Eating Disorders — Promoting a Healthy Body Image | Parents

Eating Disorders — Promoting a Healthy Body Image | Parents

-Hi, everybody. And welcome to Parents TV.
I’m Juli Auclair. Did you know that about four out of five 10-year-olds
are afraid of being fat? It’s really frightening, and it
has a lot of parents worried that their children could
develop an eating disorder. Well, joining us today is eating
disorder specialist and psychotherapist, Arden Greenspan-Goldberg, with tips on the
warning signs that parents can look out for, and what
to do if you think your child has an eating disorder. Thank you so much for coming in.
-Thank you for inviting me. -Let’s start with why children
at such a young age are worried about their weight.
-Okay. I think there’s a cultural message that’s passed
down, a legacy of fear about sizes and weight-ism. And the
message is, “you can’t be too thin.” And if parents take
that literally and pass that on to their kids,
then we’ve got big troubles here. Parents sometimes don’t
realize– unwittingly, they talk about fat grams and calories, and children
get frightened of hearing that kind of talk. -So, Arden,
how do eating disorders develop? Do they actually
start at that young age? -They could. Children get stressed out
like we do. And so, it’s in– it’s a simple way of controlling
and containing anxiety by focusing on one’s weight and one’s
scale. And especially if the kid is feeling out of
control in their life, depending on the context of what’s
going on in the family, if the stress– of the
stresses in the family that this is something that a
child can do. They can control what they put and
don’t put in their mouth. -Let’s start by talking about
anorexia. Tell us what the signs are, what parents should
be looking for. -Okay. Anorexia is a severe restriction of
food, and a dramatic weight loss. Parents need to be
aware of changes in behavior in their child. When the
child starts skipping meals, when they start getting restrictive in
what they’re eating, and when they start sounding very perfectionistic,
and condemning themselves about grades at school, or just, you
know, “I look fat. I don’t like the way I look.” That’s– that is a sure, solid sign
that something is brewing. -How about bulimia? Because sometimes,
the signs aren’t there, necessarily. -Well– -Harder to spot?
-Very hard to spot. It’s the best-kept secret because bulimics
can be of an average weight, but it’s recurrent binges
and purges, okay? And parents need to be alerted to things like
food missing in the house, child frequently going to the
bathroom to relieve themselves, to purge. Look out for
laxatives or diuretics in the house as well. -So, when you do see
some of these signs, the food missing or a child
talking about being overweight– -Right. -what do you do? What’s
the first things a parent should do? -Okay. I think
the parent needs to sit down very calmly and come
from a place of love, and talk to their child about, “I notice there’s a change in you behavior.
You seem to be more moody. I notice you’re skipping
meals. You’re not quite yourself. I love you. I’m
concerned about you, and I want to help.” -Okay. Let’s talk
about parents with younger children. Like we were
talking, my daughter is 6 years old. -Right. Yeah. -How do we prevent
it from even beginning? How do we keep her from
starting to notice people’s weight and– -Right. -that she might
be a little chubby. -Right. Well, you let the child
know that it’s okay that people come in different size,
shapes, and colors. Puberty hasn’t hit yet, and when puberty
hits, children develop, and some of that normal baby fat,
nice baby fat, kind of sits off somewhat. But you
let the child know that they’re enough as they are,
that they’re loved unconditionally, and that they’re more than their
body. You know, they have their intelligence, they have their
quick wit, they have their compassion. There’s so much more
than their body. -Arden, thank you so much. Great information,
really important. And if you like more information, Arden has
a newsletter that you can sign up for. And to
do that, you just go to Arden’s website at
Now, let’s take a look at another side of eating
disorders. Pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia websites. Jamie Roth talked to some
young women who are caught up in this online world.
Take a look. -When you’re suffering through an eating disorder,
you feel terribly alone. That’s what we learned from three
women, who’s stories you’re about to hear. They all turned
to the internet to research their disorders and to find
others who truly understood. What they actually found was a
