Banana bread is a favorite to bake, eat and share with friends; zucchini is also a favorite that has been abundant in farmer’s markets this summer. So, with some extra zucchini and slightly browning bananas on hand, I decided to combine these two for one hopefully yummy experiment, and it worked! This is an easy (and tasty) way to incorporate fruits and veggies into your little one’s or your own day. Mashing a ripe banana, measuring dry ingredients and mixing are all tasks perfect for getting kids involved in the kitchen!
Yields ~15 muffins
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup milk
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup shredded (or made into noodles and then chopped*) zucchini
½ cup dark chocolate chips
¾ medium ripe banana, mashed
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350F, and grease or line muffin tin.
In medium bowl, combine dry ingredients of flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
In a separate large bowl, mix beaten egg, oil, milk, mashed banana, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir wet ingredients into dry until incorporated and moistened.
Prepare zucchini using a shredder or by spiralizing into thin noodles and then chopping into ¼ inch pieces, for similar effect. Measure your 1 cup of zucchini now. Wrap measured zucchini into paper towel and squeeze out excess water–there will be a lot of it.
Fold zucchini and chocolate chips into rest of mixture. Pour to fill muffin tins 2/3 of the way.
Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
Did you know that your dinner plates can actually affect the amount of food you and your children consume?
As a mom and dietitian, I understand the need for parents to feed their kids well while fostering a positive relationship with food.
This relationship is more complicated than the nutritional value of what you serve, however; in fact, it actually begins with your servingware.
If you haven’t thought about it before, then consider it now. Beyond ingredients alone, parents need to think about the ways in which the environment impacts children’s associations with food. Eating off of dishes that we find aesthetically pleasing or comforting can set us up for a sense of satisfaction before even taking a bite off our plate – and the same goes for our children.
When it comes to finding the perfect plates that suit your parenting philosophies and personal styles, consider yourselves covered. These five picks won’t just help to foster healthy attitudes in the kitchen; they’ll also eliminate unnecessary stress by prompting your ever-picky eaters to finish what’s in front of them.
1. The No Fuss Mom: Corelle White Dish
I’ve eaten off of these plates for years! Dishwasher safe and practically unbreakable, there is nothing better than these crisp, white dishes – except, that is, the price!
For a mere $50 dollars, you can purchase a set of eight of these family-friendly plates. Eating off of white dishes creates a colorful contrast with your meal which, based on studies by Dr. Brain Wainsink, lends to eating smaller portions and over time, an easy way to lose weight without consciously dieting.
2. The Eco-chic Mom: Bambooware Santa Barbara Dinnerware
For the environmentally sound mother with a love of anything green, these eco-chic plates fromBambooware are made of bamboo and are decidedly awesome.
Not only are they melamine-free, but these low-impact plates are both reusable and dishwasher safe, making them perfect for every occasion, from family meals to birthday parties and more.
3. The New Mom: Green Eats BPA-Free Kids Dishes
Babies and tots are known for touching, tantrums and throwing, so we’re not exactly serving our little bundles of joy baby food or even finger food off of our finest china. Yet with all the talk and rising concerns about BPA, many parents are hesitant to use plastic servingware, bottles and plates – even if many states, including New York and California, have put BPA-free laws in place.
TheseBPA-free platesfrom Green Eats gives new moms everywhere one thing less to worry about, and are ideal for serving wholesome, sustainable foods to our little ones.
4. The Mom Gone Crazy: Waechtersbach Warehouse Funfactory II Dinnerware
Having a selective, or “picky,” eater can give any mom grey hairs. While eating off of white plates helps to decrease portions consumed, go ahead and apply the opposite logic with these funky, brightly hued dishes. Purchase an entire set of these vibrant plates, one in every color of the rainbow, for variety, fun and for the picky eater, a low contrast combination.
In Dr. Brian Wainsink’s study, people ate more when they were served pasta with red sauce on a red dish and greens on green plates. These low contrast combinations may unconsciously convince your picky eater to nosh on just a few bites more of their meal.
5. The Party Planning Mom: Harvest Table Setting
What can be better than sitting down to a tasty fall meal at a beautifully decorated table? This year, embrace the changing seasons with an aesthetically pleasing dinner table, set for the harvest theme. Choose pumpkin bowls, candles and a fall hued centerpiece to go a step further in creating an environment that fosters an appreciation of feeding and eating.
I personally love the idea of entertaining family and friends, but fall short when it comes to patience and getting the look I want. Use Pottery Barn’s party planning website to learn how to create this warm and inviting Harvest Table Setting.
