We are nutritionists and personal trainers, but also Mums to our daughters, and daughters to our Mums so we have lots of experience on this subject!
We’ve got experience on both sides: we were the ones looking up to our Mums and being told how to eat, and we are the ones educating and speaking to our kids about the importance of a balanced diet.
We’ll be honest: it’s a minefield.
The best thing to do is not to discuss dieting with your kids. We want our children to have a natural and uncomplicated relationship with food, understanding the importance of a healthy diet but also that everything in moderation is absolutely fine and perfectly healthy.
But we must be realistic: we can’t keep our kids sheltered from the outside world. Being weighed in school, having friends who might be trying to lose weight, social media, TV… these messages are everywhere.
So how can we help raise confident, strong and body-accepting kids?
- Avoid talking about weight loss and dieting. If you are dieting, try not to put too much emphasis on this in front of your kids. If they notice you’re eating slightly differently, talk to them in an age appropriate way. You can emphasise that everyone’s dietary needs are different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Young girls and boys are very impressionable so try to educate them on the importance of consuming all of the macronutrients, encourage them to eat plenty of fruit and veggies and ensure that some “treats” are always incorporated in a balanced and moderate manner. Body dysmorphia, anxiety and eating disorders are now more common than ever, even in the younger generation so let’s not add fuel to the fire.
- Move comments from one’s appearance to their qualities. This goes for when you talk about yourself, your kids or anyone else. Your kids see, hear and most importantly internalise everything. If someone has lost or put on weight, avoid commenting on this. It’s none of your business and you have no idea of the circumstances. The person might be dealing with an illness or a mental health condition you know nothing about. If you know someone has been working hard to change their body, then try and comment when it’s just the two of you. But comment on qualities rather than body appearance. “You look strong/confident/happy. That dress makes your eyes or smile pop.”
- Lead by example. If you really are concerned about your child’s weight, don’t be tempted to put them on a diet. Rather, make sure to build healthy habits at home for the whole family. Teach them how to build a plate or snack that fills them up. Show them how a healthy and balanced diet includes “treats”, but that these don’t always provide them much nourishment and they are more for enjoyment. Go through the basis of nutrition and teach them about macro and micronutrients, how certain foods fill you up more than others. Involve them when cooking so that they learn how to make tasty meals. Give them the tools to grow up confident and independent.
- Use positive language. A salad is not a diet food. A good salad is filling, nourishing, it provides you with plenty of vitamins, minerals and fibre. Exercise and movements are not to burn calories. They are to make you feel strong, healthy, energetic. Start this talk from as early as possible, we want to influence the next generation and make them truly love and appreciate living a healthy and balanced lifestyle because of how this makes us feel, not just how it makes us look.
- Educate those around you. Most of us parents grew up when dieting talk was completely normal. Lots of us remember their first diet as they were pretty much kids. Those of us that managed to finally accept our bodies and break the yo-yo dieting cycle will know how hard it is to change a mindset that feels so old and ingrained. But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. Your house, your kids, your rules. Set boundaries with others on what can and cannot be said to, about or around your kids. All the tips above will apply and help, and this hopefully will sparkle curiosity in other adults and spread the change further and further. Who knows, you might be the one that helps your parents, siblings or friends to get on a journey to truly love and appreciate their bodies!
We hope these tips helped you, but get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to have a chat. We’d also be happy to have a chat with you and your kids together to go through the foundations of nutrition!
And keep your eyes peeled, we are working on a very exciting project that will bring so much information and value to those of you that felt they needed this blog post!
Make sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook not to miss a thing!