There has been an increasing movement over the last few years of patients and families taking more control of their own health. For so many years the responsibility of a person’s health has been given to the healthcare provider. As such, much healthcare is long after prevention. Opportunities for prevention are lost and what is left is painful, expensive and procedural based interventions.
In the world of eating disorders, there are similar challenges. Over the years, healthcare providers have underestimated the public’s ability to adapt to healthier lifestyles. For example, people have begun exercising as a way of overcoming health complaints as well as preventing future complaints. Similarly there can be earlier intervention with eating disorders.
Here are some suggestions:
- For families of young children, especially young daughters, the focus should not be on physical beauty. It should be on the value of the child as a loving, caring, intelligent person. Likewise, females should be valued for their humanness, intelligence and values.
- Children, especially girls, should be encouraged to speak their minds, albeit in a respectful way, and not to avoid situations that they feel are unjust to themselves or other people. Ideally they should be made aware of the sexist messages that pervade western society.
- Parents should be good roles models. It is invaluable for a girl to see their mother as a person who speaks up when necessary, and is in control of herself and her life.
- Do not leave healthcare just to the professionals, and be proactive in addressing issues that you know that make your eating disorder compulsions worse. That is conflict avoidance and isolation.
- Finally, it is important when seeking treatment, that there should be clear evidence of progress. The only good thing about eating disorders is that you have immediate symptoms that give you feedback about whether the treatment is being effective or not.