The One Word that Could Ruin Your Child’s Health
We hear a lot about dieting and, if we’re hearing it, our kids are hearing it, too. Just like us, what they’re hearing is mostly negative. In our culture, the word diet has come to imply something’s wrong with us—we are fat, or unattractive or somehow need to change. More than that, it suggests we are less than and shames us into superficial change, instead of motivating healthy change from within.
One of the ways that mothers can promote a shift away from this in their own children is to simply stop using the word ‘diet’. Mothers who constantly talk about dieting and their need to diet can often promote an unhealthy body image or view of food in their children. Children of parents who diet—as opposed to focusing on wellness lifestyle—often fall into the cultural trap of viewing themselves as fat, unattractive or just not right.
When a child is constantly hearing comments from their mother about how she feels poorly about her body, or her negative relationship to food, they have higher risk of viewing themselves in the similar way. In fact, studies have suggested a high correlation between mothers who diet often and children and teens with distorted body image. These same studies also suggest this experience can affect what children and teens view as representing healthy eating. These messages about food are often happen in a vacuum, and can later lead to preteens and teens distorted eating and relationship with foods.
For a young child experiencing this might impact their view of health because they hear their mother’s talk about restricting eating or cutting meals completely as a way to lose weight. Children and teens often share their parent’s beliefs about food and weight, as well as their fears. A child of a parent who comforts or rewards with food will often struggle to not link experiences surrounding certain foods
As you decide to make the change towards whole person health, here are some tips to help you get out of the dieting trap and move toward a wellness lifestyle.
- Take a look at what thoughts and beliefs are controlling your own eating habits and relationship to food.If you are not mindful of these, your children will be influenced by similar fears and beliefs. Here are some questions you might ask yourself to get started:
- Why do you eat?
- What are your fears about food or your body?
- Is your relationship with food a reaction to a feeling or belief that is based in distorted thinking?
- Take a moment to examine your own goals for health:
- Are they are realistic?
- Are they potentially based on distorted self-perception?
- Are they driven by a desire to be seen or validated by others in a particular way?
- Focus on whole person health:
- What’s getting in your way of being whole and thriving individual?
- How are those things interacting with your relationship with food?
- Find supports in your life that focus on you being whole and healthy and don’t reconfirm your unhelpful thoughts about health and food.
If this is something you struggle with as a parent, you are not alone! Feel free to contact me and we can set up a time to either in person or online to process and explore ways you can support your children’s healthy development, by escaping the dieting trap and moving toward a wellness lifestyle.