Being a mother of an 18-year-old, I have had numerous discussions about body image, and how western values are imposed on adolescent girls and young women to live up to unrealistic and unhealthy ideals. Promoting a healthy body image and teaching my daughter to recognize and resist oppressive messages our culture presents is my priority.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, more people die from an eating disorder than any other mental illness. The National Eating Disorder Association reports that 42 percent of first through third grade girls want to be thinner, and 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat.

Despite the record growth of eating disorders, research continues to be underfunded, insurance coverage for treatment is inadequate and societal pressure to be thin remains rampant.

Parents have a responsibility to respond to this growing issue. People can start at home by being good role models. How people talk about their own bodies sends a powerful message to their children. Parents can speak of the personal qualities they love about their children.

People can also join NEDA in the fight against eating disorders by getting involved in NEDAwareness Week, beginning Feb. 26. They can advocate for more research and improved health insurance coverage for treatment, or encourage schools to enact policies against size discrimination, for example.

People need to get involved.

Stephanie Poulin, Auburn