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Preventing an Eating Disorder - How they Begin and How to Stop them Controlling Your Life

written by: micsan07 • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 8/19/2010

Once you learn about eating disorders how they begin, helping prevent them from taking over your life is easier to do. Knowledge about unhealthy eating and an awareness of how easy it is to begin are a big help in preventing eating disorders from starting.

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    Preventing an Eating Disorder - How they Begin and How to Stop them Controlling Your Life

    When preventing eating disorders, how they begin and how to stop them controlling your life are issues that have to be addressed before the prevention can begin.

    Very basically, eating disorders can begin in two ways.

    One way is that a person can feel pressured to fit an ideal image. They can be made to feel inadequate if their body shape does not fit an 'idealized' image shown on television or magazines.

    The second way is when a person believes that they do not have control in their lives. An individual who believes this may latch onto the idea that only they can control the amount of food that goes in their mouth.

    While these are two ways in which an eating disorder may develop, both ways have one thing in common.

    Food becomes a ruling factor in an individual's life that can easily and quickly take over if they are not careful.

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    Get Rid of the Notion of Ideal Body Shapes

    While television and magazines traditionally featured only a certain body shape and image in the past, it is slowly evolving to include body shapes other than the perceived "perfect" shapes.

    This is a wonderful thing as it encourages perceptions to change. People can still be beautiful and not wear size 4 clothes. A person can be heavier and still be sexy, vibrant, and appealing to others.

    The word is getting out that thin isn't the end all and be all of life. All body shapes and sizes can be appealing and individuals who are body conscious need to hear it more often than those that are naturally thin.

    To people who have eating disorders and feel inadequate about their size or body weight, seeing a perceived ideal body shape being pushed aside in a television show for another with more curves or more weight is validation that thin isn't the only body shape that is acceptable.

    Acceptance is crucial when it comes to a person with an eating disorder. In some form or another, acceptance is a very important part of what an individual with an eating disorder is looking for. Acceptance with their body shape or image, acceptance that someone will like them no matter how they look, and acceptance that they are strong enough to control aspects of their own lives.

    Being able to see others that don't fit a perfect image take center stage on television, magazines, political arenas, and in big business sends a message to those who are image conscious that it's ok to not have a perceived perfect shape. That acceptance goes far in preventing eating disorders in an individual.

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    De-Value Food Obsessions

    To people with eating disorders, food can be an ugly obsession. To prevent an eating disorder from controlling your life, food needs to be de-valued to remove the obsession. Food is important and necessary for a healthy life; however, the way an individual with an eating disorder looks at food needs to be changed. The control needs to be with the person, not the food.

    Eating when the body says it is hungry puts the control with the person, not the food. Adequate portion sizes and choice of foods also puts the control with the individual, not the food. While some may think that this is just a game playing with words, to an individual needing control in their life, it is not semantics, but a way that they can wrap their brain around a real issue in their life and prevent unhealthy eating habits. This is a positive control for individuals with eating disorders, not a negative one.

    Sharing meals with others is also a good way to prevent eating disorders. Most individuals suffering from eating disorders hide their unhealthy eating habits by staying away from friends and family during mealtimes. Sometimes it is to hide that they don't eat much or at all, and sometimes it is because they are ashamed or embarrassed by how much they actually ingest at a sitting. Sitting down and sharing a meal with friends helps with meal portions.

    Most individuals with eating disorders eat so quickly that the stomach never gets the chance to tell the brain that it has had enough food. Talking while eating is good for those with food issues.

    Another way to de-value food is to start a gentle exercise program and then progressively increase the amount of movement each day. As the body grows stronger and more flexible through muscle, it burns off fat more effectively. While weight may or may not be reduced, the body composition will change to a firmer and stronger shape which will encourage continued activity. Looking and feeling good always has a positive impact on how people look at their bodies. It's easy to de-value food when the body has improved its look through exercise and activity, not by withholding food.

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    Friends and Family Help Keep You on Track

    Let friends and family help.

    As mentioned above, share mealtimes with others. This is a positive step in preventing eating disorders.

    Start walking or exercising with someone. It could be the family dog needing a daily walk, a neighbor who walks to walk around the block, or a family member who wants to start strength training at the neighborhood gym. Exercise will not only strengthen and slim the body, but sharing this time with another person also keeps an individual on task and turns it into a social activity that is more enjoyable.

    Turning it into a social activity means that exercising won't be a dreaded task each day, and can actually turn into something that is looked forward to. This is time spent where the focus is not on food, but on getting stronger and more healthy.

    Friends or family are usually more than willing to listen when a bad day comes along. Taking a step backward every so often is normal. Individuals with eating disorders have a lot on their minds and need to unload every so often. Don't obsess over slip ups. Accept that you had a bad day and put it behind you. Tomorrow is another new day and you just start over.

    While an individual may have a hard time forgiving themselves for slip ups, friends and family are great for telling you to put it behind you and keep on going.

    Use them, that's what friends and family are for. They are there for good times and bad, let them help.

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    References

    Eating Disorder Referral - Body Image: http://www.edreferral.com/body_image.htm

    Women's Health - Body Image: http://www.womenshealth.gov/bodyimage