looks great in that color, or her eyes are sparkling today. That’s OK, too! Just keep these compliments short and sweet. Avoid making them the main way you share your admiration of who she is.

What you should not say about your daughter’s body

Unfortunately there are some major landmines when it comes to talking about your daughter’s body. You should avoid talking about the following things:

Don’t talk about what she weighs

Body weight should be a neutral number, like height or shoe size. But of course that’s not the case. Decades of intense marketing and advertising have taught us that the higher a woman’s weight, the less attractive and worthy she is. This is appalling, but it’s the society we live in. 

Therefore, I typically advise parents to not talk about weight in any way unless they have been specifically coached in anti-diet, weight-neutral practices. This is because all of us need significant un-training in order to talk about her weight without stigma and shame.

Don’t talk about how she compares

Women are taught to compare body parts, outfits, and all aspects of their appearance to other women. They are taught there is a scarcity of love and worthiness that can only be attained through “winning” at beauty standards. Your daughter deserves to grow up knowing that she is worthy exactly as she is, and that she does not need to compete against others to earn your (or anyone’s) love.

Don’t compare your daughter’s body, beauty, weight, or appearance (positive or negative), to anyone else. Show your daughter that her body’s weight and appearance have nothing to do with her value by never comparing her body to another’s body.

Don’t talk about what she’s wearing

Your daughter will wear clothes that you don’t like. Think very, very carefully about what you say about those clothes. Because her body should, first and foremost, belong to her (not you or anyone else). That means that what she puts on her body should almost always be up to her.

If you feel compelled to comment on what she’s wearing, take a breath. Think deeply about whether your comments about what she is wearing are necessary or helpful. Are they kind? Do they respect her as the sovereign ruler of her own body?

If you truly believe her clothes are “inappropriate” (look out for fatphobia and rigid gender norms here), you can make a simple statement. Say something like “I’m sorry, but I’m having a hard time with that outfit. I need to think about why it’s hard for me in order to give you a good explanation, but right now I’m not comfortable with you wearing that to school.” 

Only use this statement rarely. Trust that she will find her own path. Support her in wearing clothes that feel authentic to her unique self, not your vision of what you wish she would look like. Remember that fashion crimes are not criminal, and bodily autonomy is a basic human right.

The foundation of self-acceptance

The dos and don’ts of body talk are important. But it’s also important to build a foundation of body acceptance. Here are three essential steps to raising a daughter who doesn’t hate her body:

1. Watch how you talk about your body and other bodies 

Think carefully about how you talk about your own body and other people’s bodies. Our kids learn from what we do more than what we say. So if you are criticizing your own body or talking negatively about other people’s bodies, that’s a problem. 

Rigid and ridiculous beauty standards are fatphobic, sexist, and damaging to mental health. Eating disorders are skyrocketing, and anxiety and depression about weight and appearance are a major problem. Girls and women experience both at much higher rates than boys and men, making this an important thing to think about if you have a daughter.

Here are common things you might be tempted to say about your body that you should stop saying:

  • I can’t wear that (subtext: it’s not flattering/I’m too fat)
  • No way could I eat that (subtext: it will make me gain weight)
  • I can’t leave the house without makeup (subtext: my natural face is unacceptable)
  • If I eat that I would have to spend the rest of the day in the gym (subtext: eating food requires compensatory behavior)

Here are common things you may be saying about other people’s bodies that you should stop saying:

  • She looks amazing now! (subtext: because she lost weight/is thin)
  • That person just doesn’t look healthy (subtext: they are fat and fat is bad)
  • She’s let herself go (subtext: she’s gained weight and that’s bad)
  • How can she leave the house like that? (subtext: she’s not meeting societal beauty standards and she should)

Remember that even very young children (toddlers!) will pick up the subtext. It’s impossible to live in our society and not translate technically benign statements into fat-shaming and body-shaming. Your daughter is watching and listening to you all the time. For the sake of her long-term health, work on your own body image and weight stigma, and release outdated gender norms.

