National Eating Disorders Association
Blog
Parents & Caregivers

We want our kids to grow up feeling strong and confident in their bodies. We’ve learned a lot about what to do—and what not to do—to promote a positive body image. We know better than to comment on other people’s weight and engage in diet talk in front of our kids. We model self-care behaviors and teach them values related to diversity in all areas, including body size.

But what happens when our children walk into the world?

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If you are worried about your friend’s eating behaviors or attitudes, it is important to express your concerns in a loving and supportive way. It is also necessary to discuss your worries early on, rather than waiting until your friend has endured many of the damaging physical and emotional effects of eating disorders. In a private and relaxed setting, talk to your friend in a calm and caring way about the specific things you have seen or felt that have caused you to worry. 

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There is a tendency for the media to portray eating disorders as superficial illnesses of female adolescence. The limited scope of these stories mitigates both the severe emotional and physical consequences inherent to eating disorders, as well as their prevalence across other genders and age groups. 

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As I walked Sarah and Allison home from school, I noticed Allison falling behind. She began walking slower than us and staring down at the ground, silent. Our walks home from school usually involved nothing but talking and laughter, but today was different. She was usually the chatty one. I asked her what was wrong, but she brushed me off saying she was just tired. 

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Chase Bannister is the founder, senior vice president and chief strategy & clinical integrity officer for Veritas Collaborative, a specialty hospital system for the treatment of eating disorders in a gender-diverse and inclusive environment. He is credentialed as a certified eating disorder specialist by the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals and is a licensed clinical social worker.

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For many years, the reality we lived in was one of fear; fear that ED would take the lives of our daughters. Would they be alive at Christmas or their next birthdays? As morose as that sounds, that is the reality of being parents or family members of someone with an eating disorder. We were at battle with ED and every day that they were still on this earth, we had the opportunity to find a way through the fog ED created.

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Ed came along like a boyfriend you hoped your daughter would never bring home. I had been waiting for the day I would have to deal with this guy—I just hadn't realized he would come in the form of vapor, a cloud, something I couldn't reach out and injure. I expected flesh and blood.

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The journey through my daughter’s ten-year battle with anorexia was long and difficult. There were many twists and turns, detours and crashes along the way - almost to the point that we thought it would end in her death.

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Catch them, challenge them, change them. Get used to this phrase; it is the seed of hope that must be planted in both you and your child’s minds for ANY chance of long-term success.

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True or false?: Males make up 1 in 10 of those with an eating disorder. Many say false, and think the number is even less. But it’s quite the opposite. Frustratingly, it’s the statistic most frequently quoted in the media. Why? Because this number represents the percentage of males seeking treatment.

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