This is another guest post from Dietetic Intern, Ruthann Sampson, MS. I’ve been seeing more and more families with children that struggle with their body image. It’s easy to make a comment with good intentions, but we often don’t realize the impact that our comments have. I like Ruthann’s suggestion of putting the focus on having healthy habits instead of weight or appearance.
When it comes to body image your child may be getting ideas of how they view themselves from you, the parent. You are the adult role model for how to engage in positive talk about appearances. By the same token, when you engage in negative talk about yours or others’ bodies, you may be causing your child to do the same.
As the saying goes, actions can speak louder than words. You need to be wary of your actions and how they may be impacting your child’s view on a healthy body image. Seeing their parent crash dieting or exercising for weight loss may make a child associate these behaviors with attaining an idealized appearance. The same concepts apply if you are concerned about your child’s weight. Don’t criticize their weight directly. Instead, encourage healthier habits by turning a balanced diet and exercise into a fun family activity for good health, not for looks.
Your words about the appearance of yourself and others have just as big of an impact as your actions. In a constant media onslaught of what the “ideal” look should be, your child needs for you to be accepting of all body types. Even playful teasing with words like “husky” or “fluffy” may be seriously damaging to the way children views themselves or others. Instead, try to compliment your child on a regular basis. Focus on positive language, not just about their appearance (you’re so handsome), but also about their intelligence (you’re getting really good at multiplication) and physical abilities (look how fast you can run). Follow these same principles in your choice of role models. Instead of idealizing supermodels, speak positively with your child about national leaders, scientists, and individuals whose achievements have nothing to do with the way they look (Jane Goodall is my go-to favorite role model for children).
Furthermore, when speaking about your own body, avoid negativity. For example, instead of complaining about having large thighs, say that they are big and strong for hiking and picking up kids. Parent-child interactions should serve as a safe haven from negative body judgment. Keep it upbeat, keep it non-judgmental, and watch as your child’s opinion of themselves stays positive for the long term.
This post was written by my guest blogger and dietetic intern, Ruthann Sampson, MS. I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Ruthann for over 4 years. She is just about to complete her dietetic internship at the prestigious Yale-New Haven Hospital and has a special interest in pediatrics. She has done a great job on this blog and there is more to come from Ruthann!
As a parent, you are the food gatekeeper for your home. Thus, the first step you can take is to choose what items you purchase and serve to the children, regardless of what food may be featured in the media. You can prevent your child from having certain foods simply by the virtue of not keeping them in your home. This ties back into following the Division of Responsibility addressed in Katie’s previous posts.
Despite your good efforts on the home front, your child may still have access to less-than-healthy foods outside of your home. Arm them with the ability to understand the effects of food advertising so that they are able to make good decisions even when they’re away from your watchful eye. If you need help getting started in your discussion, PBS offers a kid-friendly interactive website called “Don’t Buy It: Get Media Smart!”. This website includes activities and discussion topics geared towards helping children question what they see in the media. Questions they suggest include: “What sound effects or music does the commercial use? Do the sounds make it more exciting?” and “Are there celebrities in the commercial? Do you think the celebrity really uses the product?”
If you prefer to take your discussion to the streets, then perhaps the next time you see a billboard for a soda or a commercial for food ask your child questions about it. Open up a discussion about why your child thinks a company would have a commercial or a poster. Your statement could be as simple as “See that billboard? Why do you think a company would pay to put that up there? Are they trying to get you to do something?” Discuss how companies advertise because they want you to buy their product, even though it might not be healthy for you.
As Mark Twain said “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” As a parent, you have the power to help your child to avoid the negative impact of the glamour and exaggeration in food media.
by Ruthann Sampson
This is the second installment in my three part series on Feeding Your Family and Loving It. In the first piece I talked about how competence with feeding means being successful and feeling like feeding is going well. In my discussion I said that being a competent feeder is more about HOW you feed your kids and not necessarily WHAT you feed your kids. Today, I’m discussing the second C – confidence.
With competence comes confidence, which is why it’s our second C. If competence can be defined as being successful then confidence is knowing that you’re being successful.
Through following the DOR, you are probably gaining confidence in your ability to feed your family. You know you can get a meal on the table, you know that you can put mostly healthy foods on your plates. You may have begun to notice pleasant mealtimes with less stress, even if your kids aren’t eating everything on their plate. That is because you have severed your emotional connection to whether or not your kids eat the food you’ve prepared. You are now allowing them to make the “to eat or not to eat” decision and that is freeing! What’s funny is that despite this, despite your kids not always eating the food that’s put in front of them or just taking 2 bites and saying they’re done, you are still confident- weird, I know. This is again due to the DOR. The DOR or Division of Responsibility tells parents that as long as you’ve set the WHAT, WHEN and WHERE of feeding that your job is done. Since you’ve done all of that before your family even gets to the dinner table what is there to not be confident about? On their own time your children will begin to try and like new foods and then you can really watch your confidence soar!