2. Build media literacy

Our society is cruel to bodies. Parents need to counterbalance this cruelty by teaching media literacy. These conversations need to happen early and often.

Sexism, fatphobia, and objectification are a significant part of our media landscape, and if you aren’t talking about this, your child is picking up messages about beauty and how women are valued without your consent or input. You don’t need to raise your child in a bubble, but you do need to actively counter-educate her about how the media influences what we think and believe.

At a minimum, you should talk to your daughter often about these concepts: 

  • Almost all advertisements, TV shows, movies, and social media posts involve heavy editing and filters. Even if they don’t use filters, the person has likely spent hours perfecting their hair, makeup, and outfit, getting the right pose, and setting up professional lighting, etc. What you see on the screen almost never represents what a person looks like in real life.
  • Bodies, particularly women’s bodies are often used as sales tools. For example, an apartment building may use a photo of a woman in a bikini to advertise their apartments. This advertisement may appear next to another one featuring a man who is wearing a suit and tie. We need to ask questions about this. For example: why is the man wearing clothing but the woman is wearing almost none? Also notice that many times women’s bodies appear without their heads or even as individual body parts in order to sell products. This depersonalizes the female body and treats it as an object and a sales tool.
  • Just because someone on social media or TV says something is true does not mean it is true. Many times the person is speaking from personal experience, but that experience cannot be extended to you. Additionally, a lot of times the person is being paid or is hoping to be compensated when they promote products or services.
  • If something on social media or TV sounds too good to be true or promises a quick, easy fix, then it’s probably not true. Most things in life are full of nuance and complexity.
  • Pay attention to diversity – or lack thereof. If everyone you see in the media is white, thin, heterosexual and cisgender, then adjust your media consumption, or at least talk about the problem.
  • Advertisements are successful when they create a problem that the product can solve. Therefore, media messages about “problems” are made up by advertising agencies. For example, wrinkles, weight, cellulite, and skin color are largely genetically predetermined. We have very little control over these features. The products designed to “solve” the so-called problems are neither necessary nor do they work as promised.

3. Talk about her other qualities 

Spend the bulk of your time talking about your daughter’s non-body qualities. This is really important, because the problem is not talking about your daughter’s body, but rather talking about her body at the exclusion of her other qualities. Her body is a part of her, but she should not believe that her value and worth are based on her appearance.

In general, you should spend the majority of your time focusing on her non-body-based qualities. Body and appearance comments should be the small minority of what you talk to your daughter about.

Instead of focusing on your daughter’s body, talk about her:

  • Creativity
  • Sense of humor
  • Kindness
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Attention to detail
  • Mental flexibility
  • Courage
  • Friendliness
  • Trustworthiness
  • Dependability
  • Grit
  • Passion
  • Purpose
  • Curiosity
  • Dedication
  • Adventurousness
  • Daring
  • Warmth
  • Loyalty
  • Open-mindedness

When you talk about these qualities, praise her for her behaviors, not the outcomes. This has been demonstrated in the research around the “Growth Mindset,” which is that focusing on outcomes can raise a perfectionistic, rigid mentality. Outcome-based praise can also be de-motivating and spoil the joy of trying new things. Here are a few examples:

It’s really great that you put so much effort into your school project.I’m proud of you for getting good grades.
I love that you’re putting so much creativity into your role in the play.You’re the star of the show!
You were very brave to try out for the softball team.You making the softball team is very important to me.

As with appearance, of course you can sometimes mention outcomes, but be sure that the majority of your praise is about the behaviors you admire. Navigating body image and eating disorders is difficult, but following these steps should help you raise a strong, confident person!

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

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

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What to do when your tween says they’re “fat” and other tricky situations

What to do when your tween says they’re “fat” and other tricky situations

It’s not uncommon for a tween to say they’re “fat” or otherwise struggle with their body image.

This is an understandable but devastating side effect of living in our culture. One study found that nearly half of girls aged 3-6 years old are afraid of being fat. It only gets worse as they get older unless parents actively intervene.

