As a dietitian I want my daughter to grow up into healthy adult with sound eating and lifestyle habits. Of course I do and I’m sure all parents do. However, I’m worried. How as a dietitian can I ensure she has a good healthy relationship with food but not obsessive? I’m already concerned about my job rubbing off on her in a negative way. She loves the Mr Men books and her favourite is Mr Greedy. She loves pointing out he is eating cake whilst panicky thoughts rush through my mind; what if she sees someone else with a big tummy and makes a comment about cake? However, Daddy Pig on Peppa is always mocked for his big tummy and love of cookies!
I’m sure many of you have read about the studies that show children would nearly always choose the thin child to be their friend and shun the overweight one when shown pictures. This scared me a bit. When I was younger it wasn’t an issue. I remember a couple of slightly overweight children in my class but I don’t really remember being bothered. With overweight and obesity being on the rise in children nowadays everyone is becoming more aware. Models on the catwalk have always been very thin and to be honest I think they always will. Magazine have always depicted perfect airbrushed girls but again this will probably always be the way. However now with social media, selfies and a desperation for young girls now to get the “perfect” photo what is it going to be like in 10 years time?
So I know I’m treading on a fine line and have a lot to consider when teaching my girl about healthy eating and a healthy body image. This is what I’m planning:
- All food in moderation. No food is “bad” and all food should be allowed. My daughter is allowed cake and biscuits in small amounts as long as she eats her main meal. If she refuses or is messing she gets nothing for dessert.
- To eat and drink everything in front of her. I want her to see mine and her Dad’s diets. We try to eat healthily of course but we like a bit of chocolate now and then after meals. I also snacks lots on fruit and nuts. I want her to see all food as normal and for her to eat like us.
- I don’t make her clear her plate. If she eats a good amount but doesn’t want anymore I try not to get stressed and let it go. I don’t want her to have a fear of eating.
- I want her to understand the benefits of eating healthily without referring to her appearance. If you eat well you may get ill less, sleep better and have more energy for the things you want to do. Louise told me she tells her 4 year old if she eats her fruit and vegetables it will make her poos soft and her tummy healthy!
- We haven’t used the word “fat” yet and I’m going to try not to for a very long time. Obviously she is going to question why someone is bigger than someone else at some point and of course I will have to explain the possible reasons for gaining weight. However, I want to make it clear to her very early on the reasons for this are probably complicated and it is something that should not be ridiculed.
- Try to encourage exercise as a way to have fun and not to keep trim or lose weight. It’s a time to see friends and socialise too.
- Her Dad is into his photography and as soon as she starts referring to anything in magazines and on television I will get him to show and explain the concept of airbrushing!
Ultimately I want my daughter to grow up feeling safe and loved and without expectations for her appearance. Being healthy is a lifestyle choice to benefit her both physically and mentally and I want to tentatively push her in the right direction for her to be the best she can be.