Preventing Eating Disorders and Obesity Among Teens

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According to Dr. Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, most preventive therapies focus on either 1) preventing eating disorders by addressing risk factors such as dieting and body dissatisfaction, or 2) preventing obesity by addressing risk factors such as overeating and low levels of physical activity. However, Dr. Neumark-Sztainer proposes integrating these two approaches. She advocates greater collaboration among professionals in the eating disorders and obesity treatment fields. Integration can save time and expense, increase the effectiveness of both approaches, and eliminate conflicting messages. Here are some of her recommendations for prevention activists.

Ways to Work Toward the Prevention of Weight-Related Disorders

  1. Talk with professionals who work in different fields and have different perspectives related to obesity and eating disorders.
  2. Listen to others and expand your perspective on how best to work toward the prevention of weight-related disorders.
  3. Read relevant literature to learn more about the fields of eating disorders and obesity.
  4. Work to open up lines of communication across disciplines and perspectives and to foster collaborative relationships.
  5. Participate in research studies designed to broaden our knowledge and understanding of eating disorders and obesity. These are easy to find on the Internet.
  6. Help to develop messages and interventions for both groups and individuals that will assist kids in dealing with weight-related disorders.
  7. Constantly assess interventions to make sure they are effective and have not inadvertently led to an increase in undesirable behaviors. For example, in programs that target obesity, also consider their effects on body image and dieting behaviors. Make sure that programs addressing eating disorders are not unintentionally teaching kids new techniques of self-abuse.
  8. Make sure that treatment and prevention programs consider the broad spectrum of weight-related behaviors and conditions.
  9. Work with parents of teens to help families establish healthy eating patterns, increase physical activity, and avoid excessive preoccupation with weight.
  10. Influence news and advertising media and school policies to decrease exposure to junk food ads, promote increased opportunities for physical activity, and increase healthy food choices where kids eat.

Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Spring 2004 Volume 2, Number 3
©2004 Gürze Books

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