When our children hear us praising our friends because they’ve lost weight, they learn that to be thinner is to be better.
When they see us grabbing our bellies and bemoaning our post-Christmas weight gain, they intuit what we are really saying – being fat is undesirable, being fat is bad, being thin is the only way.
When children are constantly presented with filtered images of thin models that are depicted as “healthy” and therefore good, and larger people are presented to them as unhealthy and therefore bad, it’s no wonder that there has been a 62 percent increase in young people and adolescents seeking help for eating disorders since the start of the pandemic (according to Australian support and advocate group, The Butterfly Foundation).
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RELATED: Playing with ultra-thin dolls linked to disordered eating
Eating disorders can develop quickly and are an enemy that no family wants. They’re viscous combatants and can become life threatening in a very short time.
Here are some phrases that you can avoid using around children who are struggling with body images issues or eating disorders.
1. Labelling food “good” and “bad”
We need to be very careful about the moral judgements we make about food when we are talking to our kids.
When we ‘sneak’ an extra piece of chocolate cake and openly express our guilt about this, our children are watching. When we say “I’m being good” and make a show of only eating carrot sticks we’re telling them that food is inherently good or bad and this is just not the case.
A pizza night that brings a group of friends together to share a fun evening may not have as much nutritional value as a pumpkin soup but the psychological benefits far outweigh the physical.
When children start connecting food with morality, they start to assign these values to themselves. ‘Perfection’ can be a symptom of an eating disorder, so trying to be “good” can start with eating ONLY “good” food which can quickly spiral into a problem. Similarly, kids who only want to eat, or overeat, “bad” food, can be filled with shame and…