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Eating disorders: Not a lifestyle choice

Look around. There are a lot of body types. Notice the individuals who are confident of themselves despite their weight number or BMI (body mass index). They may carry extra weight, but they are confident in who they are. Their ease reaches out to you. You can tell by the way they dress and the way they carry themselves, how they interact with others. They aren’t arrogant. They are confident. An hour-glass figure is not the goal. Accepting yourself the way you are is the goal. Nobody said it is easy.

In high school, a young woman made a choice. She wanted to look attractive. She wanted to be accepted. And she came up with a plan for herself to find her healthy place. She didn’t say anything to anyone. She just set to work. She cut her portion sizes in half. She worked out hard in gym class to develop muscle tone and strength. In those days there were no girls’ sports to speak of. She didn’t want to diet. She just wanted to look good and feel good and have confidence in herself. And it worked. She achieved her weight goal, a healthy 135 pounds, ideal for her height. She felt good. She looked good. She was content. And she didn’t have to risk her well-being to achieve her goals. She took a healthy route.

When she was growing up, she looked to her mother for her examples. When Mom watched television in the evening, she also did aerobic exercises. Mom cooked balanced, nutritious meals from scratch and taught the young woman to do the same. Soda pop was an occasional treat, not a regular part of the family’s diet… except for the summer the family made homemade root beer, another story for another time. And they spent a lot of time outdoors riding bikes, playing basketball and tether ball, four-square, hide-and-seek. Movement was a big part of their daily life. A healthy mind contributes to a healthy body, and vice versa. It just never occurred to this young woman to risk her well-being with the kind of thinking related to eating disorders. Of course, back then, there wasn’t a lot of discussion about eating disorders. It was about being healthy. It was about accepting yourself as you are, not following the crowd, or what you considered following the crowd, at least at this girl’s house.

Eating disorders are serious and sometimes fatal, affecting the way the brain and the organs of the body work. Starvation kills. These conditions affect all people, both genders, any age. Research has determined that it can run in families, advises the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Other mental health disorders like anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder are other links. Symptoms of an eating disorder are actually symptoms of starvation, reports the Mayo Clinic, which emphasizes prevention at home.

Children learn from watching their parents and mimicking them. Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk. Eating healthy meals together is a parent’s opportunity to teach children about healthy nutrition, the food pyramid; balanced diet and reasonable portion sizes, healthy snacks. Children like to help prepare the meal. What a great time of memory-making it can be when they get to help and it becomes an adventure, not a battleground.

Experts recommend talking to your children about risky behaviors that can hurt them, to correct any misunderstandings they may have about the behaviors they may observe in others. Teach them a healthy way of life. Are you dieting? You might want to not talk about your dieting. The message to send to a youngster is that they accept themselves as they are. Everyone is not shaped the same. And the positive messages are that everyone has the opportunity to improve on what they have if they are willing to work at it properly, like the young woman at the top of this story. She wanted to look great, but she also wanted to be healthy. That’s the message you want to convey to your kids, but don’t just talk the talk. You also have to walk the walk.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded, in part, by United Way Services of Northern Columbiana County.

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