A growing number of children are being hospitalized for eating disorders. Learn how to use positive words to get your kids to eat healthily and maintain their physical activity.

By Christine Mattheis

For many kids, the nation's focus on childhood obesity has triggered excessive exercise and dieting. In fact, the number of children under age 12 hospitalized for eating disorders has increased by 119 percent in the last decade, according to a new report.

Parents should encourage healthful habits without using loaded words like "diet," "weight" or even "exercise," says study author David Rosen, MD, a specialist in adolescent medicine and pediatrics at the University of Michigan.

"Instead, focus on more positive terms like 'healthy eating' and 'physical activity,'" he says. If your child begins exhibiting any of the behaviors below, make an appointment with your pediatrician as soon as possible.

—Talking about wanting to be on a diet

—Complaining about being fat

—Exercising excessively, to the point that it interferes with school other activities

—Focusing too much on appearance

—Eating tiny portions or skipping meals

—Choosing only low-calorie foods

—Following rigid meal rituals, such as cutting food into tiny pieces

—Withdrawing from normal social activities

—Refusing to eat in public

Originally published in the April 1, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.