How to Raise Kids that Love Food and their Bodies
5 tips for raising kids that let their body call the shots
Full disclosure, I am a proud pibling/auncle, not a parent. This post is in response to recurring questions about how to help the next generation sidestep the dieting trap.
I’m not pretending to be a parenting expert here but I have worked with hundreds of parents who have shared breakthroughs and hot tips with me as they’ve worked to break free of toxic diet culture and developed tactics to spare their children from struggling through years of body rejection and weight-cycling like they did.
Whether or not you are a parent you likely aspire to be a good ancestor or auncle like myself. These tips are for all adults that want the best for the kids around them.
Pibling; neutral, your parent's sibling.
Auncle; queer combo of aunt and uncle.
(vacillating on my fave term since the birth of my brother’s kiddo- 🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿share your favorite nonbinary friendly options👇🏾)
Encourage them to honor their appetite. Pressuring kids to clear their plates and eat past the point of fullness isn't helping anyone. Yes, it's good to be aware of the value of food. Yes, learning to be grateful for what we have access to is great. Unfortunately eating food we don't need or want anymore doesn't do a damn thing for hungry children elsewhere. The next time you have the urge to tell a child that they should eat things they don't want because other kids are starving, take a pause.
Model self-acceptance and appreciation. Kids today are growing up in a world where their self-esteem is constantly under fire, surrounded by opportunities to compare themselves to curated versions of others. Help your child identify the difference between hyper-edited images and non-airbrushed reality.
Avoid negative self-talk or comparison in the company of children. Children internalize what they observe more than what they are occasionally told. Telling your child once a week that they are perfect just as they are won’t erase the message that watching you reject your body multiple times a day sends.
Normalize all aspects of the human body. Think back to what expectations were set for you going into puberty. Were you sent the message that some parts of the body were shameful and turning increasingly gross as you matured? Note and push back when you hear negative talk about menstruating bodies or genitalia (commonly rejected aspects of having a body).
Encourage food exploration and openness. The average child has a very strong sense of smell. This is one of many legitimate reasons why a child might reject unfamiliar vegetables. If cruciferous veggies (think broccoli or cauliflower) smell a little stinky to you they may smell absolutely repulsive to your little one. Explain that taste can change over time and invite your skeptical eater to try previously rejected or new foods without obligating them to finish what they start.
Make mealtime an experience to be savored. In addition to avoiding restriction or pressure at mealtime, create a calm eating environment where kids can comfortably use mealtime to fill their social and nutrition needs. Keep distractions to a minimum. Cue the child to notice details about what they are eating by asking them to tell you how they are enjoying their food and what they notice about it. Describe what you enjoy about food and model that eating is a joyful process to be fully experienced in a mindful way.
This is a topic that’s come up a lot recently. Next month we’ll be exploring how the food environments of our youth might still be affecting us in helpful and not-so-helpful ways.
Resources and Upcoming Hangouts
I’m hosting an in person retreat March 19th-25th in Bali. If you missed the info session you can catch the replay here for a limited time.
In case You Missed It
Revolutionary Rising is a radical liberatory podcast hosted by one of my favorite coaches in the world Gieselle Allen. I worked with Gieselle in early 2020 and found her support life-changing. This episode we talk about my experience working through visibility fears and racialized trauma, learning to set boundaries, the racist roots of diet culture, and the importance of community in personal growth and healing.
I joined self-care expert Amy Mangueira on her show Life on My Terms and had a great conversation about body image and the negative impact belief in the body hierarchy has on mental health and overall well-being.
This month’s supporting member offering is a customizable self-care checklist. Click the button below for instant access.
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