If you have ever been through body image distress, or seen it in others, you probably want to create an environment that encourages your children to have confidence in themselves, and eat food without the hang-ups. Here a few quick tips to help nurture and nourish you family in a positive way:-

  1. Eat healthy meals together and have healthy foods and snacks available, but do not ban or make a big deal about eating less nourishing items from time to time, be it part of a birthday party or a random Wednesday afternoon snack. Eating a wide range of food, can be a part of normal balanced eating, regardless of your child’s weight.
  2. Eat family meals at table together at least once a day. This can be a great time to model normal eating, and discuss the ups and downs of the day.
  3. Compliment and encourage your kids for trying hard at activities, rather than just praising achievements.  
  4. Discourage compliments that are just about looks, e.g. Grandma says “she is so beautiful”, you add another quality, “and brave, you should have seen it when…”
  5. If you hear others making weight-based judgements in front of your kids (be it positive or negative), pull them up on it, or reframe the conversation away from weight, or discuss it with your older child at a later time. E.g. overheard “That (insert name) always looks (XYZ)”, you say “I don’t really care about her weight, I love how she (insert positive non -weight related comment here).
  6. Do not allow weight-based teasing or bullying in your house.  
  7. If your child is subject to weight-based teasing or bullying, work out a strategy together to help stop the bullying, talk to them about how they feel, and remind them of the truth i.e. that a person’s weight does not matter, there are so many other qualities in them and others that are way more important. And that usually bullies are feeling insecure themselves and just want to bring others down to make themselves feel better.  
  8. If you are a Christian family, talk to your child in an age-appropriate way about who they are to God, their inherent value and worth as a child of God, and how God see’s the heart of each individual, regardless of outward appearances.  Remind yourself of this as well!
  9. Try not to talk about weight, or size or dieting to lose weight in front of your children. – Discourage family and close family friends away from these discussions as well.
  10. But what if you are dieting, you ask? Well, if you really must diet for one reason or another, and your children notice and comment, just say you are working with your doctor on a plan to help you with a specific health problem. Do not bring weight into the picture, and explain to them that healthy eating for kids is different than for people with this health problem.
  11. Talk to your child about their feelings, and help them come up with ways to deal with overwhelming feelings without turning to food.   
  12. Talk to your older tween/ teen about the way media portrays (or does not portray) bodies of different sizes, colours, ages, gender, disabilities etc and discuss ways or examples that challenge any negative stereotypes.
  13. Talk to your older tween/ teen about social media images, and discuss the differences between real life and staged/ edited / filtered images on social media.
  14. Limit screen time in a way that works for your family.
  15. Be physically active together as a family.
  16. If your child has a weight problem, consider getting expert advice from your paediatric dietitian, without your child present in the first instance. That way we can assess all the behaviours and factors contributing, talk frankly about all the issues, and help you find ways to improve the food environment and daily routines, without causing them undue stress. As we progress through treatment, we may bring them into it, but often at first making some simple changes at home without too much fuss is a good starting point.  
  17. If you are worried your child has or is developing an eating disorder, get an assessment from your GP or paediatrician and seek a referral to a psychologist and dietitian experienced in this area
  18. Give yourself a pat on the back for reading this far- you must really love your kids