With your table set and your confidence high, all that’s left now is to decide on what to feed the kids. If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, be sure to refer to my personal blog, Mom Dishes It Out, where I “dish” on delicious, kid-centric meals and answer real questions posed by real moms everywhere.
Now it is always a RD’s recommendation to never have a power struggle around food. But what happens when your kid is the one who is running the show? I have seen this with clients, where the kid becomes so picky with the food, the parent obliges. A few weeks ago, I was thinking to myself, was this happening in my home with my youngest son.
School was out. We moved homes on the last day of school and literally left one week later for South Carolina. Billy just seemed off. He had heat stroke one day and as a result hadn’t eaten much or well for a few days. Then when we went on a Pirate Ship tourist trap kind of cruise and the employee commented on his height. Now this is something I am sensitive about. I do wonder if his shorter stature is just him or is it because he is a picky pescatarian. He eats one fish and only some of the time. With all of the emotional change he was definitely being pickier. I got to worrying.
Billy wasn’t even willing to try any foods. I made him a veggie burger with cheese on both sides while I served Bobby his chicken. This was the Bell and Evans Chicken Tenders. Meanwhile at the restaurants, Bobby and I share steak and other normal foods. I thought a veggie burger was a very nice compromise for Billy. Of course he did not agree.
The power struggle began. But I really didn’t want to give up. I hate that it had to come to this but I was legitimately worried about his health. I was not asking him to eat the veggie burger; rather I was asking him to try it. The fact that he would not try it, really got to me and I decided I was not giving in. I was ready to sit with him until he tried the veggie burger.
At first this was a game for him, until he realized I was serious and 45 minutes later still sitting with him. He would leave the table and I would bring him back. The night before he had refused his fish sticks so I was without options. Soon Billy was crying to me. I explained I was concerned and as a parent I would irresponsible to not feed him adequately. Plus I was really worried for his health emotional and physically without proper protein. And that is when he said it!
He said, “Mommy, I will eat chicken.” He whispered it. I said, “Really, you rather eat chicken than a veggie burger?” He was on board with eating Billy’s chicken. So I made him a chicken tender and he ate it. It was a small tender but he was cool with it. And guess what, her ordered chicken tenders the next night at the restaurant. And on Saturday night he ate chicken parmesan at a very fancy restaurant.
Just last week, I retuned from the South. My sister was watching my boys and gave all of the children chicken nuggets. Guess who ate them? Yeah, my Billy. My husband who had not been privy to the power struggle form the week prior told me Billy ate the nuggets without hesitation but later told my hubby that this chicken was not good like ours and was different in texture. He didn’t prefer these. But he did eat them.
Now call me crazy, but Billy grew. This could be coincidental or potentially the result of his new diet. I am grateful for both!!! The growth whatever the reason is timely, because Billy now thinks eating protein means growing tall. It is no longer mommy and daddy just saying it.
I have no idea if he will continue with the chicken. I have no idea if the chicken initiated the growth spurt. I just know that the power struggle was necessary in order to get my very strong willed child to eat something with all 8 essential amino acids. So while I hate that it had to happen, the end result seems to be okay.
I guess I won’t know until he is older and comes home to tell me that I ruined his relationship with food per his therapist. This is a joke of course, but at the same time, my worst nightmare ever. I hope my sharing of this situation can help you to set boundaries around feeding and eating with your own child. I hope you learn from my mistakes and benefit from our successes. Raising kids to have positive relationships with eating and neutral relationships with food is super hard but super necessary for our future generations.
Please let me know if you find this helpful and if you do, please share with your friends. I work with many clients who suffer from eating disorders and this is the last thing you would ever want for your child. Please spread Positive Nutrition and #AllFOODFITS!
One of the best cures for perfectionism has got to be having twins. One baby definitely changes the dynamics of your life, but when there are two, the odds of things going as planned are even more drastically reduced. If one baby manages to stay clean, the other one will surely spit up all over her carefully matched outfit – and yours. If one accommodates your busy schedule, the other refuses to nap. If one happily consumes the meal you worked hard to prepare, the other may turn up her nose at it. Raising twins effectively erases the last vestiges of any illusion of control.
