For most of us school is back in swing and if it's not yet, it's coming soon. I chat with a lot of moms that are curious on how to help their kiddos create a positive body image, continue to accept themselves and have a healthy relationship with food as they continue to get older. We know most adults have tapped into the diet world. An astounding 80% of women reported to hating their bodies, according to one study done by Beauty Redefined. It's no wonder parents want to protect their children and guide them towards a life of more freedom and self acceptance. Because of research we know that by age 6 girls begin to express their own concerns about their weight and shape. As hard as it is to accept these stats it's also a prime opportunity to make some changes and do what we can to change that number. My hope is that I can offer you some tips to help navigate these waters of diet culture with your kids...and also yourself.
Tip number one
Don't comment on size, shape, weight, or body (theirs or anyone else's....yours included). Instead ask about dreams, explore values, learn new hobbies together, talk about future goals, who their best friends are and why. When we can teach our children that there is SO MUCH MORE to life than how we look we can teach them there is an entire world out there waiting for them and it has nothing to do with the size of their body.
Tip number two
Be mindful or your own talk and actions. Do you workout to lose weight? Do you label foods as good or bad? Do you pick apart your body and talk about what you want to change about it? This is where the true shift happens. The BEST thing we can do is work on ourselves. Some of my favorite resources are
Intuitive Eating Workbook
Body Kindness (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!!)
Health at Every Size
Body Kindness Podcast
Heart Space Podcast
Tip number three
Have an open conversation about diet culture and the unrealistic expectations. Here's the deal, diet culture isn't going away soon so we don't want to pretend like it's not there. Likely, our kids will have friends going on diets, they'll overhear adults talk about all the things they dislike about their bodies, they will likely be tempted and try a diet themselves. If we can be open and take the judgment away we can create a safe place for them to get curious and ask questions. Some prompting questions I like to have clients think about when it comes to diet culture is
1. Who is benefiting here? (ex: diet industry, plastic surgery industry etc)
2. What is the cost to me? (restrict food groups, miss out on connecting with family, feeling like i'm not enough, etc)
3. Does this truly work or is it a shiny package wrapped up (let's real if all these 'diets' worked there would be no diet industry and you wouldn't be reading this blog.
4. What am i really needing (sometimes it's easier to focus on our body instead of a stressful situation, sometimes it's easier to control food when our life feels out of control, etc... sometimes what we are really needing is connection, down time, therapy, friendship, joyful movement, rest)
Tip number four
Let them hear you be KIND to your body, not about how it looks or the size it is, instead about the things it can DO. If you are struggling with your own body image a great starting point I use with my clients is developing body respect. What things can you respect your body for, no matter what it looks like? For me, it's the basic things it does to keep me alive without me having to think twice, it's the fact it created a human and fed him for 14 months, it's the fact that when i get sick it goes into overdrive to heal me, its the fact that it lets me know when its hungry, thirsty, full, tired, energized, etc...
Tip number five
Find things you enjoy together. Go for bike rides, play outside, do a fun zumba class or whatever else feels kind for your body. This can be a really fun process to explore what activities feel good and bring connection between you and your child.
Well friends, that's it for now. Feel free to sign up for my once a month newsletter with more resources and support here. So much love and compassion goes out to each and every one of you because mama, this is an ongoing journey for ALL of us.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below,
While writing this blog I wanted to make it educational so hopefully, it can help someone struggling or encourage someone to get curious about what diet culture is and how it is affecting people. One of my biggest goals while using this platform is to never shame or put anyone down but to educate, encourage and offer a new way to look at things.
I was running errands with my son this morning and we drive past a gym with a giant billboard that reads "summer bodies are made here". A while later I hop on my emails to read one that tells me how I need to cleanse regularly. This evening I was in the checkout at the grocery store and the cashier is having a conversation with the woman in front of me about "clean eating". They go on to discuss how it's great that she is on day one of "eating clean" because most people can't do it. I wait patiently with my combo pizza, chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream.
This is all an example of diet culture and a great example of what is very wrong with how we view well-being. A good friend of mine told me recently that she was about to sign up for a yoga retreat when the owner let her know it probably wasn't the best idea because "yoga is difficult for people with larger bodies". Could you even imagine?
