Eating disorder experts & research has long suggested that eating family meals is an important part of eating disorder recovery. Psychology research has also shown us links between family meal time and lower rates of teen drug use. More recently a study from the University of Missouri suggests that eating breakfast as a family can improve your teens body image & may help protect them against developing an eating disorder.
The study that was conducted by Virginia Ramseyer Winter, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work and director of the MU Centre of the Body Image Research and Policy. The study looked at over 12,000 children in 300 different school districts. The study looked at behaviors such as frequency of eating breakfast and whether children were eating with their parents.
Ramseyer found a link between eating breakfast and a better body image. However, in the study only 30% of kids were found to eat breakfast 5 or more times per week. 17% of the youth in the study reported they never eat breakfast. Virginia Ramseyer Winter, the main author of the study explains, “children and adolescents are under a lot of pressure from social media and pop culture when it comes to physical appearance. Having a healthy relationship with food parents. The researchers found that eating breakfast with family was linked to eating breakfast and spending meal time with family might have a significant impact on well-being.” Ramseyer also explained that eating with parents increases healthy body image. Says Ramseyer, “We know that the health behaviors of a parent can have long-term effects on a child,” Ramseyer Winter said. “Results of this study suggest that positive interactions with food– such as eating breakfast and having family meals together– could be associated with body image.”
Ramseyer’s study supports eating disorder research which has long encouraged parents to eat with their children or teen. For a child in recovery from an eating disorder, family meal time can provide the support and structure. Family meal time can also be a time to model a healthy relationship with food. Parents who have a healthy relationship with food can create a barrier between their child and unhealthy cultural messages about food. Without this modeling from family children may be more susceptible to social pressure. This pressure can put teens at a higher risk of developing an unhealthy relationship with food or their body image.
While you may not be able to eat breakfast with your child 5 days a week, try to schedule a few meals a week together. Even a quick 15 minute breakfast can provide quality time with your child and model healthy eating behaviors.