When our children, even more so our daughters, spend their years growing up, watching us criticise our bodies, go week to week on different diet, wear spanx, suck our bodies in from all angels, prod and poke at ourselves in the mirror – it has an effect. We teach them that this is the way to treat your body, that we must live in a battle where we scrutinise ourselves and create visions of how our bodies must be that ultimately mean we are never good enough. They grow up living the diet/restriction/punishment lifestyle, have their own children and pass on these limiting and devastating beliefs all over again.
But what if it could stop with us? What if our children could grow up in a world where they love themselves first, they compliment themselves first, they worship their bodies first and they believe in themselves first………is this utopia or is it completely possible?
It is completely possible! And it starts with you.
Below are my top tips for empowering our children to grow up in a way that teaches them to love and nourish their bodies
1: Practice Self Care Every Day and Week
Every day is an opportunity to do something kind for yourself – whether this is reading a book, going for a walk, taking a bath, lighting candles & incense, Doing these things shows everyone around you that even with all of your flaws (AKA quirks, uniqueness, the amazing-ness that makes you ‘you’), you are totally worthy of spoiling yourself and completely worthy of love just for being who you are – no gimmicks, no conditions, no rules. You are the most important person in your life, so look after yourself and love yourself first, to show exactly what self worth loos like.
2: When You Look in the Mirror, Compliment Yourself and Talk Positively About Your Own Body
How often do you find yourself prodding and poking at your body or trying on a dress only to suck your stomach in from 50 different angles – or my absolute favourite “have you seen how many chins I have today!?!?!” remark when taking a selfie.
The truth is that every woman has rolls when they sit down, everyone gets a double chin depending what angle their head is at and every body has marks, scars or blemishes on it regardless of its size and shape. Learning to love these parts of you, or at least not making your unhappiness with them centre stage at the play of your life is absolutely key.
Your body is amazing so love on every bit of it!
3: Encourage Self Praise – Be Full of Yourself
We seem to have grown up in a society where somehow praising yourself or saying what you are good at is seen as egotistical and being full of yourself. Somehow this form of praise has been condemned as something negative and shameful and we no longer feel comfortable saying good things about ourselves. I am here to tell you that it is absolutely heavenly and obscenely fantastic to praise yourself, say what you are good at and to be totally and completely full of yourself….because who else are you supposed to be full of?
4: Live in Balance with Food
How often do you feel like certain foods are forced on you? “Eat your greens” must be the most common phrase we hear as children. Eating certain foods becomes a chore and something we must do. When eating your greens is like doing the dusting is it any wonder we don’t do it and stray to junk food? Especially when those foods are advertised so well (no one ever describes spinach as deluxe in the adverts) and made to be so tempting. Balancing out the foods on your plate so they include all colours and varieties means that our plates become all encompassing so that we never feel forced to eat a certain section of the plate.
5: There is No Such Thing as good/bad foods or being on/off the wagon
Food is food – it carries no intention and it is not from heaven or hell – it is a tool that fuels your body and keeps you alive and how you choose to use that tool determines how it affects your body.
When you eat to satisfy emotions or feelings, such as “trying to be good” or “following the rules of the diet” or “having a treat weekend because you’ve been good all week” it creates a story in our lives that food is like a person; an angel and a devil. This story is passed down to those around us and they copy it and grow up believing that this is the way a relationship with food should look.
When you eat to fuel your body and nourish it with the foods it needs to function, you remove the emotion and allow food to be exactly what it is. If you eat a burger you know it is going to fuel your body in a way different to a green juice and that is a choice that you make.
6: Learn to Treat Yourself in Ways that Don’t Involve Food
How often do we have a hard week or pass an exam or do something good and treat ourselves with a Chinese (or insert food of your choice here)? Whether it is to make ourselves feel better or reward ourselves for an achievement – eating seems to be at the center of all of it. When you can learn to treat yourself in a way that doesn’t involve food you again remove the emotion from eating it and stop it being a “good/bad/treat/naughty” food. If you are stuck for ideas on how you can reward yourself try any of these; go for a massage, go for a walk, buy a new CD, get that book, go for a facial, have a manicure, buy some new clothes, Epsom salt bath.
7: No Food is Off Limits
Do you have the crisps, chocolate, sweets etc locked away or in a cupboard that your kids can’t reach? Is it the case that they have to ask you for these when they want some so that you can monitor how much they are having? Again, locking these foods away or making them out of reach gives the message that they are bad/naughty/treat foods. Instead, talk to your children and educate each other on these foods, what is a good amount to eat each day, what ingredients they contain and how your body uses these to fuel itself. When you can educate your kids (and yourself in the process) the level of understanding shifts to the point where your children can make their own decisions on these foods and will know what the truth is about them – rather than them remaining a mystical treat food they have to sneak or hide that they are eating them because it might be seen as being naughty.
8: It’s OK to Leave Food on Your Plate
Not eating everything on your plate because you feel full is called listening to your body. It is more than OK to leave food on your plate and not eat all of your meal. Having to eat everything on our plate is one of the most limiting beliefs that we learn in our early years and as our parents learned it from their parents, we have learned it from our parents and now we are passing this on to our kids. Let’s stop this belief with us and change it from leaving food to honouring our body.
9: Children Might be Starving in Africa but My Body is Speaking to Me
I always remember being told to eat all my tea, be grateful for whats on my plate and remember how lucky I am because there are children starving in Africa. And this might be true. But my body was also telling me what foods it did not like, what foods it did not enjoy, what foods served it well and what foods did not and by forcing me to continue eating foods that were making me feel sick, full, tired and bloated did not do me any favours. Our bodies are talking to us all the time and if you can show that yours is speaking to you, your children will be able to tune into theirs too. The next time your child tells you they feel full or sick or don’t like the food – ask them to describe where they feel it n their bodies and how it feels so that you can empower them to tune into themselves and get a greater understanding yourself of what your child needs.
10: You Are the Model
You have heard the phrase actions speak louder than words and I am here to tell you that it is completely true. Your children will follow your example not your words. If you are saying love yourself and don’t diet but you are criticising your body and following all the latest fads then I’m afraid that is what your children will learn. You are the model, be the model, embrace the role and shine in this role – it is one of the most important roles you have.
Ultimately the number one key for supporting your children in their relationship with food and their bodies is to make sure you talk to them. Keep an open relationship and create a safe space where they feel comfortable to open up to you and share their feelings. Peer pressure is such a strong part of growing up and knowing you are there for them is what is going to keep your child healthy, well and happy.