The seeds of eating disorders can start from young. Girls are bombarded with images of the "perfect" body from the media. The Barbie doll image, which today also takes the form of movies and video games, the Princess culture that Disney promotes, and then later on in advertising, in print and on television, the image of the perfect body is reinforced.

A girl who suffers with low self-esteem, or who might experience ridicule of some form on a regular basis, can strive to obtain an unobtainable goal of the perfect body that advertising and the entertainment media project, and this can contribute towards eating disorders. Parents should be aware of this and make appropriate adjustments with their daughters from young.


Parents need to work hard to maintain a positive atmosphere at hone, one of approval and love. Endeavor to control the amount of exposure your daughter has to the media, and to limit exposure to pop-culture icons, whose achievements are out of reach for the vast majority of girls to emulate or achieve.

Therapies and Life-Skills

A helpful non-mainstream therapy and life-skill for eating disorders is art and art therapy. Creating works of art can help a child to develop a positive self-identity and contribute to healthy self-esteem.

If a girl develops her talents in art, in poetry, in something she can create or accomplish involving a tangible skill that has nothing to do with her body weight or shape, then it can help to circumvent the psychological basis for the development of eating disorders.

In this respect, cognitive behavioral therapy has been of help to many, as well as regular counseling on proper dieting and eating habits. Family therapy has proven to have a much greater success rate than other forms of therapy. Family therapy takes into consideration the fact that it is the family unit, not an isolated individual, which together, can make a difference in creating an environment conducive to a complete recovery from eating disorders.

A disproportional percentage of female athletes suffer from eating disorders. One tennis pro was helped with therapy and counseling to overcome anorexia, what her therapist describes as a "success story" in the battle with eating disorders. There are many similar success stories so keep hope and persevere.

Controlling Media Intake and Help Girls Develop Self-Esteem

By keeping to a minimum television time or doing without television completely in the home, thoughtfully directed any television time to positive programming that doesn't feature child TV starlets (such as Hannah Montana or High School Musical), girls can be helped to form their own identity. The same could be said for movies marketed for children and teens. The intensity or violence of movies for children is also a mental health issue parents need to consider.

By toning down the and limiting access and time spent listening to music, and by exposing children and teens to a wider variety of music of various genres, rather than what is currently popular, children and teens can benefit in terms of mental health. Time spent listening to pop music can contribute to depression in teens according to one study. Exercise can be beneficial but needs to be balanced (some with eating disorders can become excessive and compulsive with exercise). Activities such as enjoying nature, walking, hiking, time at the park can be of benefit.

Help your daughter to find enjoyment in helping others less fortunate such as those handicapped or the elderly. This can help her to not be self-absorbed but to have a healthy interest in others well-being. This can also contribute to self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment in life and contentment.

The thought patterns typical of anorexia and bulimia can be changed, as can life-habits. Girls can overcome eating disorders and parents play the most crucial role in this. Every family and every girl is different and there is no cookie-cutter formula of success, but success is possible and continuous effort helps you along that road.

Author's Bio: 

The AYCNP is a not-for-profit corporation in Newark, NJ which offers educational resources on non-pharmaceutical solutions in mental health. Please see the eating disorders page.

More ideas in mental health can be obtained in the ADHD book: Overcoming ADHD Without Medication: A Parent and Educator's Guidebook.