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Helping Youth in Today’s Weight-Obsessed World

Children and Teens  Afraid to Eat

Children and Teens Afraid to Eat, by Frances M. Berg, challenges America’s obsession with thinness and documents its tragic effect on kids. This third edition explains clearly the physical, mental, emotional and social effects, and guides parents and health professionals toward healthy change.In its first section, the book spotlights six major weight and eating problems: dysfunctional or disordered eating, undernourishment of teenage girls, hazardous weight loss, eating disorders, size prejudice and overweight, all intensifying and affecting more chidren each year. Chaotic eating has become the norm for kids today as they diet, fast, binge, skip meals, undereat and overeat. One-fourth of teenage girls are severely undernourished, and many girls as well as increasing numbers of boys suffer eating disorders. Their frequent attempts to lose weight can be extremely dangerous and result in injury, and even death. Even so, more youth are overweight than ever before. Often they are targets for cruel taunts and teasing.

In study after study, as well as anecdotal evidence, Berg shows how these six problems are harming kids. Four-year-olds are asking, “Mommie, am I too fat?” Six-year- olds have full-blown eating disorders. And as many as 81 percent of 10-year-old girls have a form of disordered eating — they restrict food, try not to eat fat, feel guilty when they eat. Yet little is being done to solve these problems in an integrated way.

The book’s second section provides clear guidelines to parents, teachers and health professionals, along with a wealth of charts, tips and how-to suggestions. Berg advocates a health at any size approach in which all children receive consistent messages to eat well, live actively, and feel good about themselves and others. She stresses the importance of communication, sharing of feelings, and mutual support within the family. To normalize eating, parents are advised to help their children rediscover regular eating habits, hunger and satiety — and end their own dieting.

Teachers will benefit from the advice on how to spot eating problems in kindergarteners, athletes and high school students. In schools, a health at any size approach throughout — in classrooms, hallways, lunchroom and gymnasium — can alleviate problems. Prevention programs and pitfalls to avoid are explained. Children and Teens Afraid to Eat emphasizes that social change is also needed in the media and in federal policies that focus too narrowly on obesity.

Children and Teens Afraid to Eat has changed the ways that families, counselors and health professionals relate to children. First published in 1997 and used extensively in schools and health clinics throughout the U.S. and Canada, it is highly recommended by health and nutrition specialists. A valuable resource for parents, teachers and health providers

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