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Published on August 13, 2014

Body Beautiful

August 13, 2014

little girl examining dollWomen of all ages can get caught up in the myth that having an excessively thin body is the only way to be beautiful. Help your daughter maintain a positive body image… and perform a quick self-inventory to see whether you’re giving yourself enough credit for being what you are—absolutely radiant.

She makes critical comments about herself: “I’m so fat.” She seems to eat less every day. Other times, though, empty cheese doodle bags pile up outside her bedroom door. If she does eat a heavy meal with the family, she makes a rush for the bathroom soon afterward.

Typical teenage angst or body image-related disorder? Even though 95 percent of dieters typically regain the weight they took off in the next five years, that doesn’t prevent up to half of teenage girls (and a third of boys) from trying to control their weight by methods such as skipping one or multiple meals, taking laxatives or making themselves throw up, or even starting to smoke to take the edge off their hunger.

Almost 4 percent of women will develop anorexia and another 4 percent will develop bulimia at some point in their lives. About 2 percent of people will develop binge eating disorder. Most often, these conditions start in adolescence.

So what’s a parent to do?

Promote a positive body image. Talk about food choices in terms of health, not appearance. (“This lean steak has protein to help you win the tennis match” not “That fried chicken will make your thighs big.”)

Admire yourself out loud. Mothers who are worried they weigh too much can spark unhealthy eating patterns in their daughters, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Keep negative body image comments to yourself and mention your own features that you like. Admire your daughter for physical, mental and spiritual qualities. (“I love your big smile today. You really lift my spirits.”)

Learn the signs of eating disorders, and get help ASAP if these issues become a problem:

  • Anorexia: excessive exercise, fear of weight gain, feeling cold all the time, losing weight quickly or excessively, skipping meals or restricting food eaten at meals, stopping menstruation
  • Binge eating disorder: being ashamed of the amount eaten, eating a lot of food rapidly, eating secretly, eating in response to stress
  • Bulimia: eating a lot of food rapidly, eating secretly, excessive exercise, fear of weight gain, needing “private time” after eating, signs of drugs to induce vomiting or diarrhea, broken blood vessels in the whites of the eyes

Check Yourself

It goes against the stereotype of a waif-thin, anxious teenager, but women old enough to be mothers—and even grandmothers—suffer from eating disorders, too.

While it’s important to be physically active and maintain a healthy body mass index, poor body image and food obsession can lead to eating disorders such as binge eating, anorexia or bulimia. If you are falling into any of these behavior patterns, speak with a therapist at KishHealth System Behavioral Health Services right away. 

Remember how easy it is for you to see your daughter’s beauty, even when she’s complaining about her looks. Now look at yourself with a mother’s loving eyes. Guess what—you’re radiant, too.


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