While I was expecting my babies, I read Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman, an American author now living in France, and I was enthralled by her description of the way French kids eat. Apparently, they enjoy a sophisticated, varied menu, and picky eating is seemingly nonexistent. Wow! Imagine having kids like that! I knew it would take more work to ensure that my babies tried a wide range of foods from a young age, but I wanted my children to have a healthy, positive relationship with food, and naturally, I sought to avoid the power struggles that can result from dealing with picky eaters. Excited by what I’d read, I looked forward to starting my twins, Adele and Rebecca, on their first solid foods.
The first few weeks were a lot of fun. They are seven months old now and I still love watching the funny faces they make when they taste their first spoonful of a new food. Because I spend so much of my time working to help kids (and adults!) try new healthy foods, it’s a pleasure to be able to serve items like salmon, tofu, beans, and avocado to eager customers who don’t know yet that some people consider these foods yucky. But I’m learning that the only predictable part of this process is the work I put in. After I’ve cooked, mixed, and pureed the day’s treats and settled the babies into their high chairs, all I can do is hope. They are generally easy to please, but sometimes they’ll eat just one spoonful of a new food and turn down the rest. (Quinoa, for example, was not a success…but we’ll try again!) Some days, one or both will refuse a previously enjoyed food, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Their appetites will vary from day to day and meal to meal, and I never know exactly how things will turn out. Adele is clearly the more enthusiastic eater and seems braver when it comes to new textures and flavors, but a couple of nights ago, after tasting turkey for the first time, she went on strike. Rebecca, who is usually much more hesitant with food, happily finished her sister’s portion. Feeding my babies it teaching me to let go of my expectations and to respect each baby as her own little person with her own unique preferences.
Much of my work with pediatric clients is based on Ellyn Satter’s philosophy of division of responsibility in feeding children. I explain to parents that they are in charge of the timing and content of meals and snacks, but they are not responsible for how much their children eat or whether they choose to eat at all. They also do not have control over how their children’s bodies turn out. Adele and Rebecca provide me with my own miniature twin study right here at home. Adele is fascinated by watching her parents eat, and she’s the one making eager little noises at mealtime. When Adele is particularly hungry, she may get two spoonfuls for every one spoonful Rebecca gets. And guess who the bigger baby is? Surprise…it isn’t Adele!
I’ve come to accept that as with so many things in life, my children’s eating is going to be unpredictable, and that my efforts and their outcome are often unrelated. I must admit that while the babies enjoy my homemade yogurt, their favorite food seems to be jarred fruit. They’ll eat their broccoli, but they clearly would rather have applesauce. (My dietitian brain knows it’s their innate preference for sugar, but I have a feeling they know they’re American!) I’m going to keep doing what I can to ensure that the girls get the best possible start, but I realize that that’s all I can do – set the stage. My babies will eat the way they want to eat and grow the way they’re destined to grow. And while they’re busy experiencing new tastes and flavors, their mom is savoring the sweetness of stepping back and letting go.
Dina Cohen, MS, RDN, CEDRD provides nutritional counseling for clients of all ages and specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. She is dedicated to helping kids and their families develop lifelong healthy habits and a positive relationship with food. Her private practice, Eatwellsoon, is located Lakewood, NJ, where she lives with her husband and twin daughters.
DIY: 7 Steps to Progress Your Picky Eater By Laura Cipullo RD CDE CEDRD CDN and Mom
“I just want to go home and eat what I eat everyday for lunch.”
Is this your child? It is most definitely my child, as this is what he said to me on Friday when we walked into the burger joint known for its burgers and milkshakes. When he said this, I just let out a deep breath and decided it would be milkshakes for lunch. He doesn’t like change, and therefore he doesn’t like change in food, rules, or where he puts the furniture in Minecraft.
But this does not mean that you or I should take the summer off from exposing our kids to new foods and/or textures. Actually, summer is ideal because schedules are changing, and you can create a new schedule that incorporates trying new foods, say, twice a week. There is no school, stress, or homework, so take advantage of this time.
I am trying to incorporate different foods into dinner meals on Sundays and Wednesdays. Just yesterday, the boys tried fresh mozzarella, which neither would eat. They liked it melted but not cold. Last week they tried vegetarian sushi with avocado (they both licked it). Remember, touching, licking, or just getting it on their plate can help. Of course, they get these new foods alongside their faves or sometimes before their favorites are served. They tried a falafel burger and cocoa-dusted almonds!
My oldest, Bobby, has taken to eating fresh corn on the cob with butter and salt each night with his dinner, while Billy has incorporated strawberries without the skin at each of his dinner meals. That’s right, no skins. One night he said, “Mommy, I like the insides of strawberries.” My husband told me that Billy would eat the strawberries’ flesh, but he could not take a big bite. So I got the peeler out and voila!! He is now my strawberry man. So as summer begins, we will take this opportunity to continue exposing the boys to new foods and even former foods.