Our society is deeply fatphobic. Our kids are not immune.

Parents need to help kids, particularly those who are larger, live in their bodies safely and without shame. Here are my eight tips for parents facing tricky body image situations. 

This advice helps when treating eating disorders, preventing eating disorders, and preventing a broad array of mental health issues.

1. Don’t tell them it’s just baby fat/they’re not fat, etc.

When your tween says they’re “fat,” your first response may be to try and convince them they are not. But that’s not the best approach.

Don’t say that they will grow out of it. And don’t insist that they are not fat, they are beautiful.

These statements can make a child feel even more ashamed of their body. And it also opens the door for your child to perpetuate anti-fat bias in the world.

Teach them to be a good friend to themselves and a good citizen at the same time by acknowledging anti-fat bias and teaching them how to talk about bodies with dignity and respect. 

Don’t say anything that suggests that fat is bad and something to get over and/or be ashamed of. 

Instead, talk about what it means to live in a larger body in our society. Help them understand that we are more than bodies. Give them the tools to live in the body they have.

Read more: How to protect your daughter from diet culture and fatphobia

2. Find out the feelings behind the word “fat”

Fat can be a neutral descriptor, but it can also be a way to be cruel to ourselves.

Teach kids that it’s not OK for them to be rude to themselves or use the word “fat” as a stand-in for negative feelings. 

Often when kids call themselves “fat” in a negative way, it means they are struggling with negative feelings. Ask questions.

Find out what “fat” means to them. Help them find the feeling words that fit.

In our society a tween who calls themself “fat” often means they feel sad, lonely, or rejected. 

Seek to understand and validate the feelings without trying to convince your child that they are already thin enough. The more we deny their experience, the deeper it will dig into their psyche. 

Read more: What to do when your tween daughter calls herself fat

3. Teach them about weight stigma and fatphobia

Bodies are a social justice issue. Body politics are filled with racism, sexism, and sizeism. Parents need to recognize that weight discrimination is harmful just like other forms of discrimination. Parents need to become social justice warriors who are willing to fight back against our culture of body hate.

We can build a kinder world for our children (and everyone), but it’s not going to happen without effort. 

Teaching kids about weight stigma and fatphobia is protective and will help you raise a kinder human. Bodies are beautiful, unique, and healthiest when treated with dignity.

We need our kids to recognize that trying to control bodies or judging people for their bodies is harmful and unacceptable.

All bodies deserve dignity. Help your child know this deep in their bones.

Read more: Weight stigma and your child

4. Work on your own food and body issues

Your own body and food issues will trickle down to your child. Our kids are finely attuned to how we feel, so we have to work on ourselves to help them grow up strong and healthy.

I’m not blaming you here. We have all grown up in a toxic culture that treats bodies as objects to be controlled and criticized. But when you have a child, it’s time to dig deeper and uncover your own food and body issues.

If you are dieting or otherwise controlling your weight, it’s time to stop. I know this is revolutionary, but we need to heal ourselves so we can help our kids thrive.

Please get support if you don’t know how to live without your bathroom scale and food plans. A therapist, dietitian, or coach can help you learn to practice Intuitive Eating and find peace with your body.

Read more: Get off the diet cycle and raise healthier kids

Body Image Printable Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to feel calmer and more confident in their body!

  • Boost confidence
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Increase media literacy

5. Teach them to accept their bodies (and never diet)

Trying to change our body size and shape doesn’t work, and dieting increases the risk of an eating disorder by up to 15x. 

To prevent eating disorders and other serious mental health issues, I encourage parents to commit to the goal of helping kids never, ever, diet. 

This means we need to help them accept their weight, whatever it is. This is counter-culture, so we need to constantly remind our kids that body acceptance is the best path to health.

You may feel proud of a child who says they want to “eat healthier,” but this is the modern-day code for dieting. Instead, teach your child to listen to and trust their body instead of following external rules and goals. 

