Parents lead by example: simple tips for parents to prevent and stop an eating disorder. Or, maybe not.

I was disturbed today to read in Forbes about the role parents play in causing and potentially preventing eating disorders.

In fact, parents do not cause nor is there evidence we can prevent eating disorders. While the vapid bullet points about what parents should do are all quite true, they are true just because they are good parenting, not because they have anything to do with eating disorders.

An eating disorder diagnosis tells us nothing about how the patient was raised. Period.

The phrase "Parents lead by example" should never, ever, ever be used or implied when talking about eating disorders. This has to stop.

Imagine if you will that an article about cancer awareness gave a list of basic hygiene tips for parents, implying that cancer was a sign of lax hand washing. *head desk*

Eating disorders are not a problem with "body image." They are not treated, or prevented, with normal parenting. If you suspect an eating disorder ACT NOW. Your child may have a serious but treatable brain disorder. Seek evidence-based treatment and make sure to read widely on the recent science and practice on eating disorders.

I so wish the writer of that piece had. What a tragic waste of "awareness" when it falls onto ideas that are decades stale and actively harmful.


  1. Thanks for sharing this ! Amazing still blaming the parents ...when will is ever end ?

  2. "While many factors contribute to the appearance and development of eating disorders, a mother’s attitude regarding body image significantly influences how children view themselves" - arrrgggghhhhhh and this non-sequitur is supposed to be part of Eating Disorders AWARENESS Week. Eating Disorders obscuration more like

  3. "While the vapid bullet points about what parents should do are all quite true, they are true just because they are good parenting, not because they have anything to do with eating disorders." Absolutely. And the kind of good parenting I made a point of putting into practice with my son, from Day One and I know that many other families will have done, too. Yet he still developed an eating disorder at age 15. I, like Laura and so many others, are sick to death of the way 'experts' keep returning to the parent blame game. I agree with Debra, when will it ever end?

  4. We need to be tweeting this as well. I've put it up on F.E.A.S.T.

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  6. I would love someone like this to come spend a day, month, year with my family without knowing my daughter is in recovery from and ed and then drop the bomb on them. My daughter has been raised with nothing but love and support and encouragement to be herself. NOTHING we did or did not do caused her anorexia. She has a brain disorder. Period. It is no different than any other, other than it is the DEADLIEST. This is like blaming parents for autism or bipolar disease or anything else. THIS IS NOONE"S FAULT- and I would even argue that there is no sure fire way to prevent it either. I breastfed her until she was 3. I stayed home with her her whole life. She has supportive siblings and 2 parents very much together. I say this not in judgement of anyone not in the same circumstance- the only reason I say this is because people always ask me the same stupid questions. "Was she molested?" "Was she abused at school or something?" "She just wants control over something." NO NO NO NO NO NO NO- SHE HAS A GENETIC brain disorder. Period. She wanted to eat healthy and exercise- and down the rabbit hole she went. Shame on Forbes and tis author.

  7. This is sickening and infuriating.

    Come spend a day, week, month with my family Mr. author. Without knowing my D is in recovery from an eating disorder- you would walk away saying what an awesome family we have and how loved and supported our kids are. Then we would drop the bomb on you that our D nearly died from anorexia. Do you blame parents for autism? How about that it is their fault that their kid has leukemia because the mom did not breastfeed. How about blaming working mothers for all juvenile delinquent behaviors. Who exactly is the perfect mother?

    I am not. I have made mistakes. I am not the perfect mother. She does not exist. Guess what? I breastfed my daughter until she was 3. I have been a stay at home mom her whole life.My husband and I are madly in love and have been for 25 years. All we have ever done is tell our kids they are loved no matter what. I have made meals and snacks for all three of my kids every day for 16 plus years now. So tell me where I went wrong Mr. Author? Was it for saying "OK" when my daughter came home from school saying she wanted to cut down on junk food and exercise more because the program at school told her that kids eat too much "bad" food? Or maybe when my daughter asked to go with me on a jog? Oh right- I should have seen an eating disorder coming in my ten year old.

    Shame on you. Shame on this magazine.

    Eating disorders are not caused by parents. PERIOD.

  8. I so agree with you, Laura! I've heard parents tell their children to "eat healthy, go exercise," and "you look plump," and those children did NOT get an eating disorder.

    If every child whose parent talked about food in the "wrong" way got an ED, there would be many, many more cases.

    Eating disorders are brain disorders. Period.

    The author needs to know, as you said, Laura, that EDs are brain disorders.


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