The food exposure may follow this progression or something similar.
Recognize that this is helpful for toddlers, children, and even pre-teens.
First, get the food on the same plate
Next, get touch involved. Maybe your child touches the food with their fingers or puts the food to his/her cheek or lips
Employ the One Lick Rule
Employ the One Chew and Spit—if you must
Use the One Bite Rule
Use the Three Bites Rule if your child has achieved the One Bite with that food
Make the food part of the main meal on a regular basis
Helping Your Large Child Thrive in a Fat-Phobic World
by Julie Dillon, MS, RD, NCC, LDN, CEDRD
“As a parent of a larger child, the difficult challenge is the voice inside my head telling me that I am doing something wrong. It’s telling me I am ‘letting’ her get fat and not doing something about it.” —Jennifer, mom
We live in a world where fat bodies are discriminated against, bullied, and considered unacceptable. What if your child is larger than what society deems ok? It is important for you to teach your large child how to respect his or her body since our society will not. You will be your child’s advocate for healthy ways of experiencing food, exercise, and body image. Where do you start?
Let your child know through your words and actions you accept him or her unconditionally. If your child comes to you upset about his/her large body, let your child know you love them as he/she is, that you love them no matter what and no matter what size. Do not suggest a diet or exercising together. If you were to do so, the suggestion sets up a condition. It says, “No, you are not ok as you are. I will help you change.”
Meals and Snacks
Set up regular meal and snack times so your child knows when food will be served. Older children and teens may start to feel ashamed of eating enough in public. They may restrict themselves to low-calorie foods when eating with friends. This way of eating is often referred to as “eating for show.” It means that even though your son or daughter is hungry for a variety of foods, he/she may feel like he/she should be restricting in order to repent for their large body. This leads many kids (and adults!) to eat more in private and even binge eat.
If your child knows your meal and snack times and falls into this “eating for show” trap, he/she can avoid binge or secret eating by consuming enough at the next meal or snack time.
Consistent eating times also offer the opportunity for every child in your home to learn how to detect, respect, and satisfy hunger and fullness cues. Besides promoting healthy eating, this also promotes positive body image.
High-Calorie Fun Foods
By banishing certain fun foods, you may set your child up to sneak foods or binge eat. Be sure to stock your house with a wide variety of wholesome nutritious foods. This variety will include fun foods too. Fun foods include cakes, cookies, and chips. I encourage all families (no matter what body size) to offer cookies at snack time once a week. I also encourage a few fun sides such as potato chips a couple times a week with meals. Offering fun foods alongside nutrient-dense foods helps in many ways. It satisfies cravings, models moderation, and prevents shame and binge eating high-calorie low nutrition foods.
Jennifer has found strength thanks to professionals and others who have gone through the same thing. “I have to get grounded by people who understand. While I know my family is concerned, their way of ‘shaming’ her or me because of her food choices or size and trying to manipulate her diet makes helping my daughter so hard. Having other parents to talk to that have been there, BUT also agree with the Body Positive philosophy is essential for support. I also have needed the support of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist to help me let go of my anxiety about this.”
Every body is meant to move—not just fat bodies. Encourage all of your children to find activities they enjoy. If time and finances allow, let your children pick one organized physical activity per week. Maybe they will enjoy soccer, tae kwon do, salsa dancing, or ice-skating!
Do not make your large child do an activity that he/she does not feel comfortable doing. Avoid “no pain no gain” cliché philosophies. Instead of motivating, they will only shame your child more. Also do not single out any child and make him/her do an exercise while others do not. Moreover, don’t encourage more exercise in relation to foods consumed nor discuss completing a certain amount of exercise to burn off calories consumed. Thinking about food in this way is disordered and could set up genetically predisposed children to start practicing an eating disorder.
Jennifer states: “I try to listen to my daughter’s sadness and frustration about not fitting into ‘skinny jeans’ and not tell her she is wrong for feeling that way. But I also talk to her about how her body is going to change and grow forever and how learning to love it is the best gift. I talk to her a lot about how strong her legs are and how graceful she is when she is figure skating. Not about what her body looks like but the amazing things it can do.”
Your large child needs you to communicate unconditional acceptance in order to thrive in a world stereotyped against his/her body type. Avoid shame-based language, singling out, or punishment. Rather engage in modeling healthy eating, pleasurable movement, and respectful body image for all your children, no matter their size.
