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Eating disorders protective factors

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Can you prevent the development of an eating disorder?

In contrast to risk factors, protective factors may reduce the likelihood of the development of an eating disorder. Protective factors have not been as widely studied as risk factors. There is a great need for further study in this area as research and clinical literature have suggested that specific individual factors may protect against disordered eating behaviours.

Possible protective factors against eating disorders and disordered eating behaviours can be separated into individual, family and socio-cultural groups.

Individual protective factors

  • High self-esteem
  • Positive body image
  • Critical processing of media images (i.e. media literacy)
  • Emotional well-being
  • School achievement
  • Being self-directed and assertive
  • Good social skills with success at performing multiple social roles
  • Problem solving and coping skills

Family protective factors

  • Belonging to a family that does not overemphasise weight and physical attractiveness
  • Eating regular meals with the family

Socio-cultural protective factors

  • Belonging to a less westernised culture that accepts a range of body shapes and sizes
  • Involvement with sport or industry where there is no emphasis on physical attractiveness or thinness
  • Peer or social support structures and relationships where weight and physical appearance are not of high concern

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