Too often we can become convinced that teaching children to eat well is about following a prescribed plan of what to eat and what not to eat. After many years of helping people overcome problems with eating, I have seen the importance of having a healthy, balanced relationship with food, the same way you would have a healthy, balanced relationship with a person. If someone needed to follow a long list of rules in order to be in a relationship with you, it may not be a very satisfying relationship. Most likely, it would induce a lot of anxiety. Here are a few considerations for teaching your child to have a healthy relationship with food.
- Practice Ellyn Satter’s “division of responsibility.” Your job is to provide structure around meals and snacks. You choose what and when your child eats. Your child chooses if and how much she or he eats. Let them learn to trust what their body is telling them.
- Emphasize concepts of variety and balance rather than talking about certain food items as “good/bad” or “healthy/unhealthy.” Categorizing food often leads to shame when certain food is consumed, and shame interferes with having a healthy relationship.
- Encourage an internal awareness of hunger and fullness rather than an external preoccupation with calories or a prescribed set of rules around food.
I am hopeful that if you implement these suggestions that your child will be on his or her way to a healthy relationship with food- a great gift you can give that will prevent a lot of stress and anxiety in years to come!
For more information, visit Ellyn Satter’s site: http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/