Anyone who is on social media, the internet or watching television will quickly be inundated with glorified images and stories of super-skinny women. This includes runway models with „thigh-gaps” and already-thin celebrities talking about how they think they need to diet. Children and teenagers are at the highest risk of developing physical and psychological problems from this constant bombardment of unrealistic body images. In fact, experts estimate that 60 percent of high school, 80 percent of 10-year old, and 40 percent of nine-year-old girls have dieted.

You might think this isn’t so bad, because childhood obesity is on the rise, but the real results of this focus on impossibly thin women and overly restricted calorie intake are devastating. According to research, the younger a girl is when she starts dieting, the more likely she is to use extreme weight-control measures such as vomiting or diuretics. And by the time she turns 30, she’s more likely to have suffered from drug and alcohol abuse and, ironically, to be overweight.

What can you do?

If your pre-teen or teenage daughter is dieting or considering dieting, help her adopt habits that will give her a genuinely healthy body and a great body image. Remind her that true and healthy dieting isn’t the same as „not eating” or eating only one food.

Here are some tips you can use to help her get healthy:

  • Help her discover physical activities she enjoys. For example, she might like to join a school sports team, walk for 45 minutes with you after dinner or do a yoga video in her room.
  • Shop for and cook fresh foods. Banish anything with added sugars or syrups (including soda) and all grains that aren’t 100 percent whole from your home. And don’t count calories – simply focus on good nutrition.
  • Limit her time on social media. Hours spent on Facebook (or other social media) increases her risk for developing a poor body image and an eating disorder.
  • Don’t be critical of your child’s looks. Instead, make her feel more confident as she becomes healthier and happier.