When they are young you should start by teaching them that food is fuel for our bodies and that when we eat we are giving ourselves energy to do activities. If a child grows up with an unhealthy relationship with food, then it is very likely they will suffer from an eating disorder at some point. People who suffer from eating disorders can become very sensitive to the topic of food, so it is best to not comment on how much someone eats, how often someone eats or what someone is eating. A few of the most common eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating.
Those who struggle with anorexia constantly believe they are overweight even if they are a healthy weight or extremely underweight. People with anorexia have also been found to have obsessive compulsive tendencies because their eating disorder starts to become the only thing they can focus on. Anorexia can be extremely controlling and can drastically change the way a person lives their life. Some people will stop eating in social situations because of how uncomfortable with food they have become, or they will work out until they physically can’t, to make up for any calories they might have eaten. The distinguishing factor that separates anorexia from the other disorders is the distorted perception that a person has of their body and their obsession with losing weight no matter how thin they are.
While bulimia is closely related to anorexia, people who suffer from this disorder are not as obsessed with losing weight, rather they are obsessed with not gaining any more weight. People who suffer from this disorder will typically look healthy, however they are sustaining long term damage from bulimia. Bulimia causes people to eat huge amounts of food in a short period of time to the point of feeling ill, so afterward they can “purge”. Purging includes forced vomiting, taking laxatives or excessive exercising. If a person is more stressed than usual about their weight or appearance, then they are more likely to have more bulimic episodes where they binge and purge. Unfortunately, the more often a person has an episode the more likely they are to suffer from an inflamed or sore throat, swollen salivary glands, decaying teeth, acid reflux and hormonal disturbances.
This disorder is closely related to the previous two, however for someone who suffers from binge eating disorder, there is no purging after the fact. A person who suffers from bulimia and a person who suffers from binge eating disorder both lack the control to stop eating during an episode, but a person with BED won’t try to throw up or take laxatives afterward. This is why most people who suffer from BED are also overweight or obese.
Even though each of these disorders is unique, they all stem from an unhealthy relationship with food. Food should not be something that is seen as a prize or a luxury. We need nourishment for our bodies or else they will start shutting down, which is why it is so important to teach your kids about a healthy relationship with food early on. Remember that food and weight can be extremely sensitive topics, so approach the topic considerately.