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Alison Beaver: Eating Disorders in Preschool?

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Our children are getting younger and younger...

I've been listening to the news, reading books about how each generation develops faster than the previous generation (whether this is real or perceived).

We've all heard the scary stuff---our kids are hearing & learning about sex earlier than we ever did, they are exposed to more violence and drugs as well.

However...did you know that our little darlings are also developing body image issues and eating disorders at a younger age, too?! Can you imagine your sweet little 6 year old son/daughter coming home from school, saying that they feel fat and need to go on a diet?!!!

In numerous studies, published in peer-reviewed journals (Journal of Adolescent Health and Journal of Eating Disorders), the numbers tell us that anywhere from 30%-45% of girls in 1st through 3rd grade want to be thinner. I am also quite certain that this is not a female-only phenomenon; boys are also worried about being "too fat".

I ran across a new book for young children called, "Full Mouse, Empty Mouse" (www.fmem.net). This book discusses healthy eating in an age-appropriate manner, and helps educate our kids on what it's like to "feel full" or "feel hungry" (and not just eat out of boredom or sadness, as many of us sometimes do!). The book also talks about "mindful eating", which is the process of thinking about your food, eating slowly, enjoying it with all of your senses (taste, sight, sound, smell and touch).

I thought this book was a great idea, as it also gives me another reason to not be frustrated when my toddler takes an hour to eat his dinner; half of the food does not end up in his mouth. Now, I can just tell myself that he is "mindfully eating" and enjoying the food with all of his senses..including the way it feels on the top of his cute little bald head! :-)

In all seriousness, I thought this was an important topic to discuss with those of us who are parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and caretakers of young children. We can help correct or redirect our loved ones' negative comments about their bodies with more positive comments, and there are books out there to help you in this endeavor.

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