Of course, you can stock and serve fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins. But serve them alongside carbs, fats, cookies, chips, and other great foods. 

All foods fit in a healthy lifestyle. And the more you support a nuanced, gentle approach to bodies, the healthier your child will be.

Read more: The science to support a non-diet, weight-neutral approach

6. Help them manage peer teasing (and bullying)

It sucks, but kids are cruel to other kids’ bodies. If you have a child who is larger, they will likely experience discrimination and teasing. But even smaller kids may experience cruel body-based taunting and jeers. 

It’s not fair, but don’t make it worse by ignoring it or pretending it doesn’t happen.

Teach your child to be confident and assertive about their body. Give your child some possible responses to fatphobic jokes, and support them in standing up for themselves and others. 

This is not unlike anti-racism work, where it’s very important to prepare kids to not be passive bystanders when they witness body-based teasing and bullying. All kids should be given the tools to be “upstanders” when it comes to body-based teasing and bullying.

Make it easy for your child to report body-based teasing and bullying to you. And be prepared to speak with your school’s administration when it inevitably happens. This is an under-reported aspect of bullying, so don’t hesitate to say something!

Read more: Help your child deal with body shaming

7. Teach them to respond to adults who say “watch your weight” and “eat healthy”

Kids know that “watch your weight” and “eat healthy” is code for “your body and appetite are unacceptable.” Teach them that these comments are common, but they may hurt your child’s feelings, and you understand why.

Empower your child to politely but assertively respond to these adults. A simple “I’m good, thanks,” can work well. They can also say “please don’t talk about my body/weight/food.” 

Some adults may become offended, but that’s just because they haven’t thought about how harmful their comments about weight and food can be. There’s nothing inappropriate about your child setting boundaries about what adults say to them about their body and food.

Read more: Don’t talk about my child’s weight

Read more: Opt-out of school weight programs

8. Work harder to find age-appropriate, comfortable clothing

If you have a child in a larger body, you’ll need to work a little harder to help them have fun with fashion. Larger kids need a little extra effort and attention because the clothing industry does not recognize size diversity. 

Do your research and make sure that stores carry their size before you take them shopping. 

Remind them that the problem is never their body, it’s the sizeist fashion industry. And when things don’t fit, teach them to blame the clothes, not their body. 

Read more: How to shop for clothes when your daughter wears plus size

It’s sadly normal

It’s sadly normal for kids to feel bad about their bodies in our culture. It’s not uncommon for a tween to say they’re “fat” or otherwise struggle with their body image.

The best thing parents can do is be prepared and proactive rather than reactive when it comes to body image issues.

And if your tween does say they’re “fat” or are otherwise distressed about their body, respond with compassion and understanding rather than trying to dismiss their feelings.

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

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Fear & worry in eating disorder recovery

Fear & worry in eating disorder recovery

If you have a child who has an eating disorder, then you should expect to see fear and worry. This is because eating disorders often show up with, and in response to, anxiety. Eating disorder behaviors can be an attempt to cope with anxious feelings and thoughts. And luckily, parents have a significant impact on kids’ anxiety.

But unfortunately, our instinctual responses to our kids’ anxiety can accidentally make it worse over time!

In fact, there are treatment programs in which parents of anxious kids are the only ones who are treated. That’s right: while it’s ideal if your child is also getting treatment for anxiety, it’s not a requirement for them to start feeling (and acting) better. You can do a lot to change the course of their anxiety. Anxiety is highly responsive to relationships. You will either see it grow or decrease depending on how you respond. 

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

What does anxiety look like in an eating disorder?

Anxiety can be a bit tricky to see without some practice. Many people who develop eating disorders have learned to cloak their anxiety with anger, sadness, fighting, and withdrawal. Here are the top signals of anxiety, fear, and worry when there’s an eating disorder:

  1. Worry about weight
  2. Fear of food
  3. Anger about rules, restriction, and efforts to control eating disorder behaviors
  4. Sadness about perceived failure and disappointing their parents, friends, etc.
  5. Fighting and negotiating about recovery steps and expectations
  6. Withdrawal, shutdown, or a refusal to talk or engage in family activities

Anger, fighting, and sadness are the most distracting versions of anxiety. And parents typically respond to them with confusion and surprise. It seems like you’re asking your child to do something that makes perfect logical sense, so why are they so upset about it? 

