What’s a Dad to do? Quick Tips for Dads

BY: Lauren Metzger, MSW
Date: June 17, 2015

Father’s day is a great time to remember how dads can be leading players in the fight against eating disorders and disordered eating. We know that educating girls and boys about eating disorders is not just a job for moms. To all dads (and moms) out there – here are some helpful tips and steps in helping your kids combat problematic eating.

  1. Be a role model! Children are like sponges, continually absorbing the environment around them. We know children model the behaviors of their parents and that they learn habits and language quickly. Even from an early age they are watching and listening to you and learning possibly what “good” and “bad” foods are, or that “dieting” is associated with “wanting to look and feel better”. Stop “fat talk” and appearance based comments in your home. Teach your kids the importance of compliments based on achievements, hard work, kindness, and generosity.
  2. Spread the word! Talk to your kids about eating disorders. Once you feel you know the facts, inform your kids and have conversations with them about the importance of balanced nutrition and healthy body image. These conversations should be warm and inviting. You want your kids to know they can come to you if they have concerns about eating, body image, exercise, unsafe behaviors, etc.
  3. Learn the facts about eating disorders! There is no better time than now to start hitting the books and surfing the web to find out the facts about eating disorders. Learn the key statics, and the signs and symptoms to watch out for. Helpful places to start include the National Eating Disorder Association’s (NEDA) Parent Toolkit and Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.). Remember to keep in mind that while you may see a lot of information about girls and eating disorders, your boys can be at risk too. Boys, of any age, can develop eating disorders, especially with components of excessive exercise.
  4. Seek help! If your child is experiencing disordered eating or a full-blown eating disorder, you should seek help from a professional immediately. Eating disorders can be deadly and treatment needs to be comprised of a specialized team, including a medical professional, dietitian, and therapist. Remember that if your child develops an eating disorder, it is not your fault. You are a vital part of their recovery and can provide them with unconditional love, and support. Learn more about treatment from NEDA.
  5. Get involved! Go beyond just being a role model, be an advocate! Get involved with a local organization focused on eating disorder awareness or start your own group. There are NEDA Walks all around the country that you can take part in. Go the extra mile and get political! Participate in a lobby day and start the conversation with your local political leaders. NEDA and other group like the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) have already gotten the ball rolling and pushed for much needed policy change. However, more still needs to be done to ensure eating disorders patients get the coverage and care they need. It’s never too late to get involved!

So whether you start from step #1 or step #5, take this Father’s Day weekend to reflect and keep moving forward in your efforts to bring awareness to eating disorders…you will be doing everyone in your family a tremendous favor.
Happy Father’s Day!