Written by Doctor G

How to Diet and Not Harm My Kids

Blissdom 02-2My friend and I are really worried about dieting in front of our girls. We don’t use the word, and we say we are trying to be “healthier”, but we are really worried about giving the girls a complex about their body size and damaging their relationship with food. What can we do to teach them to be healthy without damaging them?

Jodi & Jennifer, Mom and Mommer

Jennifer, be encouraged. You and your friend have an opportunity here to teach your daughters a lot about health. What matters most is the words you use, and not only when you’re around your kids.

If your family decided to be more financially careful, or to take up a new hobby, you’d talk about it, right? So it’s totally natural to talk about your focus on health – good nutrition and physical activity.

1. Keep your own body image words as neutral as you can. Don’t pretend overweight doesn’t exist (then kids will see right through us), but talk about being more fit, exercising more, increasing stamina, playing longer instead of losing weight. Speak about your own body as though you were speaking about your good friend’s body! Then you are sure to be more kind and careful. Remember that your kids will absorb your attitudes and turn them inward.

2. Talk about what you are eating, not what you aren’t. This helps kids focus on the importance of deciding which foods to eat. Also it helps kids learn about health without focus on avoidance. Any sentence that starts with “I’m NOT eating…” leads to the idea that healthy eating is less eating.

3. Follow the suggestions I lay out here, to make sure that you are giving your kids the healthiest patterns you can. Even if your child isn’t overweight, these are evidence-based guidelines that will help you prevent overweight and obesity issues in the future.

As parents, we often wonder what messages we are sending, or inner turmoil we are creating. The best way to find out? Ask! “What do you think about my new focus on healthy eating and exercise?” If you are really worried about her body image, you can ask. “Do you think you are too thin, too fat, or just about right?” Her answer will give you great information about what she believes. If her self-image and reality are not in sync, talk to her about it, and talk to her doctor about it too. When you ask such a question you let her know that she can talk to you about anything, and you understand better how to guide her.

The best thing you can do for your kids is to model a healthy lifestyle, surrounded by open communication. Getting healthy is not only for you, it’s for your family as well. Best of luck to you!


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7 thoughts on “How to Diet and Not Harm My Kids”

  1. Thank you so, so much for answering my question. Some of this we are doing, but I know that I can improve on other areas. Especially the part about talking about myself like I would my best friend. That is great advice.

  2. Incredibly awesome post! I think it is a fine line to walk, but it is so important to teach our children to both be healthy and have a positive body image. I think the key is to definitely not deprecate our own bodies. Our kids think we’re beautiful so we should too – whatever size we are!

    1. Laura, I think you’ve hit on such an important idea – to let our kids love us and our bodies without disagreement, even in our heads! Take the love and let us fill up our hungry hearts!

  3. Great advice, as usual! One of the twins came in while I was changing one day and said, “Look at your squishy tummy! It’s so beautiful!” I just had to laugh at her innocence. 🙂

    1. Leigh Ann, and that squishiness is a living reminder of our kids – if we can just think of it that way!!

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