I recently saw a video shared social media that praised a mother for strictly keeping her kids away from sugar. I won’t post it here, but it labelled her as the “Anti-Fat Mom” and the person that shared it suggested we should all try and be more like her.
Ok, this got me all fired up and I’ve got a LOT to say about this!
- We need to end fat phobia. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, largely determined by genetics. The research is pretty clear that diets don’t work, especially restrictive diets. Can we PLEASE stop putting children on diets? No good can come of this, and it indoctrinates them into diet culture from a young age, almost guaranteeing that the won’t have a healthy relationship with food.
- It’s not about the sugar! Yes, we (as a society) eat too much sugar, mostly through processed foods. But blaming sugar for the obesity epidemic is misguided and doesn’t address our relationship with food. And the last thing you want to do is to teach your kids to feel guilty for enjoying something that tastes good! That leads to feelings of guilt and shame, and sets them up for a lifetime of disordered eating.
- Focus on ‘Eating Competence’ not ‘Food Rules’. Eating Competence allows us to have a flexible and forgiving relationship with food. It acknowledges that we won’t always want or need the same foods! Competent eaters have:
- positive attitudes about eating and about food
- food acceptance skills that support eating an ever-increasing variety of the available food
- internal regulation skills that allow intuitively consuming enough food to give energy and stamina and to support stable body weight, and
- skills and resources for managing the food context and orchestrating family meals
How do we develop eating competence in ourselves and our kids?
- Eat together as a family
- Eat regular meals that include a variety of foods in a variety of situations
- Teach them the difference between emotional and physical hunger
- Try not to use food as reward or punishment
- Instead of telling them how much they can have, ask them how much they need to feel satisfied!
- Model eating competence!
Doesn’t that sound better than labeling foods as good or bad? Isn’t this what we really want for ourselves and our children?
And so, I no longer tell my kids that sugar is “bad”. Instead, we model treats and desserts as “sometimes foods”. They know that we cook most of our meals at home, eat together regularly, always have fruits and vegetable available, etc. And I’m confident that they will grow up knowing that it’s more important to be a competent eater than a perfect one.
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Dr. Jenn RD ND has been in practice since 2004 as a naturopathic doctor and registered dietitian, and is in the middle of an international relocation with her family. While her in-person practice is on hiatus, she’ll continue to practice virtually beginning in Dec/Jan 2020. Sign up to stay in the loop!