Changing our behavior is never easy, especially as we get older. As a former aerobics instructor, fitness was always a passion for me, and exercise was built into my workday. After a serious injury and getting tired of the gym, I began looking for new ways to move my body for both physical and emotional health. I found it in a most unlikely place—the Internet.
I received a FitBit fitness tracker as a gift. Now all the rage, fitness trackers “count” steps, miles, fitness intensity, and other data depending on the brand. To my surprise, the pride and satisfaction I felt when reaching 10,000 steps, or any other goal I set for myself, proved to be the boost I needed. I embarked on a mission to find other women who, like me, wanted support becoming healthier using their fitness trackers and setting realistic and achievable goals. I found several communities on the FitBit website and learned that members often form private Facebook groups to support one another.
I joined a few groups and recognized the flip side to using fitness trackers that are important to keep in mind. Some people can become quite obsessive about tracking their steps, much like tracking calories or points. I rejected any group with members whose focus was dieting, weight loss, or any type of obsessive behavior. I found several women my age just looking to be healthy.
Over the past few snowy months, our merry little group of “FitBit Women Warriors Over 50” has grown in size and in friendship. I have shared ups and downs with women from almost every U.S. state, as well as those from Canada, Australia, and England. We motivate each other to move more and eat in a healthy, balanced way. In short, we encourage each other to care for our bodies by eating for satisfaction and hunger and moving more because it feels good—especially seeing our step counts increase.
We have a fearless leader who took it upon her self to organize group challenges on Sundays. We all push each other to be accountable for our goals. One Sunday while shoveling show, I imagined myself walking on a sandy beach with warm ocean breezes. We cheered each other on as we spent a full week walking 35.02 virtual miles around the Cayman Islands. On another Sunday, we worked together to complete a puzzle challenge. Pieces of the puzzle would be revealed each time an individual met her own personal exercise goal. Said one group member, “the challenges have triggered my competitive side and made me get my rear in gear!!”
When asked to describe what health meant to them, here were some responses:
“Health means taking care of your body physically, nutritionally, spiritually, and emotionally! It means living each day to the fullest.”
“Finally enjoying foods that are good for me as opposed to snack foods and finding that my body responds well to them.”
“I finally feel good in my own skin.”
“Having vibrant energy to go and do all the things you want to do. Your options are limitless!!!
Women at every stage of life can benefit from discovering their own paths to improved health. We often take ourselves for granted and care for other people first. Finding time for balanced exercise, healthy and regular meals, and friendship and support is equally important.
Parenting is all about guiding, providing, teaching with unconditional love. And it’s also about allowing our kids the space to try, explore and figure things out so that they can eventually trust themselves to make supportive choices. Not only these overall developmental themes, they are also completely relevant as kids personalize their own relationship with food, eating and connection with their bodies. When our children are young, we are the gatekeepers of the food: providing, preparing and presenting it in a reliable, and consistent manner 1. And while we may still be paying the grocery bills and answering the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?!” as long as our children are under our roofs , our kids pretty quickly begin to practice more and more independence and autonomy with their food. Imagine, if you were still cutting your 15 year olds steak at the dinner table! That seems ridiculous, yet we want to make certain that we are also giving our kids the space to explore and take charge in other ways with their eating experiences. Particularly as our children explore the middle- and high-school years, there are endless opportunities for us to give them room to make more of their own food decisions.
Give suggestions not solutions
Our hormonal little teddy bears (often disguised as grizzly bears), typically don’t respond well when we try to solve things for them. They may ASK us for the answers, but they really want to be able to make their own decisions, and yet know they need some input from us.
Instead of: “Why don’t you ever eat breakfast in the morning? “
Try: “I notice you’ve been talking a lot about how tired you are, is there anything you think might make getting up less brutal?” . Then, rather than firing off 5 things you know would work, simply ask if he would like some suggestions. Not only does this give you an opening to discuss simple breakfasts that can be ready crazy fast and keep his energy up, it also gives you some space to discuss time management and ways the family can work together to support each other.
Capture teachable moments
We may be acutely aware that certain patterns aren’t working well for our kids. An extremely common pitfall is the post-school slump. Not only do our kids come home worn out from thinking, they’re also really, really hungry. Getting them to connect how the first half of their day plays a role in the second half is a really big deal.
Instead of:“How come you’re raiding the pantry the second you walk in the door?” which is not only shaming, it completely cuts off communication.
