As the new school year gets underway, I’ve been getting more calls than usual from parents wanting to schedule appointments for their children. This is the time of year when kids are visiting their pediatricians for immunizations and school-required physicals. Some of them are being told (often with fat-shaming remarks) that they are overweight or obese and some are being diagnosed with pre-diabetes and diabetes. They leave their doctor’s appointment with instructions to call the nutritionist.
Both parents and kids are often apprehensive about meeting with the nutritionist (me). Most likely there has already been some tense discussion and arguing about food and body size going on at home. Understandably, parents are worried about their kid’s health and kids are worried that they are going to be fat-shamed (again) and asked to give up their favorite foods.
There is often a certain expectation by parents that I’m going to “fix the problem” by putting their child on a weight loss diet. That would be a huge mistake on my part and would likely make things worse. Kids who feel bad about their body size and start dieting are at about three times greater risk for binge eating, weight gain and other eating disorders.
If dieting and fat-shaming are not the answer, what then?
As a parent, you are in the unique and powerful position to model healthy eating habits for your kids. This starts with getting clear on what “normal eating” is. Although this may seem like simple common sense, it is not. We live in a country in which roughly fifty percent of adults are forever dieting to the extent that many people don’t know what it’s like to simply eat normally for good health.
In order to raise healthy eaters and be healthy eaters ourselves, we need to understand and practice normal eating. One of the best definitions on normal eating I’ve ever read comes from Ellyn Satter, MS, RDN, MSSW.
WHAT IS NORMAL EATING?
- Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
- It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should.
- Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.
- Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way.
- Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.
- It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.
- Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be under eating at times and wishing you had more.
- Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for any indiscretions along the way.
- Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
- In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.
A healthy diet for your kids (and you) is not “dieting”. The very best way to raise a healthy child with a good attitude about food, a positive body image, and a healthy weight is to model and support normal eating in your home.
Do you need help planning and prepping meals? CALL ME. I help busy parents with hectic schedules find simple ways to get delicious meals in the lunch bags and on the table with ease. Keep yourself and your family healthy and feeling good. Let’s talk!
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