Everyday women subliminally or directly receive messages that pretty and thin is the ideal and not reaching those ideals is less than. In my opinion, that message is crap. We can still care about our appearance of course and want to be pretty, but I think we should also raise our girls to be pretty kind, pretty strong, pretty fierce, pretty resilient, and pretty smart. Girls should be taught they are valuable, strong, amazing people and are much more than just their appearance or the flesh on their bones. Part of this is cultivating a healthy relationship with food and body.
Ways to Help Your Daughter Have a Healthy Relationship with Food and Body
1. Spoken and unspoken communication
There is power in what we say. There is power in what we do. You may not directly tell your daughter that she shouldn’t eat something or comment on her weight. But comments about your own appearance and body or the way you treat your body can be just as impactful.
Body positive talk does not mean you have to all of a sudden start talking about your body in a positive light all the time around your kids. But it can be simple enough to acknowledge that you feel good in your body and you are okay with it.
Indirect communication can also be very powerful. Model healthy habits like being physically active, enjoying a wide variety of foods, and appreciating what your body can do for you. This can be as simple as participating is regular family meals and modeling what it would look like to allow yourself to enjoy food and nourish your body well.
2. How to approach junk food
Diet culture tells us that there are good foods and there are bad foods and that we shouldn’t be eating bad foods. This approach sets everyone up for failure. It teaches that we need to choose foods based on their category or morality not based on what our bodies are telling us. Eating can become stressful and lead to guilt and shame.
As Brene Brown puts it, the difference between shame and guilt is that guilt means ‘I did something bad’ and shame means ‘I am bad’– neither of those things should be associated with what you choose to eat!!
By forbidding ‘bad’ food from your home it increases your daughter’s preference for them and the likely hood to binge on them when they have the opportunity. Create a home environment that has a variety of foods from broccoli to tater tots to ice cream.
3. Disband the clean plate club
We are all born intuitive eaters, through external stimuli we often unlearn how to trust our bodies. Intuitive eaters fully trust their body’s wisdom and eat according to its hunger, fullness, and satisfaction cues, without guilt, rules, or restriction. Intuitive eating approaches have been found to positively impact eating habits, body image, self-esteem, psychological health, and quality of life.
The clean plate club is pretty much the opposite of intuitive eating. It’s saying ignore all your bodily senses and eat everything that is in front of you. Obviously, parents are doing this because they love their children and want to make sure they are getting all the nutrition they need, but in the long run, it may be doing more harm than good.
Using Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility is a great place to start moving away from the clean plate club and towards a feeding style that fosters intuitive eating.
4. What about social media
Social media is a double edge sword. On the one hand you can establish connections globally, it’s available 24/7, and it can be used to promote awareness. On the other hand, it my be isolating, sources shared are not always reliable, it creates a comparison mentality and the misinformation (especially about nutrition) is rampant.
Setting parameters is important as well as having an open dialogue with your daughter about what she is seeing. Some suggestions are to schedule times throughout the week that your daughter is able to get on social media sites, making a no bedroom or dinner table rule, and encouraging open communication.
Also stressing the fact that she has the power over her own feed and can curate it so you are seeing images that are helpful and promote body love or are reliable sources.