Healthy Kids Today — Prevent Cancer Tomorrow campaign | Super Kids Nutrition http://ow.ly/hSHWm
It’s here, are your kids going to be cooped up indoors all week or will you get them out and active? Winter is a great time to get active – check out this link for local activities sponsored by Rhode Island DEM.
DEM INVITES RHODE ISLANDERS TO TRY WINTER RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES IN STATE PARKS DURING FEBRUARY SCHOOL VACATION http://ow.ly/hL2Sn
I’m in the middle of planning a talk for a conference in April. The title is Feeding Your Family and Loving It. The concept that I’m teaching, and I hope participants will leave with, is that following the Division of Responsibility (DOR) will give them the Three C’s of Feeding Your Family and Loving It. I’ve discussed the DOR at great length here and I’ll use the next three posts to introduce you to the Three C’s – Competence, Confidence and Control.
Competence is success, being competent at something means being successful at it. You can do it well, do it efficiently and people trust you to do it. Competence in feeding is no different. People may define competence differently – one person might think it means to feed nutritious foods, while another might think it means to have happy family meals and another might think just getting anything on the table is competence. Actually, it’s kind of all three. Competence is the foundation of Feeding Your Family and Loving It and it stems directly from following the DOR. When the lines of the DOR are kept parents feel competent in feeding their kids, they are successful – meal after meal, night after night.
Being a competent feeder means that you serve your children on a schedule. No one has to guess when their next meal is coming and no one expects to be fed on demand, at their whim. Everyone eats on the same schedule. This is the WHEN of the DOR. Being a competent feeder means that you take nutrition into consideration when planning meals. It also means that you take your families likes and dislikes into consideration – these two parts are the WHAT of the DOR. Being competent means that you can sit down to a family meal and expect everyone to enjoy the same food – this is the WHERE of the DOR. Some family members might not like everything on their plate, but that’s OK because there are plenty of other foods there for them to eat.
Being a competent feeder also means letting go of your emotional attachment to your kids eating. The competent feeder is not emotionally attached to how much and whether or not their kids eat. Even if you spend two hours making dinner – once the plate hits the table your job is done and you need to detach. This is hard, probably the hardest part of becoming a competent feeder.
With each successful meal and snack you will become more and more competent at feeding your family. Then comes the confidence and finally the control and that is how you will Feed Your Family and Love It.
Stay tuned to learn about confidence and control in feeding and the secret fourth C you weren’t expecting.
Just now I was writing a post and about to publish and I wanted to link back to previous content, but there wasn’t any content on the topic I was trying to link to! I can’t believe I’ve never posted on the Division of Responsibility before – shocking!
For me it really is shocking because I teach about it so much that I can’t believe I haven’t expounded on it here. But have no fear, you’re in luck because today is the day. Now I will have content to link to!
What the heck of the Division of Responsibility (DOR)?
It’s only the best advice you’ll ever get when it comes to feeding your children. I wish I could say that it was coined and created by me, but not a chance. That would be Ellyn Satter who is the dietitians/parents/pediatricians guru for all things feeding. Here is the DOR in a nutshell:
Parents have responsibilities when it comes to feeding their children. They are:
- determine the WHAT of feeding. WHAT will you serve?
- determine the WHEN of feeding. WHEN will meals and snacks be?
- determine the WHERE of feeding. WHERE will you feed your kids?
Children have responsibilities when it comes to eating. They are:
- to decide HOW MUCH to eat
- to decide WHETHER or NOT to eat
As long as the lines of the DOR are kept meal time is a happy affair.
When the lines are blurred
You will know when you aren’t following the DOR because you will feel out of control. Meals might look something like this:
- You cook one meal and the kids eat cereal.
- You cook four meals – one for each kid.
- You let the kids choose their meals and snacks.
- Kids go the the fridge whenever they want. They ruin their appetite and skip dinner.
- Kids eat meals in their room.
- Kids eat meals in front of the TV.
- Your kids eat a total of 5 foods, the same 5 every day.
- Veggies don’t end up on your kids’ plates because they don’t like vegetables.
- You have to fight with your kids to get them to eat.
- You have to punish or reward your kids to get them to eat.
When the lines are clearly defined
Your mealtimes will look something like this:
- Everyone will be sitting at the table.
- There will be a variety of foods available, but only 1 main meal.
- Kids will be allowed to eat what they want and leave what they don’t.
- Kids will eat until they are full.
- Everyone will come to the table hungry.
- No one is punished for not eating. Their consequence is an empty belly.
- No one is rewarded for eating.
- Conversation is light and pleasant.
- Everyone has at least one fruit or vegetable on their plate. They don’t have to eat it.
- There will be at least 1 food on the table that each child will recognize as something they like. For one kid that might be milk, another it’s bread, another hot dogs and still another sliced apples.
I’ll write much more on this and on the topic of Feeding Your Family and Loving It in the coming weeks.