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Challenge negative self-image comments from young girls, experts say

Published On: Feb 11 2013 08:16:22 AM CST
Updated On: Mar 04 2013 10:57:14 AM CST

Eating disorders, body issues plague girls

Studies show eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
How can we help our young girls to grow up healthy?

Research shows eating disorders may be rooted in body image.That's the way a girl views herself and the way she thinks others see her.

They say this impression can change often, depending on a girl's mood, what's happening in her life and what she sees other women doing around her.

That's why there are a few things you should do if you have a daughter so you can help her develop a positive body image.

Psychologists say our girls need us to combat the images they see in the media.

Dr. Madeleine Langman,is an Allentown psychologist. She says, " There are a lot of forces that conspire to make it very difficult for a girl to develop a positive sense of self. We're very powerful in the way we model our own relationships with ourselves and with our bodies. One thing parents can do is to model positive self care, good health habits."

Arielle Bair of Northampton spent 10 years battling an eating disorder and is now fully recovered. She says parents need to praise and encourage.

Arielle has her own website dedicated to eating disorders issues.

Arielle says parents need to challenge girls when they say negative things about themselves, " They hear young girls say things about themselves, self hate, negative body talk or they say,'I should go on a diet. My friend is prettier,' Whatever it is these kids are saying, people don't challenge that."

Psychologists also say:

*Talk about the images she sees in the media.
*Help her to improve her body image
*Place less emphasis on her looks and focus more on her abilities

*Look at your own behavior: do you talk negatively about your own body?Are you constantly on a diet?
Arielle believes, " Everyone says if you hear something negative enough you start to believe it, but if you hear something positive enough, you start to believe that too."

Experts say:

* Be a role model by accepting your body and maintaining a positive attitude towards food and exercise.

* Make time for family meals and enjoy the time spent together.

*  Be mindful of the comments you make about your or other people’s bodies.

*  Encourage your child to think critically about messages and images they see and hear in the media.

*  Help your child understand that their body will change, especially throughout puberty.

*  Promote activities that make your child feel good about themselves and that don’t focus on their appearance.

*  Teach your child that it is okay to show emotions such as sadness, anger, and frustration.

The emotional pain of an eating disorder can take its toll, too. When someone becomes obsessed with weight, it's hard to concentrate on much else.

It can be exhausting and overwhelming to monitor food intake and exercise, and be in a constant state of stress about food and how your body looks.

It's easy to see why when you develop an eating disorder, you could become withdrawn and less social.