The key is to know that they are upset about it because their anxiety has been triggered, and one of the ways anxiety maintains control is to put out distractions from the bigger issue, which is the fact that their anxiety response is over-reactive. 

The solution if your child has a lot of worry and fear, or if they are angry, sad, fighting you, or withdrawing when they have an eating disorder, is to learn how to respond to anxiety better. 

How to deal with fear and worry in eating disorder recovery

First, let’s set the table. I want you to start talking about worry, fear, and other scary feelings regularly. Have regular conversations with your child about what anxiety is, how it shows up, and how you’re going to respond to it now that you know this. 

NOTE: lots of kids hate the word anxiety. I’m going to use it in this article so you know what I’m talking about, but you may do better if you use more kid-friendly words like worry, fear, stress, anger, etc.

The most important message I’m sharing today is that worry, fear, and other big feelings will show up, and that’s OK, but we’re not going to let them make important decisions about what we do and don’t do.

Demystify anxiety. It follows a predictable pattern. It’s rarely helpful to be surprised by it, try to ignore it or force it to go away. Instead, it’s best to talk about it, recognize it, and even welcome it into your life without letting it control your life.

Never threaten anxiety. Let it exist; just don’t let it run the show.

1. Expect anxiety to show up (it will!)

One of the most confusing things about having a child with an eating disorder is how resistant they can be to recovery. Even if they say they want to recover, it may seem to you as if they are not taking the action they need to recover. 

It’s important to think a bit differently. While it’s true that your child may not be taking the action they need to recover, it’s not because they don’t want to. It’s because anxiety keeps showing up and telling them it’s not safe to recover. 

Anxiety’s job is to warn us of danger and keep us from doing things that make us uncomfortable. 

But the only way to heal from an eating disorder is to feel things like fear and worry and do the thing you need to do anyway. 

The only way out is through!

So the first thing you need to do as a parent is to stop being surprised by anxiety. Start to expect it. Expect anxiety to show up every time you put food in front of your child, and lots of other times, too. 

A child who has an eating disorder typically has a hair-trigger response to even small threats. Their amygdala is highly-responsive right now. So you’re going to see anxiety a lot. Don’t be surprised; expect it.

2. Tell your child that it’s OK to feel afraid and worried sometimes (it makes sense!)

Most parents automatically respond to anxiety reactions like worry, fear, and anger by trying to shut it down or ignore it. This makes sense because your own anxiety senses danger and wants to keep you safe. I get it.

But instead, you need to face your own anxiety about your child’s anxiety head-on. Remember: the only way out is through!

When you try to debate, diminish, or ignore anxiety, it gets stronger, digging in deeper and justifying its existence as the savior.

Instead, when you see your child getting anxious, name it. Say something like “oh look, here’s some worry. It makes sense that you get worried sometimes. I get it.” 

You can replace the word “worry” with other words like sad, angry, frustrated, irritated, scared, etc. Try to find the word that makes your child feel seen, heard, and understood. This takes some practice, but you can do it!

This removes the need for the child to justify and defend their anxiety. When you remove the opportunity for debate, you take away an essential part of anxiety escalation. 

Emotional Regulation Worksheets

Give your child the best tools to grow more confident, calm and resilient so they can feel better, fast!

  • Self-Esteem
  • Self-Regulation
  • Mindfulness
  • Calming strategies

3. Remind your child that the path to feeling better is not to avoid fear but to face fear (and do it anyway!)

Once you have acknowledged that anxiety is present in the form of worry, fear, anger, etc., take some time to let your child feel that you believe them when they say they feel however they feel. 

