“I understand you can’t tell a person’s health by size or shape BUT…”

4

I came across this rant recently and it made realise how most people have seriously messed up relationships with food and their bodies (along with the bodies of others!). It is very sad.

Ok, so let’s jump into the all the craziness to help you understand my perspective as a dietitian:

“I understand that you can’t tell a person’s health by size or shape, BUT…..”

I will still say this and believe this:

“No wonder there is an obesity epidemic and type 2 diabetes is on the rise.

Eating junk food sets kids up for a lifetime of sugar addiction.

I’m a healthy person that won’t let my 3 year old eat “junk food”.

I’m concerned about my day care/school providing “naughty’ food”. Don’t they have healthy food programs these days?

Kids who eat “naughty foods” learn to eat rubbish.

Kids don’t eat intuitively.

Good boy Johnny (for declining that chocolate). My kid refused some chocolate when offered it by his grandparents….

I don’t want my kids participating in Easter egg hunts.

I’m struggling to get my son to eat his veggies so that’s why I’m being extra strict.”

Dear Ranter,

I get you love your child and want only the best for him. You are a great mum and I can see that he adores you and loves you very much. I also understand that raising a child is hard! So hard, but let’s not leave out the rewarding aspects too (…this is the focus coming out in me!!….I love B-A-L-A-N-C-E!).

I can see you are prioritising health for your child as you want him to grow up healthy and happy. Over simplifying situations by using the word e-p-i-d-m-i-c is unhelpful.

Obesity, diabetes and health is a complex area. Certain foods do not cause obesity. Certain foods do not cause diabetes. Certain foods do not cause ill health. A combination of food, lifestyle and genetic factors influence the likelihood of developing obesity, diabetes and ill health. I encourage you to look at the bigger picture.

I understand that you’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the messages you hear throughout society. You felt the need to change your body and believed dieting for weight loss was the answer. I’m sorry that you’ve had these experiences, as it is hard to change your future nutrition behaviours without the awareness that weight loss dieting is unhelpful and often damaging. And this is such a shame, as you are unknowingly encouraging your son to follow in your foot steps of trying to attain the ‘perfect’ health status and body as a way to prove you are worthy….worthy of love and respect.

Food and body shaming is not going to solve any problems….Seriously! Do you think it has worked for society so far?!? This is exactly the problem! Shaming does not change behaviour.

Avoiding what you call “junk food” is not going to solve the problem. Because, restriction fuels deprivation. Deprivation fuels bingeing behaviours. Bingeing behaviour fuels restriction. And the vicious cycle continues….until…you’ve reached rock bottom. Please, let’s not go there.

I’d love to explore with you your definition of health and what being healthy means to you. I can see why you feel and think this way about food and nutrition. You are using food and nutrition as a way to control your life as it is hard to control life by any other means. Food gives you a false sense of security or control.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If you are interested and ready, I can help you to understand why your thoughts and feelings about nutrition and health are unhelpful, inaccurate and potentially damaging.

I can help you to focus on what really matters for yourself and son, and leave societal expectations and beliefs at the door.

Do you want me to continue? Ok, well here’s the rest of my concerns:

Just because your son did not eat chocolate when offered, does not make him superior. Having the sugar or paleo free versions of chocolate and other ‘sometimes’ food, does not make this alternative healthier. If you are going to have the food, I suggest you have it properly and ENJOY it without guilt or shame. This way, you will more likely feel satisfied and not deprived and decrease the chances of overeating in attempts to obtain that satiating feeling.

If you continue to think and feel the way you do, your health (all aspects particularly mental and physical) will set you up for not being the best version of yourself, let alone being healthy. Your fixation on food and nutrition will leave little energy to focus on enjoying the simple things in life…yes, your child.

We know when kids are not ‘allowed’ to have ‘sometimes’ food some of the time, their fixation on these food becomes intense (as explained above). I know you are worried that your child will turn into a “junk food fanatic”. I know he’s giving you a hard time by not eating the food you spent so much time preparing, particularly the vegetables. It’s frustrating. I know! However, your current behaviour is setting him up to be a “junk food fanatic”. That may have been hard for you to hear.

It is important not to react and be consistent with offering all types of food regularly. Know you and your child’s responsibility in feeding. When given the opportunity, for example, at parties (yes there will be parties) children who have been deprived of ‘sometimes’ food will eat way too much of these foods and make themselves sick. As children get older they start to rebel and act out as a way of expressing themselves.

Do you really want to exclude your child from Easter egg hunts? I’m pretty sure it’s not all about the chocolate for kids. I bet they enjoy the thrill of seeking out hidden chocolate, running around and participating in the activity with their friends. It’s all part of the game and fun.

I know you are going through a lot at the moment. Do you think you are using food as a means to distract yourself from what’s actually going on?

I hope you can see that allowing your child the occasional chocolate or ‘sometimes’ food is not going to harm them. It will actually help them to continue to balance their nutrition, relationship with food and body and other aspects of their life. Yes, nutrition lessons do flow onto other aspects of life.

All kids are born intuitive eaters. They are born knowing when and how much to eat. If you are interested in fostering a positive relationship with food please read what normal eating is and how to build a positive relationship with food. If you want a copy of this post, download it here.

Yours in ceasing the food and body struggle and empowering the next generation to live a joyful, purposeful and healthy life.

Your concerned and caring dietitian,

Natalie.

***

If you are looking for a supportive community filled with like-minded people striving to improve their health in a compassionate way, come join us in the Nutrition Empowered Aussie Mums Facebook Group.

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2 thoughts on ““I understand you can’t tell a person’s health by size or shape BUT…”

  1. Thanks Natalie. I am totally one of those mums who get so frustrated at daycare, sports activities etc who feel the need to give chocolate/sugar to my kids and worry about it incessantly. I think my problem is when you say ‘sometimes’ food – when does sometimes become too much? 😀. I have been trying to cut down my girls having sugary foods and intentionally avoid some places now where I know they will want ice cream just to avoid a meltdown!

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  2. Thanks for your comment Tammy. Calling food ‘sometimes’ and ‘everyday’ can be triggering. Try changing your focus and look at food as food and take the judgement away and focus on eating mindfully. Judgement of food and your actions turns non-dieting into another diet. Hope this helps.

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