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      Prevention

      There are two main types of prevention when it comes to eating disorders, primary and secondary.  Primary prevention refers to the elimination of factors causing eating disorders and focuses on the causes or ‘predisposing’ factors.  Secondary prevention refers to early detection and treatment of eating problems and reducing the causes of perpetuating eating problems like starvation and nutritional deprivation.  

      It is easier to prevent than cure eating disorders. By far, the most important factor in primary prevention is having a positive body image. Learning to feel unconditional love for yourself and truly value ‘YOU’ as the beautiful individual you are is the best method of prevention. 

      Primary care pediatricians can work with families and children to educate them about the principles of physical activity and proper nutrition to avoid an unhealthy emphasis on dieting and weight. Screening techniques can be employed to detect the early onset of an eating disorder while carefully avoiding statements such as “you are just a little above the normal weight for your age,” etc. which could trigger the onset of dieting and starvation.  School curriculum should be developed to accomplish overall healthy weight and nutritional goals.  Pediatricians can ensure that children and adolescents with eating disorders are able to receive necessary care.  They can carefully balance and monitor children with eating disorders with family involvement.  They must be aware of locally available resources to coordinate care and create a seamless system of care. 

      Primary prevention aims to reduce the incidence of eating disorders by finding meaningful ways of minimizing social, familial, and individual factors like peer pressure, communication with loved ones, and self-esteem, which are considered factors leading to eating disorders.  Secondary prevention reduces the duration of an eating disorder by early recognition and identification.  Individuals can hide their behavior and it may too late to intervene in the early stages.  

      Parents, family members, and peers can detect abnormal eating patterns.  Often, family members are in denial and do not confront the individual, or they feel guilty and ignore the behavior.  Neither guilt nor denial will stop the problem from becoming worse.  

      Maintaining a healthy weight by a rational approach to diet and exercise is beneficial in preventing the onset of eating disorders.  The individual must try to develop effective coping skills if stress or emotions can trigger eating disorders.  They must focus on building a fulfilling lifestyle and engage in hobbies or join group activities for team support.