While I don't believe Eating Disorders can be prevented in all people I do believe that we can protect the next generation against them and give them resources on how to better handle the situation if it arises. Eating Disorders are mental health illnesses which means its not just about what goes on outwardly, although that is often times how they express themselves. By the time a person is expressing outward symptoms of an eating disorder their mind has already been affected. There are several key preventative areas we need to look at.
First we need to be open and talk about it. Talk about what exactly, everything. I would rather my children know from me how calories and nutrients affect their body than from someone their own age. I am not an expert but I am pretty sure I know more than the average person about nutrition just because of my eating disorder. This issue has already come up in our home and my daughters are in first grade and kindergarten. The reason it came up was because my daughter was introduced to an idea at school that in her brain triggered another response and led her to the conclusion that calories were bad. You can only imagine how floored I was to hear the word "calories" come out of my six year old's mouth. So we talk about it in our home. What are sometimes foods vs all the time foods, no foods are bad (unless of course it is an allergy).
Secondly we need to build the next generation up by way of their strengths not physical features. I don't know if you are aware of this but I have what most would call a "strong willed child". She has more passion in her pinky toe than I have in my whole body. But the truth be told she is just like me, and as a five year old you know what, she doesn't really care if someone tells her how pretty she is (although we do tell her how beautiful she is anyway). She cares much more about getting what she wants, and right now she wants to be recognized for her personality and fire for life. She wants justice and freedom so we try to give age appropriate opportunities for her to succeed.
Third we need to recognize that we are not in control either. Try telling someone with an eating disorder what they can and cannot do and see where that gets you. In the same way we can't control media, we can't control bullying, we can't control trauma, we can't control genetics, but what we can control is spreading the truth. I have to tell myself the truth that there is a large possibility that whether my children suffer from an eating disorder or not they most likely will struggle with body image and fitting in. While I might be able to control what goes on inside my house my children will have to step outside those doors and face the world, and it is my job to equip them on how to do that.
And just because we can't control these things doesn't mean we can't seek truth and raise awareness by speaking up and changing where we focus our attention. Guard their little hearts, but teach them how to succeed through the world's eyes of failure. Struggling in life is something we all face it doesn't make us weak it makes us learn.
It's too late to protect me from developing an eating disorder and to be honest with you having one has really sucked! But what an eating disorder has taught me is that like many in life I just want control. But control isn't attainable I don't have control in this life but there is one constant who does.
"The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of God will stand forever."