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Eating Disorders Can Affect Younger Children
September 6, 2023
Life is your seesaw. You may not stay balanced long, but you can aim for a high after every low.
-Dr. Sanita Belgrave, Family Medicine Specialist and World Literacy Ambassador for Barbados

"Raymond (4) cries when his classmates tease him at the lunch table for taking two helpings of tater tots, reminding him, ‘That’s why you can’t run fast!’?? Disturbing? Yes. Surprising? Not really. We already know that children pick up on societal messages starting at a very young age, absorbing messages from family members, teachers, social media, television, and movies," writes Donna Rafanello in the article at the heart of the Exchange Reflections, "Body Positivity."

Kathleen Smith, Ph.D., LPC, writes, "Most people think of teenagers or young adults when they think of eating disorders, but they can affect young children as well. The rates of eating disorders among young girls and boys under 12 have been growing in recent years, so it is important for parents and anyone who works with young children to recognize the signs. Physical growth is such an important component of childhood, and eating disorders can cause significant damage to a child’s body."

Smith recommends, "Early detection and prevention are key to treating eating disorders in young children." Rafanello offers nine teaching strategies to promote body positivity. Among them, "'We are the same and we are different' is a key message of an anti-bias education (ABC Goal 2). Communicate that healthy bodies can look different than what we see on TV and in other media."


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