When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Maybe not the exact shape you were going for, but nonetheless it’s who you are and you’ve come to accept that for better or worse. Body image is what you think of yourself as well as the way you believe that others perceive you. So the question really is- when your child or loved one looks in the mirror, what do they see? If they have bad body image, it can be very hard for them to accept themselves the way they are. Bad body image can often lead up to an eating disorder, especially when it extends over a long period of time.
In today’s world, many things are based on physical ability and appearance. If you have some special talent or look great you advance and receive awards and recognition. This puts a lot of pressure on the young people of today’s society, especially the athletes, to stay fit and look attractive. If your child or loved one constantly feels inadequate or feels constantly judged by their coaches, teachers, co-workers or peers based on their physical appearance or performance, they may be overwhelmed and pushed into an unhealthy pattern recognized as an eating disorder.
But it isn’t perfect!
Perfectionists also seem to allow their need for perfection to leak into their body image. Since body image is opinion-based, it is easy for them to find all the tiny imperfections by comparing themselves to unrealistic standards set by the air brushed society we live in. If you recognize your child or loved one as a perfectionist, you may want to check for signs in an unbalanced diet or obsessiveness in their outward appearance.
Self worth and self esteem
With the age of the air brush and Photoshop, the images provided to us today by our media does not boost self esteem. We are presented with an idea of perfection and then shown all the products we need to pay for to become that way. Self worth should not come from a photo in a magazine, but rather from a confidence in ourselves that comes from within. If your child or loved one suffers from low self esteem, one of the best things you can do is be there as loving support to show them their importance in your life.
The influence of depression
Depression often rears its ugly head right along side of an eating disorder, as dissatisfaction with one’s self is a common denominator in both. It is important to recognize and treat depression as soon as possible in order to prevent future eating disorders from developing, or to help bring one to a halt.
Acknowledging the past
A history of abuse often reveals itself in victims of eating disorders. Because it violates so personally into the boundaries of the individual, it confuses and distorts normal emotions into tension that eventually expresses itself through food. Acknowledging the past and its impact is an important step in the healing process of your child or loved one if they have experienced abuse in the past.
Under the cover of solitude
When everyone is watching it is easier to hide the symptoms of an eating disorder. It is when your loved one is alone that they will struggle the most with their weaknesses. These moments are important for growth, eventual self esteem, and overcoming an eating disorder through will power. These moments can also be subject to the eating disorder. Be aware of how often your child or loved one chooses to be alone and if a pattern occurs related to meal times that they decide to refrain from social interaction.
Helping your loved one
It is hard to know that your child or loved one is victim to an eating disorder. You want to help, but you aren’t sure how. Here are some tips on helping your child or loved one if they are experiencing an eating disorder:
1. Do not approach them about their eating disorder in public
2. Communicate thoroughly that you care, and that you are concerned about them
3. Encourage open communication about their feelings
4. Do not be judgmental! Ask questions about what they have to say