Because it is unclear whether the causes of the three main types of teen eating disorders –
- Anorexia nervosa, also referred to simply as anorexia
- Bulimia nervosa, also known as bulimarexia or simply bulimia
- Binge eating disorder, also known as binge eating or binging
– are associated with common risk factors; have distinct causal elements; or whether the research is so far inconclusive, it is difficult to make statements about prevention.
What Does an Attractive Woman Look Like?
Most reports agree, especially in relationship to anorexia nervosa, that the cultural model of women that society provides in the form of Barbie dolls, advertisements, models, and film and television stars, contribute to distortion of young girls’ body images and the creation of an ideal that most women cannot realistically (and should not) try to attain.
Prevention would therefore include a change in society’s ideal, with corresponding changes in the presentation and portrayal of women. At the family level, it would include the following:
- Encouraging healthy attitudes toward food, weight control, and body image, by example and encouragement.
- Develop healthy self-esteem that includes all underlying facets of self, not just body image.
- Improve dietary habits to provide nutritious and balanced meals.
- Provide realistic models to replace, for example, Barbie dolls.
- Provide commentary, as appropriate, on inappropriate portrayals of women and women who are responding to pressure to meet the ideal at the risk of their health.
- Increase public awareness of the connection between society’s view of women and the possibility of eating disorders. – Eliminate/prohibit teasing that references weight or appearance.
- Encourage participation in team sports. One activity has been found that can help counteract some of the negative influence from the media. A study at the Melpomene Institute of Minneapolis, Minnesota showed that those who participate in sports teams had better body images than others, even others who were physically active but not as part of a team.
Other Steps to Take in Eating Disorder Prevention
Another important way to work towards prevention of eating disorders is to address any issue that might be an underlying cause in an appropriate way. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Addressing underlying causes, such as effects of physical or sexual abuse
- Encourage and/or teach strategies to deal with negative emotions or stress
Teen Eating Disorder Prevention Sources
- “Anorexia Nervosa.” Mai Tran. Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Ed. Jacqueline Longe. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2005. p94-98.
- “Binge Eating Disorder.” Paula Ford-Martin and Teresa Odle. Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. Ed. Jacqueline Longe. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2005. p217-219.