Prevention aims to promote a healthy development before the occurrence of eating disorders. It also intends early identification of an eating disorder before it is too late to treat. Children as young as ages 5–7 are aware of the cultural messages regarding body image and dieting. Prevention comes in bringing these issues to the light. The following topics can be discussed with young children (as well as teens and young adults).
- Emotional: A simple way to discuss emotional eating is to ask children about why they might eat besides being hungry. Talk about more effective ways to cope with emotions, emphasizing the value of sharing feelings with a trusted adult.
- Say No to Teasing: Another concept is to emphasize that it is wrong to say hurtful things about other people’s body sizes.
- Body Talk: Emphasize the importance of listening to one’s body. That is, eating when you are hungry (not starving) and stopping when you are satisfied (not stuffed). Children intuitively grasp these concepts.
- Physical Activity: Educate children about the genetics of body size and the normal changes occurring in the body. Discuss their fears and hopes about growing bigger. Focus on physical activity and a balanced diet.
Internet and modern technologies provide new opportunities for prevention. On-line programs have the potential to increase the use of prevention programs. The development and practice of prevention programs via on-line sources make it possible to reach a wide range of people at minimal cost. Such an approach can also make prevention programs sustainable.