Try:“I’m not going to bombard you with questions since you seem like you don’t want to talk right now. Do you need any help putting together a snack?” Then once she has some food in her system, you might explore the timing of lunch and foods she could add to it or to breakfast to keep hunger from building to the tipping point after school. Discussing food or patterns that aren’t quite helpful will NOT go well, if her brain is irritable and famished.
Give options and reinforce you trust them
If you have a child who struggles to make her own decisions, or turns to you for permission, practice turning the question back on her. Remembering that there is no perfect eating choice can really take the pressure off. If she asks, “Mom, can I eat something else?”….
Instead of: And absolute “yes” or “no”
Try: “You’re the best one to know if you’re still hungry, so go ahead and listen to what your body’s asking for. There is absolutely more food, so help yourself.”
Encourage your kids to take an attitude of curiosity. Since we know that calling foods good or bad creates an onslaught of judgment and distorted eating, it’s helpful to teach them to explore what’s working for them or not so much. This can include them choosing a different / new food from the grocery store or getting curious about how long a bowl of cereal satisfies after breakfast, and how that’s different than eating an egg sandwich. Their first-hand experience is priceless and will speak volumes over our well-intended lectures. And this experience is precisely what helps them launch as well-adjusted, balanced and connected young adults.
The Truth About Eating Disorders: Common Myths Debunked
by Julie Holland, MHS, CEDS
Because most eating disorders (approximately 95 percent) surface between the ages of 12 and 25, parents are often a first line of defense against the development of these illnesses in their children.* Despite increased prevalence of eating disorders in the United States, widespread misconceptions about eating disorders remain that challenge identification, diagnosis and early intervention. To truly protect and advocate for their children, it is important that parents understand the truth behind common eating disorder myths.
Myth: Eating disorders aren’t serious illnesses.
Truth: Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) are very real and very serious mental illnesses. Each disorder has clear diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the go-to diagnostic reference for mental healthcare professionals. Another reason to take eating disorders seriously is that they can be deadly. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. In fact, women ages 15 to 24 years of age who suffer from anorexia nervosa are 12 times more likely to die from the illness than any other cause of death.**
Myth: Eating disorders are just about food.
Truth: While eating disorders generally involve obsession with calories, weight or shape, these illnesses are rooted in biological, psychological and sociocultural aspects. Restriction, bingeing, purging or over-exercise behaviors usually signify an attempt to control something of substance in the individual’s life. Because friends and family mistakenly believe that eating disorders are just about food, they will often encourage their loved ones to “just eat more,” “just eat less,” or “just eat healthier” to be “cured” of this illness. In reality, eating disorders often require some combination of medical, psychiatric, therapeutic and dietary intervention to achieve full recovery.
Myth: Eating disorders are a women’s illness.
Truth: While research shows that eating disorders affect significantly more women than men, these illnesses occur in men and boys as well. While males used to represent about 10 percent of individuals with eating disorders, a recent Harvard study found that closer to 25 percent of individuals presenting for eating disorder treatment are male. The widespread belief that eating disorders only affect women and girls can prevent accurate diagnosis of an eating disorder in a man or boy, even among healthcare experts.
Myth: Eating disorders don’t develop until the teenage years.
Truth: Consider this—research found that up to 60 percent of girls between the ages of 6 and 12 are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat, and that this concern endures through life.*** Not surprisingly, the incidence of eating disorders in children is on the rise. Between 1999 and 2006, hospitalizations for eating disorders in children 12 and younger rose 119 percent, according to a 2010 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Myth: Only very thin people have an eating disorder.
Truth: While anorexia is characterized by extreme low weight, many individuals struggling with bulimia, binge eating disorder and EDNOS are normal-weighted. The misconception that an eating disorder can only occur if someone is very thin contributes to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis in many cases, even among those patients seeking support from medical and mental healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, many healthcare experts lack eating disorder exposure and training, which highlights the important role of eating disorder specialists to ensure effective diagnosis and early intervention.
In addition to educating themselves about basic eating disorder information and understanding myth from fact, parents should also trust their instincts when it comes to eating disorders in their children. Eating disorders can thrive in secrecy, but parents often intuitively know if something is wrong with their children. While parents may feel terrified of saying the wrong thing, but also not want to stay silent, they are an important champion for diagnosis and effective treatment. If concern arises, consult with an eating disorder specialist sooner rather than later—early intervention is critical to lasting eating disorder recovery.
*Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), offices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
**American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.
***T.F. Cash & L. Smolak (Eds.), Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention. New York: Guilford Press. 2011.