One of the possible signs of binge eating disorder and an uncomfortable discovery for a health-conscious parent is finding piles of hidden candy wrappers in their child’s room, an empty container of cookies, or a peanut butter jar that was just full the other day. In my recent work as an eating disorder’s dietitian at a children’s hospital, this is not uncommon.

The quick response might be to “tighten up” and forbid those foods from being in the house, or if you are worried about weight, to put them on a diet. In light of the newly released Weight Watchers app for kids as young as 8, I urge parents to withhold the temptation to “fix” this problem with a diet.

Did you know that many who suffer from the eating disorder BED (Binge Eating Disorder) started with dieting and weight shaming from an early age? In response to Weight Watchers’s release of the irresponsible and non-evidence based approach to weight for kids, the National Eating Disorders Association stated, “Asking kids to closely monitor and self-report everything they eat through an app with no in-person monitoring by a medical professional presents grave risks, including eating disorders, disordered eating and a potential lifetime of weight cycling and poor body image.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to “discourage dieting” and remove focus away from weight.

In my work with adults who struggle with BED one theme is clear; these patterns started as a young person, and as a result of restrictive eating (dieting), weight stigma, and a lifelong mind frame we call “diet mentality”. Labeling food as good or bad is a diet mentality that can cause a person binge on the “good” foods or feel guilty if they crave or have eaten “bad” food, which results in a cycle of more bingeing.  

So, back to our kids. How do we keep them strong and avoid dipping into containers of food in secret? A smart approach is to adopt an all-foods-fit lifestyle. For more ideas, and then read on for advice from my colleague Leslie Schilling, RD. 

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