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Can Positive Role Models Prevent Eating Disorders?

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Anorexia and other eating disorders are not about food; they’re about emotional coping. Girls going through puberty are at the highest risk for developing an eating disorder, but the risk can be mediated by a positive role model.

Negative Role Models in the Media

Young girls often develop a distorted body image because of the role models available to them in the media. Airbrushed models, Photoshopped celebrities, and digitally enhanced athletes are only a few types of the unrealistic images girls see daily.

It’s no wonder that they start to question their own bodies when comparing themselves to an impossible ideal. Many of the enhanced models and celebrities are suffering from their own eating disorders, which fuels the idea that eating disorders are normal and a positive way to lose weight. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When girls see nothing but the negative role models in the media, their self-esteem development stalls. They don’t know how to reconcile the images they see in the media of flawless women with their own rapidly developing bodies. Add to this confusion the trying emotional development that girls go through in middle school and high school and it’s easy to see how girls are led astray without a positive role model.

Positive Role Models

Girls need positive role models to help them develop a positive body image and healthy self-esteem. Positive role models will focus on personality traits and accomplishments that don’t center on physical features. If young girls have women to look up to who emphasize health, fitness, intellect and inner strength, they are much less likely to turn to extreme diets, starvation and purging.

Positive role models can help girls feel comfortable in their own skin. Girls who can focus on strengths other than their appearance will be able to withstand the peer and media pressures urging them to conform to the super skinny and unhealthy model ideal.

Source: Practical Parenting