Recently I was interviewed by 2hautechicks about kids, food, and disordered eating. Here's Part One of the interview. Check out their blog, a forum for fashion savvy working moms!
Teaching Our Kids to be Confident, No Matter What Size They Are!
(This is part one of a two-part series. Stay tuned for part two tomorrow!)
We are inundated daily with images of stick-thin men and women on television, in films and in magazines. We’re taught that you can never be “too rich or too thin.” We can be obsessive about weighing ourselves religiously, starting new diets daily and judging ourselves by our clothing size.
As parents of young boys and girls, we battle with the reality that kids are becoming more weight-conscious and size-conscious at younger and younger ages, and that five year old kids now call each other “fat” on the playground. The questions are: how do we instill confidence in our kids, no matter what size they are (or will grow to be) and how do we prevent (or treat) eating disorders in our children?
For answers to these questions, we turned to Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin, Psy.D., a psychoanalyst who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders.
2hautechicks: Thanks, Dr. Nina, for addressing these tough issues for our readers. As a mom and psychoanalyst, have you noticed a trend that kids are becoming more body conscious and weight conscious at younger ages? Why do you think that is happening?
Dr. Nina: There are a lot of reasons that kids are becoming more body and weight conscious at earlier ages. Certainly the media has some part in this, since kids are saturated with images of skinny models. However, many boys develop eating disorders and they aren’t impacted by these kinds of glossy magazines. While the media can influence people’s self-esteem, I don’t believe it’s directly responsible for eating disorders.
Ultimately, whatever goes on with food is usually a “symptom” of the problem, even though it feels like “the” problem. If your child has gained weight, or is restricting or bingeing and purging, there’s something going on inside that is leading to the behavior.
I believe that another reason for the rising prevalence of disordered eating in our culture is that eating disorders are on some level about feelings, and we live in a society that disparages emotions. Angry? You need an anger management class. Depressed? Take a pill. Happy? Oh, you might be manic. When people, including children, don’t have a way of expressing their feelings, they may turn to (or away from) food as a way to deal with those emotions.
2hautechicks: As parents, what can we do if our kids start complaining about being “fat” or overweight, or if we notice our kids starting to diet to lose weight?
Dr. Nina: If your kids make derogatory comments about their weight, it’s important to talk about what’s bothering them . Ask your child what makes him or her feel that there’s something wrong with their appearance. Separate legitimate health concerns (ie, a kid on the track team who wants to be more fit in order to run faster) from emotional conflicts that are expressed as weight concerns.
I tell people that “fat” is a substance, not a feeling. If your child is feeling “fat” it’s important to identify what that is code for – are they upset, sad, scared, lonely?
If you notice that your child has gained or lost weight or if he or she complains about being overweight, it’s very important not to be the food police or make “helpful” comments about portions. It’s helpful to explore the underlying causes of the behavior. One way to do this is to ask, “If you couldn’t talk about your weight or your body, what would be on your mind? What would you be worried about?”
Again, whatever is happening with food is not the real issue; you need to find ways to get to the underlying causes that lead to disordered eating.
By the way, my podcast episode “What NOT To Say” addresses this very question more depth.
2hautechicks: What are some of the signs that our kids have an eating disorder? What should we be on the lookout for?
Dr. Nina: Good question! Warning signs of an eating disorder include:
*Food disappearing at a faster-than-normal rate, and elaborate excuses to explain the disappearance of food, such as explaining that the food went bad, fell on the floor, etc., and had to be thrown out.
*Frequent statements such as, “I’m not hungry” or “I just ate”
*Going to the bathroom after every meal
*Frequent complaints of stomach problems (laxative abuse is a common method of purging)
*Rapid weight loss or weight gain
*Focus or fixation on body image and clothing size, and comparisons to others
*Withdrawal from friends and family, increased isolation
*Moodiness and an insistence that nothing is wrong
Those who struggle with disordered eating (girls, boys, women and men) may deny that they have a problem or get defensive if others express concerns about their eating habits or their weight.
If they admit there’s a problem, they may still be resistant to change. Disordered eating serves a purpose – usually as a way of dealing with difficult feelings or conflicts – and it’s hard to give up a way of coping, even if that coping mechanism hurts more than it helps. When people learn to cope in different ways, they can give up the behavior with food.
Here's some information about the 2hautechicks in their own words:
Two Women Who Wear Many (Fabulous) Hats
I’d like to pretend that the idea for this blog came about in a flash of inspiration, an “ah-ha” moment. Really, this blog was born after one of our countless conversations about the Kardashians, or our latest fashion obsession, or our latest work challenge, or our general complaints about being sleep deprived from chasing after our kids. We realized that we could be the voice for 30-something women who juggle careers, kids, husbands and homes… all while looking fabulous. Think of us as the Generation X answer to the Generation Y chicks on “Girls.” We are older (just a tad), wiser (infinitely so) and much more fashion forward (thank God!).
We met during our first year at UCLA law school. Three years of law school, more years at law firms than we care to admit, countless glasses of wine, many shopping excursions, two weddings and three kids later … here we are! We think (and hope) that women of all ages will read our blog and find a shared experience, a forum for discussing the things that are most important to women. We promise to write with brutal honesty, we can’t promise not to over share (!), and we hope you will share in our laughter – and our tears – as we embark on this adventure together.
Check them out at www.2hautechickss.com