When you sense that they “feel felt,” then you can move on to the next stage. It’s OK if you need to try this a few times. This takes practice and is almost never perfect. That’s OK!

Now you want to remind your child that feeling worried and nervous is perfectly normal, but that we can’t live our lives according to anxiety’s demands. 

Of course, this means that you should have those pre-conversations with your child about what anxiety is, how it shows up, and how you’re going to respond to it now that you know this. 

Your response to anxiety is: worry, fear, and other big feelings will show up, and that’s OK, but we’re not going to let them make important decisions about what we do and don’t do.

4. Believe that your child can learn to tolerate their fear (they can!).

One of the biggest impediments to kids learning to tolerate anxiety is that parents worry it is not possible. Here again, we recognize that your worry as a parent can impact your child’s relationship with worry. 

So come up with a mantra for facing your fears and doing it anyway. The only proven way to reduce anxiety is to train the amygdala and your thoughts to face anxiety and build up the muscles of tolerance and acceptance.

Remember that trying to avoid anxiety will make it get stronger, but facing it and doing the scary thing anyway will build the muscles that are needed to respond to anxiety appropriately. With practice, your child will do this by themself over time. But it’s very hard to do this without help and support at home.

How this looks at the dinner table

Here’s a quick scenario about how worry and fear can show up at the dinner table with an eating disorder. 

Take 1: letting anxiety run the show

  • Child: I can’t eat. I’m full. You can’t make me!
  • Parent: You have to eat! It’s important! You promised! 
  • Child: I already ate enough. You know I can’t handle more. I’ll throw up! 
  • Parent: You have to eat this food. It’s good for you. Just eat it so we can get on with life, will you?
  • Child: You gave me too much! I can tell you added butter and oil – look! It’s just sitting on top. Gross!
  • Parent: No I didn’t! It’s the same thing I make every time. I didn’t change anything!

In this scenario, the parent is accidentally engaging in a debate with anxiety. This gives the anxiety a sense of power and control. And it usually makes the situation worse, not better.


Take 2: standing up to anxiety

  • Child: I can’t eat. I’m full. You can’t make me!
  • Parent: Yeah, you often feel this way at dinner. I get it. 
  • Child: No you don’t! You don’t understand anything!
  • Parent: It seems like you’re really upset.
  • Child: Yes I am! I hate this!
  • Parent: I get it. I really do. But remember that we talked about this, and we’re not letting worry run the show anymore. Let’s put worry aside for dinner tonight and we’ll talk to it some more after we eat if we need to.
  • Child: You’re just trying to control me!
  • Parent: Yeah, I know that’s what your worry says, and I understand that’s how it feels. Like I said, let’s get through dinner and then see what worry has to say to us later. 
  • Child: that’s stupid (they take a bite).

In this scenario, the parent is not fighting with or trying to make the anxiety go away. They’re acknowledging and validating the existence of anxiety and asking the child to do the hard thing even though they feel anxious.

Practice, not perfect

This is a practice, and it takes time for parents to learn a different way of responding to anxiety. If this sounds impossible right now, I get it. But trust the process. It works.

Anxiety is one of the most common mental disorders, and we have thousands and thousands of research papers examining what it is and how it works. There is a lot of data to support this treatment approach to a child with anxiety. 

One of the things we know is that for most parents, their instinctual response to anxiety will accidentally increase a child’s anxiety over time rather than decrease it. But at the same time, when parents learn and practice new skills for responding to anxiety, they will see a decrease in anxious outbursts and behaviors. 

Anxiety is the most treatable psychological disorder, and since it underlies and drives so many other disorders, including eating disorders. Emotions during eating disorder recovery are hard to handle, so it makes sense to learn some new skills for responding to anxiety differently. 

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 their kid’s eating disorder recovery. Ginny has been researching, writing about, and supporting parents who have kids with eating disorders since 2016. She incorporates the principles of neurobiology and attachment parenting with a non-diet, Health At Every Size® approach to health and recovery.

See Our Parent’s Guide To Mental Health And Eating Disorders