Tips to minimize the chances that a young person will develop anorexia.
Anorexia has become a veritable epidemic in recent decades. Eating disorders are among the leading causes of death at an early age and are one of the most common chronic diseases in adolescence.
The body dysmorphia associated with this disorder causes patients to reduce their caloric intake, leading to extreme thinness and malnutrition. The prevailing canon of beauty and social pressure are factors that influence this alteration of self-perception.
This eating disorder is one of the most serious psychological problems, since it leads to death on many occasions. That is why many people wonder how to prevent anorexia. Let’s see it next.
How to prevent anorexia? Advice from Psychology
Anorexia is an eating disorder that has become one of the most widespread psychological problems in recent decades. Contrary to what many people believe, it is not the simple fact of being extremely thin, but it is not perceiving the body as it really is, accompanied by a pathological rejection of accumulating fat and an inordinate desire to be extremely thin.
We live in a society that, despite being increasingly tolerated large sizes, the prevailing canon of beauty is associated with a desired body image is usually that of a slim person. The constant bombardment in the media with almost skeletal women has caused extreme thinness to be associated with something beautiful, causing any woman who does not comply with that canon to be automatically seen as ugly and repulsive.
Of course, there are men who can suffer from anorexia, but they are rather few. The canon of male beauty is that of a muscular man, neither thin nor fat. In fact, extreme thinness in men is perceived as weakness and lack of masculinity, which is why it is rare that there are cases of anorexic men. In this case, men tend to be obsessed with being muscular and lean, and the associated disorder is vigorexia.
But no matter how many prevailing beauty canons and social pressure there may be, anorexia is a preventable disorder. Of course, it is not something easy, but by turning to the right professionals, promoting good health habits, both dietary and sports, and being aware that body image is not everything, you can prevent young people from falling into the trap of extreme thinness.
In order to prevent anorexia it is very important to know what the warning signs that may occur. Of course, if everything possible has been done to prevent it, it is less likely that the first symptoms of anorexia appear, but it is also essential to take into account the behavior patterns and other aspects that the person may manifest that indicate that something is wrong. goes well.
Among the signs that adolescents can manifest and that, if not properly treated, can end up becoming victims of anorexia we have:
- Eat alone, away from home, or avoid eating with family.
- Refuse certain foods, such as fat and high-calorie foods.
- Haggle rations and chop food a lot.
- Drink huge amounts of water, with the intention of having a full stomach.
- Visit the bathroom frequently, especially after meals.
- He prefers light foods or compulsively chews sugar-free gum.
- Shows concern for the nutritional values of foods.
- Begins to perform physical exercise compulsively.
- Excessive concern about weight or physical appearance.
Although all this does not have to mean that you are facing a case of anorexia, it is very important to detect them and consider the need to approach the person.
Since many of these signs manifest in the home, the first to detect the problem are the parents. That is why the most appropriate thing is to try to deepen it, establish constant communication with the adolescent and deal with the matter calmly. In case the person is not receptive, if you trust your friends or other important people in your life, tell them if they have noticed something different in it.
Prevention of anorexia and family environment
The family environment is an important factor in the prevention of anorexia in adolescence. The relationship between the parents and the daughter or son is fundamental, especially the mother-daughter. The reason for this is that the mother knows first-hand the physical changes that women go through at puberty, knowing that it is a time of crisis and with ups and downs in self-esteem. Along with this, going to the psychologist as early as possible reduces the severity of the disorder in case it ends up manifesting itself.
Despite the fact that adolescents know that they are in a time of change, on many occasions their idea of ideal body image seems to be above their health, and they take risks such as stopping eating with the intention of losing weight. For example, in the case of adolescents, weight changes at these ages are normal, and are accompanied by body dissatisfaction, the fear of being judged by other girls in their environment and not liking potential partners.
The best way to avoid having your body image put too much weight on it is to not make it a recurring theme at home. That is, being fat or thin should not be a reason to treat that person differently, nor should it be a reason for ridicule, not even in a loving way. As innocent as it may seem, calling a girl “my chubby little daughter” or making negative comments about her image, at these ages, can be perceived as real daggers for her self-esteem, obsessing over being thin.
