Parental Example: A Solution to Disordered Eating on Both Ends of the Spectrum?

As I discussed here, the obesity epidemic has been widely publicized recently in light of the current healthcare debate. Amidst the discussion on obesity, obesity-related diseases, and the funds required to care for individuals who suffer from these diseases, there have been a couple of interesting articles on unhealthy eating habits on the opposite end of the spectrum: unhealthy dieting habits, anorexia, and bulimia.
In Jeffrey Zaslow’s Wall Street Journal article, “Girls and Dieting, Then and Now,” Zaslow describes his reunion with members of the 1986 fourth grade class at the Marie Murphy School in Wilmette, Ill., whom he had interviewed about their dieting habits some twenty-three years ago. He discovered in 1986 that among these young girls, the majority of them restricted their diets because “boys expect girls to be perfect and beautiful and skinny.” Not surprisingly, most of these women continue to stress about their appearance and thus their weight today. Further, as actresses and models become thinner and thinner, young girls are employing more and more dangerous methods to look like them. While I thought it was interesting that Zaslow interviewed the same women two decades later, I found the conclusion to be predictable and uninventive.
When I began reading Frank Bruni’s article “Eating Anxiety: Is Anyone to Blame?” on The Atlantic’s online food channel, I thought, “Oh no, not another article about Frank Bruni’s weird relationship with food,” a popular topic in light of the former food critic’s newly published memoir that discusses his struggle with weight and eating. But I was pleasantly surprised by Bruni’s ultimate suggestion to his readers. He advises parents to “instill good food sense in their children the same way they instill a good work ethic: by example.” I am certainly a believer that eating and exercise habits are learned, perhaps through my own personal experience, and that it is important for parents to set healthy examples. At least Bruni offers a feasible suggestion to help solve the problem of disordered eating, one that could apply to both obesity and unhealthy diet restriction.

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