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Child and Teen Obesity and Eating Disorders are a National Issue That We Can Help, says Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

Posted Jul 15 2010 4:13pm

Fiction writing has given me, a positive psychologist and educator, a way of providing self-help information and support to girls, tweens, teens and the adults in their lives. There are so many topics to tackle: bullying,family dysfunction, relocation, crushes and of course body issues. In The Truth Series, the girl faces and handles many of these issues. It is in the second book, Secrets: You Tell Me Yours and I’ll Tell You Mine…maybe!, when she is 13, that she begins her own journey with how she perceives and handles her body. She becomes convinced that her derriere is too large and…But I’ll let you read that for yourself.

The important point is that I put theses episodes about body image into Secrets and some questions at the end of the book for further thought and discussion, because we have a National Epidemic going on. Between real obesity in children and the perception of being overweight, whether in fact true or not, that can lead to various forms of eating disorders, we have a big problem on our hands.

On television newscasters remark that movie theaters are losing money as they have to change the seats in the cinema to now be 21 inches wide, rather than 19 inches. This is but one tiny result of a culture that is having problems with eating throughout the lifespan.

Of course, as a psychologist and educator, I am on the front lines with tips and advice for you, so you can help your children grow up strong, resilient, confident of their self-image and themselves, not obese and without eating disorders. Let’s hope they can indeed, fit into cinema seats that don’t have to be widened.

Tips for Parents around Raising Strong Healthy Children, in both Mind and Body:

1. Praise your children for their positive actions, behaviors and words. Make it clear that their response to life as a good citizen and a loving family member is much more important than their looks or body type.

2. Don’t compare or judge people’s looks or bodies. Rather point out a person’s fine character trait or a good deed that a person has done. Your children are always listening to you and what you say, even if you think they are blocking you out! Your attitude very much influences how they will perceive others and themselves.

3. Show your children by your own eating habits, that you recognize the need for eating healthy foods. If you are out of control around certain foods and habits, what message is that sending to your kids?

4. Consider planting a small garden or learning more about the foods we eat with your children. This can be a fun activity like visiting a potato chip factory, or something more serious, like learning about the differences between organic farming and non-organic farming.

5. Cook up delicious meals, at least on occasion, and let the kids help. It can be fun to fine recipes together and shop for the ingredients as a family outing. Praise them for their help and don’t get caught up in the milk that spills or the egg that fell and cracked on the floor.

6. And of course, if you child is suddenly gaining or losing weight or showing any form of eating disorder, talk to her pediatrician immediately.

These are but a few suggestions. I bet you have some other suggestions. Please feel free to add your suggestions in a comment.

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