Pressure to be Thin Hits Younger Ages

Your kids might be getting the wrong idea about how they should look. We hear all the time about the problem with obesity, but it seems "too thin" may be in.

13-year old Abbey Breeding admits she and her friends may notice their weight - she says they make joke about feeling fat. But she also says they form a great support network for each other. She says while there is pressure to be thin, her peer group focuses more on being healthy than on being a certain weight.

Abbey's biggest fan is her mom, Juanita. Juanita Breeding says she tried to lead Abbey by example. She says she tries to discuss healthy food choices and amounts with her daughter. Plus, they lead an active lifestyle, with Abbey playing volleyball and softball.

Medical experts say lessons like those taught in the Breeding household need to start earlier than ever. Dr. Rhonda Jeffries, pediatric hospitalist with Stormont-Vail HealthCare, says parents need to be concerned at seven to eight years of age, since there are now instances of kids developing eating disorders that young. Jeffries says that means teaching healthy eating, the importance of exercise and that the images seen in advertising and media aren't reality. In addition, she says, parents should watch their own comments. She says if parents comment on whether they look fat or make disparaging remarks about overweight people, it rubs off on their children.

Jeffries says parents also need to look for warning signs. If your child is obsessed with being fat, changing eating habits - like becoming vegetarian or restricting what they eat, starts reading food labels, or just pushes food around on the plate, it may have crossed the line from awareness of healthy eating to an unhealthy habit.

Adding to the situation are web sites promoting anorexia and bulimia as a way of life. The sites offer a place to share advice and gain support.

Abbey says her mom has taught her well. She says she eats right, has an active life and she and her friends won't put each other down over a few pounds here and there. Abbey says it doesn't matter as long as your friends appreciate you for who you are. Mom Juanita agrees, saying it's about learning acceptance. She says if you're doing your best, how you look as an individual is a gift.

Some in the fashion world are taking notice of the too-thin trend. Last fall, the Spanish Association of Fashion Designers banned underweight models from its runways.

Help for eating disorders involves a combination of medical, psychological and nutritional treatment.

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