Does Body-Hate Motivate?

This is shocking…                                                                                                                                      war

  • 9 out of 10 American women are unhappy with their body
  • 81% of 10 year old girls in the US are afraid of getting fat

What in the world is going on here? We grown-ups have struggled for years and now our children and grandchildren are struggling too. It’s time for a big cultural change. Let’s start by doing a little myth-busting…

BIG MYTH: I will love my body (and myself) after I lose weight.

Please listen to Kay Arnold, respected therapist with decades of experience: “I have counseled slender, drop-dead-gorgeous teens; lovely, healthy young adults; attractive inside and out middle-aged women and men. The most common verbal thread has been ‘I hate my body . . . I hate how I look.’ I have concluded there is not a size that makes someone love him or herself. It is a choice to love your body as you are, as you continue to move through life’s phases.”

Let this sink in. This myth has it backward. Choosing to love your body now must come first.

BIG TRUTH: Loving your body now is what frees you to discover and sustain a lifestyle that will bring the health and comfortable weight you want.

When you begin to do the work of accepting, and eventually treasuring, your body you will naturally begin to take good care of it. In the process you’ll discover the best way to live in your body – which, by the way, is not a one-size-fits-all answer. Respecting your body — flaws and all — opens the door for real change.

BIG MYTH: Shame is a motivator.

Allowing harsh self-criticism, tolerating feelings of chronic dissatisfaction or even disgust, rehearsing the same old mantra of “I hate my thighs, belly, arms…fill in your blank” is dangerous. It drains your energy, crushes your spirit, diminishes your confidence, robs your joy, side-tracks you with endless dieting, and can create a road block to true intimacy.

Self-criticism weakens you as a human being.

No one can shame themselves into real change. If berating our bodies helped we would’ve been thin a long time ago.

And then there’s BODY CHEMISTRY: Chronic negative thinking releases cortisol, a stress hormone, which can literally make you sick over time…not to mention, gain weight. Tolerating body-hatred is toxic.

BIG TRUTH: Love is the most powerful change-agent on the planet.

At its core, changing a lifestyle (which is what it takes to change your body) is about loving yourself enough to care deeply. You will not have the emotional rigor, the personal power, or the resilience to change a body you don’t value.

HOW’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR BODY?

Think about what relationship means. What words do you use when describing your best relationships?

Connection, love, enjoyment, trust, “at-home-ness”, understanding, wanting each others highest good

Now, what would happen if you began to nurture that kind of relationship with your body? What if you sincerely befriended her or him?

What if the two of you started hanging out – just because you enjoy each other. Speaking kindly. Listening attentively. What if you went on walks together, shared lovely thoughtfully-chosen meals, made sure you got enough rest. What if you trusted each other to figure things out? What if you were careful with your inner dialogue – being sure to build up and not tear down?

This is how the revolution begins! Each of us doing the noble work of learning how to love our bodies again – appreciating the unique human form that we’re born with – our own particular one-of-a-kind gene combo.

REALITY CHECK: Of course this doesn’t mean you have to crazy-love every inch of your body. It does mean you begin to cultivate an authentic loving partnership with your one body. That body was with you before your first breath, and will be with you at your last. That body is your constant companion and deserves your tender affection.

So, how are we going to jump start this personal reformation?

Here are a few strategies that can get us started. Pick a few and start to feel the love:

  • GET SOME BODY WOW:  Notice and be amazed at all the incredible things your body does for you—seeing, strolling, hearing, breathing, laughing, sleeping, thinking, dreaming, hugging…
  • TOP 10 LIST: Start a list of things you like about yourself—things that aren’t related to how much you weigh. Keep it where you can read it often. Add to it as you realize more things.
  • TAKE BACK BEAUTY: Do not let pop culture or marketers tell you what beauty looks like. Carry yourself with confidence, self-acceptance, openness and your own personal style and grace.
  • SEE THE WHOLE PICTURE: View yourself as a whole person. When you see yourself in a mirror or in your mind, choose not to focus on specific body parts. See yourself as you are and as you want others to see you – mind, soul, spirit and body.
  • BUY FUN CLOTHES NOW – Don’t wait to enjoy getting dressed until “after I lose this weight”. Wear clothes that make you feel good now.
  • NURTURE YOUR BODY-FRIENDSHIP: Do something refreshing for yourself regularly— take a relaxing stroll, enjoy a bubble bath, get a massage. When you do this be aware of the benefits you feel afterwards.
  • BANISH THE CRITICAL JUDGE: Catch and shut down the negative voices in your head. Have some positive and true statements, quotes, music or Scripture ready. Don’t leave a vacuum – replace those negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • EMBRACE YOUR GENES: We all inherit traits from our fore-mothers and fathers. Celebrate and enjoy your unique family tree and the part you play in it.
  • REWRITE YOUR LEGACY – Doing the work of healing your relationship with your body is important work. Children naturally tend to pick up, and adopt, the way we see ourselves.

Your relationship to your body is ever changing because you are ever changing – so -this is a great time to begin to change in a positive direction. What you believe about your body powerfully influences your behaviors, your family, your contentment, and your health.

