Ep 31: Eating Disorders and Exercise
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Dana Suchow, founder of Do The Hotpants, discusses what parents need to know to discuss eating disorders with a teenager. She also explains how to connect with teenagers about exercise in a positive way, words you should avoid with teens, and a lesson in negative body image.
Full Show Notes
What can you say to a teenager who seems to be having a difficult time around food? Eating disorders are incredibly serious and can often end in serious health consequences and even death if they go untreated. But getting teens to talk about these issues is difficult as most are highly defensive and don’t want to admit there is a problem.
Dana Suchow is an expert on eating disorders and this week on the podcast she reveals some powerful strategies for connecting with teens about their eating issues.
Originally, Dana was just trying to start a fashion blog so she could be cool and glamorous and fly around the world with her photographer boyfriend. But when she found herself struggling with an eating disorder to stay thin for photo shoots and Instagram pictures, she decided to open up about her problems on her blog.
Soon, the site, DoTheHotPants.com, had transformed from a fashion blog into a popular forum for people to speak out about eating disorders and other body issues.
At the helm of this project, Dana Suchow has been thrust into the spotlight as an international expert on eating disorders and getting people to open up about their bodies.
She told me that she remembers a conversation with a roommate back when she was struggling with her eating disorder. Her roommate was really trying to help, but to Dana it just felt like she was being attacked. She became defensive and lashed out.
The issue is that eating disorders are very secret and personal. If you know a teen who is grappling with this, you need to be careful how you approach it. Even if you mean well, bringing it up in the wrong way can actually backfire.
This week’s podcast episode has some specific strategies you can use to get through. Dana Suchow also explains how to connect with teenagers about exercise in a positive way, words you should absolutely avoid when talking about food, and where negative body image comes from.
Parents actually have a lot more power than you might think. There are things you can do to really make a difference with your teenager when it comes to eating disorders. But it is NOT easy and there is a lot that can go wrong.
In this episode Dana gets into detail on exactly what parents can do.
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Word-for-word examples of WHAT to say to your teen
1. Get your teen to open up about body image and food issues:
“Hey I see that you might be having a hard time around food and I just want you to know that I do too. I’ve been having a difficult time eating and haven’t been feeling very good about my body. I saw a movie the other day and this person was so thin and I was wishing I was that thin. I get it. You’re not alone.”
Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Don’t Communicate Disapproval for Your Own Body:
It’s important that your teen doesn’t see you criticizing your own body, Dana told me. There are a lot of ways that we subtly communicate that we wish we had a better body. You might tell a joke about being younger or thinner or stronger. Or perhaps you may look in the mirror and frown or pinch your love handles disapprovingly. Take a few minutes to think about all the little ways you might be communicating disapproval of your body. Write down as many as you can think of. Next, circle the three most important ones and make a promise not to repeat those ever again.
About Dana Suchow
Since overcoming Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder and exercise compulsion that resulted in permanent injuries, Dana Suchow has become an expert in the field of body image and eating disorder prevention. In 2012 Dana founded Do The Hotpants as a fashion blog, but once she realized fashion’s unattainable beauty standards were fueling her eating disorder, Dana made the difficult decision to leave the industry and focus on activism. In 2014 Dana founded #MyBodyStory, an ongoing storytelling series created to uplift women’s voices that so often go unheard. In 2016 Dana co-founded The Ripple, a nonprofit women’s collective, empowering women to make waves in their communities through the use of workshops, TED style panels, field trips and movie screenings.
Dana work centers on giving teachers, parents and caregivers the tools they need to prevent eating disorders in girls before they start. She offers a nonclinical and holistic approach, and teaches adults how to put their children on a path towards body love, empowerment and self-acceptance. For years Dana has been working with audiences of 10 to auditoriums of over 1,000. She is a frequent Summit Panelist and Keynote Speaker, and has given 15 minute talks to 3 hour workshops. Dana works with all school levels, from Elementary School to College, appearing in person or by video. To find out more visit DanaSuchow.com
Dana currently lives in New York City and holds a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. You can find her on Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Network, Vogue, Huffington Post, Yahoo, ELLE, Seventeen Magazine and more!