Counting calories may lead your child to disordered eating -- from obesity to anorexia, says specialist Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld
New York, NY (Vocus) -- With the incidence of disordered eating continuing to rise among children, being a psychologically savvy parent can help significantly decrease chances that kids will develop an eating disorder or have a poor body image, says New York City-based psychologist and eating disorder specialist Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld. Disordered eating --whether obesity, anorexia, or other forms -- can be prevented in many cases if parents look at their own bodies differently.
“While eating disorders have genetic components and are influenced by peer groups and media exposure, there are concrete ways that parents can help promote healthy eating and a positive body image for their children. Kids are very smart and they pick up on their parents’ relationship with their own bodies and with food.” Dr. Rosenfeld explains.
Parents may not even realize that when they themselves count calories or nonchalantly criticize their own body -- or someone else’s -- that they may be sending cues to their child which can have long-term and serious repercussions. “Children need to feel confident about themselves and their bodies -- no matter what shape or size they are -- in order to have a healthy lifelong relationship with food. This starts with modeling their parents and seeing a positive body image and security in one’s own skin,” Dr. Rosenfeld says.
Dr. Rosenfeld’s advice for parents:
- Do not count calories or talk about dieting in front of your children.
- Throw out your scale and stop weighing yourself. Your child sees everything you do and seeing you weigh yourself has a significant impact on their perception of weight and body.
- Limit your child’s access to television, magazines, and other places where unrealistic images of how people should look, are often presented.
- Talk about food with regard to how it can nourish your body, rather than its effects on weight. Focus on health, not on calories, fats, or carbohydrates.
- Do not judge or criticize your body -- or anyone else’s body -- in front of your kids. Never use the word “fat” or “thin” about anyone. Never even glance in the mirror in a critical way at yourself.
- Encourage physical activity for the sake of health, rather than weight control.
- Focus on all of your child’s strengths outside of their body, and make it a point to tell them how beautiful he or she is.
- Focus on the physical strengths of your children, yourself, and of other role models so that kids can learn how to put more emphasis on what their bodies can do, rather than how they look.
- Children should not be deprived of food. Everything in moderation is better than deprivation and then a binge when their parents are not around.
When parents focus more on moving their bodies rather than on counting calories, they are less likely to raise children who are obese or have other eating disorders and body image issues. Parents should encourage children to participate in daily physical activities that they enjoy, and get moving as a family.
If parents recognize that they have an unhealthy relationship with food, they should seek professional help for themselves. This will ultimately help their children. For more about body acceptance, click here.
Dr. Rosenfeld is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in NYC. She is affiliated with Columbia University Medical Center and is the Chief Psychologist for the NYC Triathlon. She specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, addictions, anxiety/depression, and sports psychology, and is also a certified personal trainer. Dr. Rosenfeld has been interviewed by dozens of media outlets including: The Today Show, Dr. Oz, ABC News, Runner’s World, The New York Times, msn.com, Fitness, In Touch, Life & Style, Woman’s Day, and more. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please visit www.staceyrosenfeld.com. Check out Dr. Rosenfeld’s blog.
Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, 203/270-8929
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