Diet culture surrounds us everywhere. Starting a new diet, beginning a new workout program, going on a cleanse, it can all seem harmless enough however there are a lot of negative side effects that come along with it. I could share the research, I could offer the scientific data, I could show you study after study but I think whats more important is to really take a look at how these approaches make us feel about our worth. What happens when my son grows up reading billboards everywhere telling him he needs to change his body because summer is coming? What happens to the woman beginning her clean eating journey because she thinks she needs to change something about herself when research shows there's only a 4% chance she'll be able to stick to it? How would you feel if you were told you probably shouldn't do something because someone had a bias against body shape and size?
I work with clients who are in recovery from eating disorders. Diet culture plays into their eating disorder on a daily basis. So what does that look like? It looks like isolation, a living hell and treatment costing up to $30k a month. It looks like time away from their family, lost friendships and being constantly preoccupied with thoughts about food, body and weight. It looks like shame, exhaustion and a constant battle against diet culture. Those in recovery are the bravest and strongest people I know. They're fighting an eating disorder in a culture that very much normalizes disordered eating.
It took me a long time to take an honest look at myself and my actions to see how I was playing in to diet culture. Luckily I was able to get curious and make changes that supported a more accepting approach that promoted individual well-being and diversity.The thing about diet culture is It's tricky, it's sneaky and it's created by us. Some of us may not even know we are playing into it and that's the reason I encourage you to get curious. Challenge your beliefs, your bias's and your approaches.
I think one of the most important things to remember is that it's not black and white. There is room for veggies and quinoa and pizza and cake. There is room for movement and rest. There is room for large bodies, small bodies, short bodies, tall bodies and every body in between. A lot of times this makes people uncomfortable. It isn't sexy. It doesn't sell. It doesn't fit into a clean box. You can't wrap it up in a pretty marketing strategy and make $60 billion off of it. That's a tough sale.
But know this, the more we get curious, honest and real about what diet culture is the more we can fight it. The more we can educate, stand up to it and challenge it, the more likely someone can gain their life back.
If you are struggling know that you are not alone. Reaching out for help can be the bravest thing you can do. If you are open enough to get curious about your approach, beliefs and bias's my hat is off to you because that can be scary.
Below are great resources
As always, I'm rooting for you,
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*It is important to take note If you are struggling with an Eating Disorder or specific health condition it is important to work with an experienced health professional to see if IE is right for you and get the support you need.
I recently wrote a post about what Intuitive Eating is. If you're new to the term I suggest you start over there first. For everyone else, I want to chat about IE and who it is good for and also answer some common questions. In simple terms......Intuitive eating can be beneficial for everyone . Continue reading to find out more
Intuitive eating is for you if
I'm not happy with my size, can I lose weight before I try Intuitive Eating concepts?
Unfortunately we are taught (incorrectly) that weight loss= health. This is a very common misunderstanding and one that might take a bit to switch your mindset. The need for weight loss is very much due to diet culture and diet mentality, the very thing intuitive eating is helping us get away from. We have been so conditioned to think small= healthy when in reality it should be our habits and actions that we are focused on. Health At Every Size is a research based movement that can be a great resource to learn more at. I would also like to challenge you with the question of how will you lose weight? Will it be by going on another diet? Cutting our specific food groups? Counting calories, macros or points? Have you been able to maintain your results from this in the past? 95% of diets do not work and those that lose weight will gain it back (if not more) withing a few years. Why not get off that cycle and try something that is forever?
Won't I go crazy if I am allowed to eat anything I want?
Most people think that if they can truly eat anything they want it will be a free for all and they will eat forbidden foods the rest of their life. When we give ourselves unconditional permission to eat anything we will find our bodies crave balance. When we can have whatever we want whenever we want it food loses its power. This is called the habituation effect. To simplify it, it's like when you buy a new pair of shoes and you just LOVE them. You begin to wear them everyday and eventually they just become a regular old pair of shoes. Our "bad" or "off limit" foods haven't had the chance to become ordinary to us. When food is truly seen as just food and not something good or bad we are able to have it to satisfy us and stop when we are satisfied.