Thus, if at home being fat or skinny is seen as an important aspect, the adolescent will interpret that this is also important on a social level, especially taking into account the prevailing canon of feminine beauty. In the family environment, a girl’s weight should only be of concern if there are medical reasons for it, whether it is an overweight associated with a metabolic disease or being underweight associated with a nutritional deficit, or if there is suspicion of an eating disorder.
If a deep bond has not developed with the adolescent, before approaching her and commenting on our concern about her eating behavior, it will be necessary to improve the relationship. Both the mother and the father can plan activities with the adolescent, to foster a relationship of complicity and affective connection, in which the girl is increasingly in favor of sharing her feelings and experiences with her parents. This is difficult, but by trying it does not hurt and, in the long run, all are advantages, there are warning signs of anorexia as if there are none.
The family can help prevent anorexia by incorporating order and organization into the food life of the whole family. Among the fundamental rules that must be applied to avoid any eating disorder are eating at least three meals a day, having set hours, always eating together, and supervising all meals. Ideally, speak with a nutritionist and establish a varied and palatable meal schedule for everyone.
Can anorexia be prevented from childhood?
Surprising as it may sound, anorexia can be prevented from infancy. Although girls are not yet showing the changes associated with puberty, they are being influenced by the prevailing canons of beauty. It is quite sad, but already at an early age, such as six years old, they have the bias that a beautiful woman has to be thin. When they start to be women, they will apply this idea to themselves and if they look “fat” it will be the source of a self-esteem problem.
This is why, with the intention of counteracting the harmful effects of the beauty canon and the obsession with extreme thinness, children are educated in good health habits from a very young age. Your diet should have the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat, in addition to fighting certain food myths such as that all fats are bad. The school can educate in good nutrition by offering the parents of its students healthy menu ideas, with regular hours and with all kinds of nutritious foods.
From a very young age they must learn that to grow their body needs all kinds of nutrients, in addition to exercising regularly. Exercise should not be done thinking about being lean or muscular, but about being healthy and having fun. Staying active and eating correctly are things that should be done not thinking about your body image, but about your health.
It is very important to build your self-esteem. Although they may not have problems in this regard when they are so young, the truth is that they can feel self-conscious about their body. We must teach them that nobody is perfect, that in the same way that we have our strengths we also have our failures, and that we must learn to feel comfortable with ourselves. The ideal is to avoid them feeling self-conscious.
Fostering their autonomy and being critical is crucial to avoid being affected by media messages. It is not about teaching them to be skeptical of absolutely everything, but it is about teaching them that the messages on TV are not the absolute truth, and that what appears in it does not have to conform to reality. In the same way that a movie or series is fiction and can use special effects, ads featuring skinny models may also have been doctored.
Eating disorders, and especially anorexia, are very serious problems in our society, especially if we take into account how the canon of female beauty makes extreme thinness seen as the ideal. People who do not conform to such a body image are automatically seen as unattractive and even very ugly.
Anorexia is especially harmful in adolescence, since it is during this period that physical changes make girls focus primarily on how they see themselves in front of others and in front of themselves in the mirror. If they see something they don’t like, especially if they look fat, they can restrict what they eat and, in extreme cases like anorexia, end up undernourished and die.
For many social factors outside the family or school or institute, anorexia can be prevented both in childhood and adolescence, even if the first signs of it have already occurred. Going to the psychologist is essential in all cases, in addition to the fact that the role of teachers and adequate communication in the family environment are crucial aspects to prevent and reduce the severity of anorexia.
Good eating habits in the family, together with encouraging an active lifestyle, being aware that the messages in the media do not correspond to reality and that all bodies can be attractive is very important to fight anorexia. In addition, girls should be made to understand that they should care about their bodies not based on how they look, but on how healthy they are, regardless of how thin or fat they may be.
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