On a plane, we are required to fit our oxygen masks before taking care of our children. This is because we can only help our children if we help ourselves first. Similarly, we can’t expect them to have a positive body image and relationship with food if we don’t.
Every time we diet, disparage our body shape in front of our kids or go overboard with being critical of foods, we shape our kids’ views and risk damaging their confidence and self-image. As parents we are in a unique position to end this harmful cycle and promote body acceptance as well as confident eating, however, it is difficult to extract ourselves from cultural pressures that are harsh on us.
One mum I worked with told me “I would never tease my children about their weight or body shape”, yet the day her 6-year-old daughter replied “Yes mum, you are fat!”, Beth* understood that self-belittling had been slowly but surely impacting her kids.
6th of May is the perfect opportunity to tackle this. It is International No-Diet Day. This means that it is the time to:
- Celebrate the diversity of our bodies and shapes,
- Say good-bye to yo-yo dieting,
- Make peace with food!
To put ourselves first isn’t so difficult or is it? There has never been so much choice, confusion and pressure as to how we should eat. As the media bombards us with images of body perfection, we become critical and dissatisfied with our bodies. We may follow the latest diet trend aiming to lose weight, only to feel guilty and defeated when we not only regain the weight we lost but also gain extra weight in the long term. This commonly creates an over-critical assessment of food which is made far worse by our binary vision of junk versus healthy food. Many of us feel guilty, sometimes even disgust, when eating meals that are deemed unhealthy.
We can challenge these beliefs, and help not only ourselves. Here are some tips that will help you fit your whole family with No-Diet Day oxygen masks.
- Work to be flexible and accepting of all foods. No food is forbidden, but some of them are better enjoyed in smaller quantities.
- Learn to eat based on hunger and stop with satiety. This nurtures our innate ability to self-regulate food intake.
- It’s not a particular food that goes straight to our hips. It is eating past our appetite. So stop talking about the perceived effect of certain foods on our weight.
- Instead, aim to find balance in eating so we nourish rather than deprive or punish ourselves. There is nothing to be gained by being at war with our appetite.
- Remove guilt and discover the pleasure of eating. This has to do with quality, not quantity.
- Be more active to gain body confidence. Our bodies respond to our needs, not to an Instagram ideal.
- These issues can be deeply ingrained so, if it is too difficult, we can seek support from qualified professionals. Modern-day dietitians are not prescribing diets anymore, unless you have a medical condition. They will help instead to work in specific areas.
No more need for dieting, guilty feelings, or critical attitudes! Once we feel comfortable with our body and its needs, we will be better adjusted to our children and family needs. Guilt and body shame will disappear and we will escape the negative circle of self-damaging body image. International No-Diet Day gives us an opportunity to rethink and reboot. If we lead by example now, then many positive changes will happen for the whole family before the next 6th of May. We will help each other to:
- Understand and accept our bodies as they are, and celebrate diversity,
- Enjoy eating together according to our needs and taste,
- Be less judgemental about food and family eating.
As for my client Beth, she learned sustainable ways of managing her weight the day she started to face her emotions around body shape. She started to lead by example as together we got her children on track with eating various foods.
Marie-France is a fussy eater specialist, who supports parents and children to end the mealtimes battles. If you would like to make your family fussy eater free, contact her on 0421843038.
*Not her real name
 Research Gate, Feb 2011. Gender Differences in Body Satisfaction: An Examination of Familial and Individual Level Variables. Ballard S, Sira N.
 Am Psychol. 2007 Apr;62(3):220-33. Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer, Mann T et Al.
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