There is a lot we can do as individuals, family members, friends and as a culture to help prevent eating disorders. Remember that no one knows for sure what causes an ED – but we do know that people who feel bad about their bodies; have low self-esteem; are perfectionistic or have unreasonably high standards; and who are especially influenced by the opinions of others are at higher risk for developing an eating disorder. And, even if someone doesn’t develop a full-blown ED, many people in our society become excessively preoccupied with their appearance and even pass up great opportunities just because they think they don’t meet the narrow expectations popularized in the media. Together we can challenge this and change society’s values – just as we have about drinking and driving, women in the workplace, racism, and many other issues. Our tolerance for looksism – judging people and making comments based solely on their appearance – has to end. Try these ideas for starters:
Ten Ways to Challenge “Bad Body” Beliefs
- Encourage diversity by accepting your own and other peoples’ bodies as they are. Don’t believe that there is only one ideal – skinny for women, muscular for men. Just as blondes and brunettes, brown eyes and blue are all attractive, so are a variety of body shapes and sizes!
- Do not participate in jokes that belittle another person – especially ones based on appearance. And don’t let others do it around you. Speak up, be the one to say, “That’s not funny. That person has feelings.” Develop a sense of humor that isn’t based on putting others down.
- Practice what you preach – if you tell others you like them for who they are, and not just how they look, apply it to yourself. Like yourself for who you are, for all the things that make you unique.
- Don’t believe everything you see! Remember marketing is intended to make you feel like you need whatever they’re selling – in order to do that, you have to feel inadequate somehow. Question, question, question!!! Look at ads with a critical eye.
- Think about what you really value in people and then focus on that. Compliment people on the things that truly matter – not the number on the scale.
- If you suspect someone is in trouble, don’t judge. Don’t be critical. Remember that this is an illness – treat them with the respect and concern you would if it were any other illness.
- Put your money where your mouth is – support advertisers who buck the system and use realistic sized models. Write to the ones who don’t and let them know you find it offensive.
- Stop talking about food, weight and body in social situations. It’s dull and it leaves everyone feeling bad. Talk about truly “weighty” matters – things you really care about.
- Reduce competition. You don’t have to the be the thinnest, funniest or anything-est. You are just you – stop comparing!
- Remember that food and body size only have power over you if you let them. You are so much more than these things – don’t let them control your life!