This, readers, is how we establish and define our relationships with food and with our bodies.
Like any other cyclic event, we pass our understanding of the world on to our offspring and they pass that understanding to their offspring and so on… In order to create a healthy environment for your children, you will need to live the same practices that you intend to teach them. How do we create an environment to ensure a positive food relationship?
1 – Appreciate where food comes from and the people who provide it. Visit a farmer’s market to purchase produce, purchase the meat of a cow from a cattle farm, or grow your own vegetables on your apartment balcony. Building a backyard garden or a balcony container garden can also aid in creating a positive relationship with your body (see #3 on the list below).
2 – Create meals in your home with your own hands. Your children will watch you manipulate food into a meal and will naturally want to help. Let them help! Give younger kids spoons and measuring cups, and entrust the older kids with the more dangerous activities like chopping vegetables or using the stove. You are also teaching them important life skills that they will one day need to use in order to be independent and successful adults.
3 – Pick a new fruit or vegetable each week to try. You might not have enjoyed eating, say, asparagus as a child, but understand that taste buds change and develop like any other body part. Give it another go. Also understand that just because you don’t like the flavor of a specific food doesn’t mean your kids will automatically not like it. Let them try different foods and draw their own conclusions. If you truly don’t like asparagus, choose another vegetable to try until you do find what you enjoy eating.
4 – Use food as a learning tool for your little ones. Play the alphabet game: “This week we are choosing a food that starts with C: then choose a fruit or vegetable from carrots, celery, cauliflower, cabbage, cranberries, cherries, cilantro, etc.” Play the colors game: “This week we are choosing a food that is green: then choose from avocado, green onions, green bell pepper, kiwi, grapes, celery, leeks, green beans, peas, okra, etc.”
5 – Eat only when truly hungry and stop eating when truly full. Take a step back from what the diet plan tells you to eat and how often to eat it. Instead, listen to your hunger cues, your body’s signals to tell you when it’s time to eat. Each person’s cues are different, and they might be different from day to day. Common hunger cues include: nausea, heartburn, dizziness, inability to concentrate, irritability, mood swings, lethargy (lack of energy), or stomach grumbles. Then, listen to your satiety cues, your body’s signals to tell you when you’re done eating. Again, each person’s cues are different. Common satiety cues include: lack of interest in a meal, inability to eat another bite, sudden distaste of the meal, urge to push the plate away, sense of fullness, or stomach ache.
6 – Ditch the guilt. One of my favorite quotes about food is, “Eating for pleasure is a part of life.” Food has two fundamental purposes: nourishment and pleasure. Ideally, most of the food that you eat will fit into both of those categories – it will taste good and it will be good for you. In the event that you are indulging in a high-sugar/low-nutrient treat, do so with the understanding that you are fulfilling the purpose of eating for pleasure. If you can’t ditch the guilt, then ditch the treat. You deserve food that makes you feel good and there are plenty of options out there!
Working hand-in-hand with a healthy food relationship, learn to appreciate your body from a different perspective. How can we develop a positive relationship with our bodies?
1 – Appreciate your body not for how it looks, but for what it can accomplish. Don’t like your chunky thighs? Redefine them: these thighs allow me to squat 65 lbs in the gym, these thighs allow me to walk to the park, and these thighs are a lap for my son to sit on when we read.
2 – Don’t speak negatively about yourself or about anyone else’s body. Your children are always listening; they can hear you speak poisonous words, even if you don’t intend them to hear it, and they will mirror your attitude. Talk about yourself positively and extend the same courtesy to others. If you feel the need to say something negative, reexamine your motive. What makes you feel the urge to say negative things? Can you change it to something positive? What message are your negative words sending your children?
3 – Go outside and reconnect with nature. Reconnecting with nature lowers depression and anxiety, which can help clear your clouded mind from negative thoughts. It also provides an outlet to get moving and become more active in your everyday life. A daily trip to the park or an evening walk through the neighborhood is a perfect family outing and can help you become closer to the people you love.