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Are You Helping your Kids to Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Food – or Setting Them Up for Struggle? – Part III

Monday, November 10, 2014 Leave a Comment

By Annette Sloan

In the second post of this series, we learned about being careful with the comments we make about our kids’ food choices, and I shared tips for modeling a healthy attitude and making it easy and desirable for the whole family to eat well.

Today’s third and final installment of the series is perhaps the most important. Like Rodney Atkins says in his hit song “Watching You,” our children are constantly watching us, and they learn from everything we do. The messages we send via our own relationships with food and body are no exception. In a society where 75% of women practice some level of disordered eating, it’s a good idea for moms to take an honest and compassionate look at their own thoughts and behaviors around food.

DON’T: Pass down your own food and body image issues.

Did you know that many thought patterns and behaviors that we consider normal are actually signs of an unhealthy relationship with food and body? For example:
  • Feeling guilty after eating a “bad” food 
  • Measuring your self-worth by how “good” or “bad” you’ve been with food (or by the number on the scale) 
  • Being constantly dissatisfied with or ashamed of your body 
  • Ongoing inner and outer chatter about what you should and shouldn’t eat
  • Comparing what’s on your plate to what’s on other people’s plates (and feeling superior or inferior, depending on the match-up) 
  • Bonding with other women over what you dislike about your bodies (I love this clip from Mean Girls as an example) 
  • Judging other women’s bodies (whether it’s hating them because they’re perfect or thinking mean thoughts about their perceived imperfections) 
I know each of these behaviors intimately, because I used to practice them. To be honest, they pretty much ruled my life for years. (Read my story here).

As I’ve shared my journey with others, I’ve found that almost every woman relates to it on some level. It doesn’t take an eating disorder to make an unhealthy relationship with food. If one or more of the points above resonated with you, it might be time to take a gentle look at your thought patterns and behaviors. I promise that you’ll feel much better when you’re free from food-and-body chains. Perhaps more importantly, you’ll show your kids what it looks like when a woman is happy, healthy, and confident in her body. Wouldn’t it be great if your kids grew up with the message that being healthy is easy, fun, and joyful, instead of an elusive goal driven by force, deprivation, and obsession with looking a certain way?

DO: Commit to honestly work on cultivating a happy, healthy relationship with food and eating.

I’ve come a long way in my own relationship with food. I’m no longer chained to the above behaviors. I now eat whatever I want, and, paradoxically, I’ve found that when I give myself this permission, I naturally want healthy foods most of the time. I like to share this lesson with my clients: “Be careful not to should too much, because eventually you’ll end up shoulding all over yourself.”

If you’re interested in embarking on a journey towards a healthier relationship with food, here are a few resources I recommend:
For less time-intensive motivation and inspiration, there’s lots of good stuff on my Facebook page.

I can tell you from experience that this is not an easy journey, but the rewards are well worth it. I wish you the best of luck. If there is anything I can do to help, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Annette Sloan owns (w)holehearted, a Denver-based business specializing in compassionate health coaching for teen girls. Her work as a coach and speaker empowers teens to discover their happiest, healthiest, most authentic selves. Annette also offers mother-daughter bonding sessions that incorporate yoga, positive body image, and a healthy relationship with food. Learn more (and download your free report, “The Savvy Parent: Five Essential Practices for Role-Modeling a Happy, Healthy Relationship with Food,”) at www.healthyteengirls.com