Is Intuitive Eating Anti- Health?
Intuitive Eating is all about health, well-being, honoring your body and being kind to ourselves. IE teaches us to trust our bodies and build and healthy and nurturing relationship with them. Diet culture often teach us that if we are not focused on weight loss than we are not focused on healthy living. This is simply not true. Intuitive Eating supports nourishing foods that honor your unique body and needs. It encourages movement that you enjoy doing and feels good on your body. You can learn more about the principles here
I hope you all enjoyed this post. If you have any questions or comments be sure to leave a comment.
I'm rooting for you
Intuitive eating is the complete opposite of dieting......and when most people hear that their internal panic meter rises. However, intuitive eating can be beneficial to anyone and there are a lot of health benefits that come with it. When I work with clients and groups on intuitive eating I like to describe it as writing with your non dominate hand. It's awkward, uncomfortable and takes work to get comfortable. The same applies to IE, it's usually the complete opposite of what we've been told to do over our lifetime but it's an ability we were all born with.
What is intuitive eating?
IE (or intuitive eating) is listening and honoring our bodies needs and wants. It's listening to and trusting our bodies cues and giving our body what it needs. It has nothing to do with meal plans, will power or a specific diet to follow. IE is a non diet approach that helps individuals break the chronic diet cycle and build a healthy relationship with food and their body. It is taking into consideration that each person is unique and needs and craves different things.
The 10 principles
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
Take a look back at all the diets you have tried over your lifespan. Have they worked (and by worked I mean been able to be maintained for a lifetime and given you freedom, health and nourishment)? For 95-97% of people the answer is no. Diet culture is everywhere. It can be found in our desire to cut out certain food groups, weigh and measure things, letting the scale dictate our health and so much more. Diet culture is everywhere we look and you have every right to challenge these things and be an advocate for yourself.
2. Honor Your Hunger
Keep your body nourished and listen to your hunger cues. Opposed to going off of a serving size, meal plan or calorie count, listen to your body and its hunger cues.
3. Make Peace with Food
Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Allow all foods in your diet. There are no "good" or "bad" foods. Once we begin labeling foods they begin to become off limits. And what do we want when we can't have something? You know the drill. When we give ourselves unconditional permission to eat our bodies want balance and nourishment. All foods can have a place in your life.
4. Challenge the Food Police .
Challenge your thoughts that tell you you're "good" for eating something or "bad" for doing something else. This is #dietculture These are the types of thoughts that cause shame, anxiety and unhealthy thoughts/behaviors around food.
5. Respect Your Fullness
Tune in to your body and notice if you are full. Respect your bodies fullness cues. This takes mindfulness practice and being aware of how your body is feeling as you're eating. You can practice this by pausing throughout your meal and checking in with your body.
6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Choose foods that satisfy you. Before you eat check in with yourself and see what your body is craving. Something sweet? savory? hot? cold? listen to your body and allow yourself to have what you want.
7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food
How can you comfort yourself without using food? Sometimes this means feeling your emotions instead of avoiding them. Sometimes we need to journal, connect with a friend, go for a walk or a different activity that brings us comfort in a time of need.
8. Respect Your Body Accept your genetic blueprint.
As humans we love to compare. It is part of our nature. It is important that we respect our body and respect who we are though. Our bodies have this amazing ability to keep us at a size and weight where we perform and function best. When we dictate that through extreme dieting we are robbing our bodies of doing the job they know how to do best.
9. Exercise–Feel the Difference
I love to call this joyful movement. Find things that you love doing (and this might be different everyday). Move in a way that you enjoy and feels good for your body. This might be yoga, running, dancing, swimming, lifting weights among a lot of other things. And it's OKAY for this to look different every day.
10 Honor Your Health–
Make choices that honor your health, values and also your tastebuds. No need to be perfect. Consider how certain foods make you feel. Find foods that honor your health and nourish your body.
Over 60 research studies have been done that have shown IE leads to
Resources to get started
These two books are great resources to get started
Health at Every Size
Additionally I have ongoing groups throughout the year based around Intuitive Eating as well as resources through social media.
