Dying to Be Thin

What Can Parents Do?

Your daughter is bombarded with messages to be thin. Countering this cultural pressure is a daunting task, especially if your child is already unhappy with her weight. Here's how you can help:

Make sure you're not
contributing to the problem.

  • Downplay appearance. Explain that people come in different shapes and sizes. Help her understand that people shouldn't be judged by how they look.
  • Cultivate her talents. Encourage her to do things she's good at, whether it's sports, music, writing, or any other activity. Succeeding in other pursuits will boost her self-esteem, regardless of what the scale says. "Emphasize what's really important -- personality, skills, and knowledge," says Dr. Fornari.
  • Help her ignore rude remarks. We all know kids can be cruel. If a peer teases your daughter about her weight, remind her the person doing the teasing is the one with the problem.
  • Check your attitude. Kids whose parents constantly diet and complain about weight will probably do the same.
  • Bite your tongue. Even if your child is overweight, avoid critical comments about how much she eats, warns Dr. Fornari. At age 9 and 10, dieting is not recommended. Instead, encourage your daughter to exercise and make sure she has access to plenty of low-fat, high-fiber, protein-rich foods.

Continued on page 4:  Battling Bulimia