community of websites run by other people suffering from anorexia
and bulimia, who feel that their eating disorders aren’t a
problem at all. Cori Magnotta always thought she had more
to lose. She began modeling as a young girl, and
coached herself to starve, vomit and inhale up to 100
laxatives a night. Then, she started logging on to certain
internet sites– obsessively. -I was up into a whole new
world. I was already engaging in some behaviors, but you
know, they loaded the gun, and I feel that pro-anorexic
websites really pulled the trigger. “Dear Ana, I offered you
my soul, my heart, and my bodily functions. I seek
your wisdom, your faith, and your feather weight. I pledge
to obtain the ability to float, to lower my weight
to the single digits.” -Rebecca watched her friends disappear as
bulimia plunged her into a cycle of starvation, binging, vomiting,
and relentless guilt. -I was looking to basically find other
people that were going through the same thing that I
was going through, just so I didn’t feel so alone.
-She found Ana and Mia in websites offering thinspiration. Pictures
of emaciated celebrities and models intended to spur her to
lose more weight. -They’re reminding me that, you know, I
wanted to be this skinny, and this is what our
society thinks is pretty, and if I don’t fit that
mold, I’m not gonna be considered pretty. -Eat vicariously. Watch
other people eat and feel superior. You don’t need that
food. If you vomit a little blood, stop. I force
you to stare at magazine models. Those waifish models are
perfection. I make you realize that you could never be
them. You will always be fat, and never will you
be as beautiful as they are. -Amy Pumerantz is the
nutrition coordinator for Student Health Services at UConn. She says
Ana and Mia can make sick people sicker through subtle
trickery. -This is their friend. Ana and Mia being very
friendly names. Something in life that is always there for
them. What’s encouragement of the unhealthy behavior. -At one point,
Emily Digemis restricted her diet to cantaloupe and diet soda.
Pro-ana websites told her there is nothing wrong with looking
like this. -I think they promote the idea that it’s
more acceptable and desirable. It’s not seen as a problem.
And when you’re already ambivalent about changing, that becomes like
your safety zone. -More than finding solace in community, Cori
Magnotta found organized activities. -The bunch of Mias, which is
bulimics, will get together and they’ll organize a team Starve,
to see who can starve the longest. Now, unfortunately, the
prize is usually somebody dies. -It’s impossible to know just
how many pro-ana, pro-mia websites exist. Many assume a religious
overtone– offering prayers and creeds, which promote starvation. There’s even
a “Thin Commandments.” Thou shalt not eat without feeling guilty.
Thou shalt not eat fattening foods without punishing oneself afterwards.
For Cori, the reading material only took her so far.
Until she linked up with a pen pal, known as
an Ana buddy. -My partner was in the UK. And because she was in the UK, she could get the
good diet pills that were illegal in the United States.
I’d either send her money or United States pills. It’s
like, “Hey, let’s trade.” -Now, these women have found the
will to recover. But even today, Rebecca admits that looking
at pro-ana sites is risky. -Looking at the websites, you
know, they kinda– they come back a little bit stronger,
like I kinda wanna get back into that again ’cause
I’m not happy with how I look. -How powerful are
they, then? -I think they’re very powerful that I think
they’re dangerous. -Some internet search engines will no longer direct
you to the pro-ana, pro-mia sites, but others will, saying
it’s an issue of free speech. And just as quickly
as these sites may disappear, others can easily take their


  1. Anybody who can look at these images and not be filled with pity, horror, indignation & wonder in equal measure is obtuse.

    Wonder at how insidious an influence the media has been, that is.

  2. Growing too fat (beyond genetic inheritage).. might be a consequence of lack of responsibility from the parents side… also becoming that skinny should also have broght some questions to the parents, a kid has to understand that feeding properly is not a hobby..

    But later on in life, once one gets to make decisions for himself/herself, saying that it's all about life choices.. and, even more, bragging about it is just stupid.

    How old can u get if at 20-30 years u're only skin and bones?!

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