To improve your child's body image and eating attitudes:
- Understand that healthy eating isn't restrictive or fat-free eating. In fact, children require fat in their diet to support the development of their neurological system into their early 20s.
- Eat healthily and spend plenty of time with your child so you can model these habits and gauge her emotional well-being (if your child is anxious, she may have dysfunctional eating patterns).
- Don't skip meals or eat food substitutes such as PowerBars instead of real food.
- Cook and provide healthful meals for your child and family. Enjoy these meals together as a family as much as possible.
- Assess your personal attitudes toward food, eating, weight management, and body image. Any unresolved issues you harbor might lead you to conclude that it's okay for your child to skip a meal or drink diet soda.
- Think out loud when you solve problems in front of your child. Eating when hungry and stopping when full is essentially about problem-solving -- knowing what you need and how to get those needs met.
- Teach your child the concept that if you take care of your body it will take care of you.
- Never diet, unless medically necessary.
- If your child has a weight problem, teach him to eat differently, not less.
- Stay physically active and show your child that there are many more meaningful and important aspects of life other than body appearance.
Abbie Natenshon is the creator of two Web sites, Empowered Parents and Empowered Kidz, and the author of When Your Child Has An Eating Disorder.