How To Model Healthy Eating Habits for Youth
Many pre-teens and teens struggle with body image, weight, and/or appearance. Eighty-one percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat (4). These concerns may eventually develop into distorted eating patterns, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. An estimated 24 million people suffer from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder (1). It is important to model healthy eating habits in the home to decrease factors, such as social media and peer influence, on body image and weight. It should be noted that eating disorders are caused by multiple factors, not just social influences.
Implementing family meal time is one way to model healthy eating habits for youth. Routine family meals have many health benefits. Mealtimes reduce the likelihood of drug use, engaging in fights, and suicidal ideation. Family mealtimes promote healthier eating habits, communication, emotional connection, and reduce instances of behavioral problems. Additionally it reduces the likelihood of unhealthy weight control behaviors (2,3).
Below are a few suggestions for parents to consider:
- Implement family mealtime
- Avoid diets and fads. Incorporate a variety of foods in moderation.
- Avoid making comments that negatively focus on others’ body weight or appearance.
- Discuss the importance of embracing one’s own unique body type.
- Focus on what a healthy body can accomplish, including goals, exercise, and an active lifestyle.
If you believe a loved one is struggling with eating issues, below are sources to look into:
- “Eating Disorder Statistics.” (3-24-2015). ANAD.org. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/.
- Fiese, B. (2006). Family mealtimes: Opportunities for child and family health and wellbeing. Children, Youth, and Families News, Summer 2006. www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/newsletter/2006/08/summer.pdf
- Fivush, R. (2006). Building strength through stories: Family dinnertime narratives. Children, Youth, and Families News, Summer 2006. www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/newsletter/2006/08/summer.pdf
- Mellin, L., McNutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G.B., Crawford, P., and Obarzanek, E. (1991). A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal of Adolescent Health, 23-37.