Hey there ladies,
Today I wanted to chat about something that is such a common struggle for people, but especially women, negative self-talk. These negative thoughts that seem to continuously pop up into our head become such a normal occurrence that most of the time we don’t realize its happening. Whether it’s thoughts like I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve that or anything else along those lines, hang tight, I’m going to give you some pointers to overcome them.
1.Check your facts.
Most of the time these crummy thoughts that happen between our ears have been developed over the course of our life. Maybe you slipped up during a speech at school and now you label yourself as a terrible public speaker. Maybe you were always told you were shy and now you tell yourself you stink in social situations. Whatever the ‘talk’ is let’s check the facts.
First you want to check for evidence. Are these thoughts I’m telling myself really true. What backs it up? Is there actual facts or is it just how I perceive the situation?
2.Put yourself in new shoes
If this were a friend you were talking to would these same thoughts still be coming up or would you have some more grace with them? An important question to explore if this is the case is why don’t you deserve the same grace you give to others?
3. Notice your thoughts
These thoughts have become so normal for us, most of the time we simply don't even realize we are thinking them. Take some time to pay attention to these thoughts. When do they come up? What are they typically about?
4. Change them up
This is when we really focus on changing what we are saying. It can be SUCH a challenge at first but so important. It might be one of those times we just need to fake it until we make it, or in this case fake it until we rewire our brain!
An example of this could be "you've tried this a million times, it wont ever work!"
My goal would be to change that with "I am SO proud of myself for making ME a priority. I may not be perfect but I never give up!"
Give yourself some grace and all the love you can.
Research shows us that more than 80% of 10 year old's are afraid of being fat. We also know that by the age of 6, girls especially, start to express concerns about their shape, weight and size.
We know certain things that contribute to a poor body image such as unrealistic expectations from the media, Photoshop, social media and so on. However I think it's important to talk about what we can do as parents to help foster a positive body image in our children.
1. Be open with your kids about diet culture
It's unrealistic to shelter your children from this 60 billion industry so instead have an open discussion about how media has unrealistic expectations. Discuss with them how this sometimes makes people feel like they're not enough. Be open and honest and explore how your kids feel about the diet industry and how these messages make them feel. Doing this on a regular basis will help our kiddos know it's safe to talk about and also that it's okay to be effected by it.
2. Stop the diet and weight loss talk
This is where as parents it is SO important to do your own work. If you are talking about "being on a diet" "needing to go on a diet" or "I'm not allowed to eat that because i'm on a diet" you are sending the message to your child that in order to feel worth we need to look a certain way. According to your child, you walk on water. You are the first person they look up to and the first person they learn from. When their perfect mama declares she needs to go on a diet the seed is planted that they are not good enough as they are and their body needs to be morphed into a certain size.
3. Talk about size diversity
Openly discuss how people are all different shapes, sizes and colors and celebrate it! There is no one way to look. Health doesn't depend on a size or shape but truly on how we feel and how we nourish our bodies.
4. Don't compliment your child on their size, shape or weight
When we make comments to our children about how thin they are it puts an unrealistic expectation on them. Bodies are suppose to change over time. Children are suppose to gain weight through puberty. While children are growing their bodies and looks are going to be changing on a regular basis. Instead compliment your child on how good of a friend they are. Talk to them about their values, dreams and goals. Openly discuss what things they think make a kind person. There are SO many more important things to talk about other than size and shape.
5. Create healthy habits together
Eat nourishing foods. Enjoy treats. Learn to listen to your body for its hunger and fullness cues. Honor those cues. Move your body regularly because it feels good. Say positive things about yourself. Write out a gratitude list.
I strongly believe a positive body image begins in the home. It begins with us. It begins with the messages that over time, our children slowly start to pick up on a believe. Nobody is born hating their bodies. It's a learned process. If we can begin implementing healthy self talk within our families we will be able to watch a revolution unfold.
Hanna Kuyper is a wife, a mom and a lover of all things outdoors. She has owned a women only wellness studio, sat on the board of a non profit dedicated to eating disorder and body image awareness and has volunteered as a mentor for girls in school. Hanna has a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in eating disorders and body image. She is a currently a virtual body image and recovery coach at The Eating Disorder Center.