A cultural change is needed and is possible; it starts right here, right now with you and with me. No matter how you may feel about your body, you can lay down your weapons of condemnation, take a deep breath and decide to step into the joy of living fully and freely in the only body you will ever have.

And if you aren’t sure where to start, please give me a shout. I’m on your team even now.

Helping Kids Build a Healthy Food-Life – Part 3: At the Table

Helping our children navigate this food thing can feel overwhelming! Our own food and body issues kid 1can get in the way as we try to help them feel positive toward their body and intuitive toward their food.

Take a deep breath, give yourself and your family a lot of grace, and let’s take a look at some solid principles we can lean on…

I. KNOW WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT:

    Grownups are responsible for:

  • What foods are offered
  • When foods are offered
  • Where foods are offered

    Children are responsible for:

  • What they choose to eat (from what you offer)
  • If they will eat
  • How much they eat
  • When they’re satisfied

This can feel too “soft” if you grew up with parents who controlled your eating, but we now know that an authoritarian approach to food doesn’t work well.

II. MAKE THE TABLE A PLACE YOUR KIDS WANT TO BE 

Making time for some regular family meals is truly worth the effort.

Here are a few ideas to try on for size:

  • Make the table a TECH FREE ZONE
  • Keep the mood and conversation positive and relaxed
  • Create an idea jar – draw out interesting or funny topics and questions to discuss
  • Put a world map on the table under a sheet of clear plastic and talk about new places
  • Best Thing – Everyone gets to share the best part of their day so far and why
  • Good News – Everyone gets to share funny or kind things you’ve seen lately
  • Follow the Food – Make a game out of tracing back how that sweet potato got to your table: Mom served it, Dad cooked it, we got it at the grocery store, the cashier…the grocer…the truck driver…the harvester…the farmer…the seed…the sun…the rain…WOW!!!

III. CHECK HOW YOU TALK ABOUT FOOD & NUTRITION:

DON’T CATEGORIZE FOOD: Try not to talk about food as “good” or “bad”, “healthy” or “unhealthy”, “fattening” or “non-fattening”. These categories can unwittingly make certain foods more emotionally charged than others. I know this can seem counter-intuitive but calling a food “unhealthy” can make a child feel guilty for wanting it or choosing it – even if the child is eating it reasonably. This can put them on a path toward disordered eating.

DON’T MAKE FOOD RULES: Make nutrition about taking good care of yourself and about feeling great – not about obeying food rules. Rules are eventually broken and cause us to feel shame, be tempted to eat in secret, and/or binge.

As nutrition comes up, you might talk about how some foods are “POWER fuel” and some are just for fun; this can help children understand that some foods are better eaten in smaller quantities and less often.

Take a fun, curious approach toward nutrition. Invite your kids into discovering more about food/fuel with you. Be sure not to talk about food in an anxious, authoritative or perfectionistic way. Bring it up in a way that makes your children want to hear more.

Remember, if you hound them or shame them they will not want your message – no matter how good it is.

IV. BEST FOOD PLAN – MAKE WHOLE FOODS EASY & YUMMY

Our best plan of action as parents and grandparents is to have high quality fuel readily available. Have fresh vegetables, grainy crackers, cheese, nuts, fruit, etc. washed, cut up, easy to grab from the pantry or frig. Let them see you enjoying these foods – and also – not acting like the occasional cookie is a shameful act.

You can cut back on nutrient-poor foods over time, being sure to put yummy whole food choices in their place. The trick is for the adults to be pleasant and not pushy about changes.

Note: Remember all kids are not alike. Some children will naturally eat reasonably, and others will lean toward overdoing it. Some won’t care about sweets at all, and others will have a built in sugar radar. Having nutritious, delicious food available will be a huge help for those of us high on the treat susceptibility scale!

QUICK SATISFYING BREAKFAST IDEAS

Model mindfulness. Encourage kids to listen to their body. As always, leading by example works best. You might say something like, “Our bodies are brilliant! And they’re talking to us all the time. Our bodies tell us when we’re thirsty, hungry, sleepy, or need to go play…” Help them think of their body as their own personal ally. It’s built to keep them running at peak performance.

Invite your kids to tune into what their stomach is saying. Occasionally you can ask if their stomach feels empty or “growly” or if their stomach feels full. Talk about how yours feels too.

V.  INVOLVE KIDS IN THE PROCESS:

  • They can help you write out the week’s menu, go to the grocery store and put groceries away. This involves them in picking the foods they would like to have in the house.
  • They can make their own lunch, set the table and do some cooking.
  • Talk about how human bodies need certain nutrients and vitamins to grow strong. It’s not a matter of “good” or “bad”. It’s a matter of what works well and what doesn’t…just like your car runs best on high quality fuel.
  • When introducing new food, serve a small amount along with more familiar foods. Offer, but don’t force. Introduce a new food five or six times over a few weeks. The more exposure children have to a food, the more familiar it becomes and the more likely they will be to try it.
  • Respect their refusal to eat it. No one wins when we make food a control issue.

STOP WORRYING:  Children don’t necessarily eat the same amount everyday. It‘s normal for a child to ask for second helpings one day, and then eat almost nothing the next.

BIG NO NO’S:

  • Don’t offer bribes or rewards for eating certain foods – like vegetables. This only reinforces that some foods are yucky and others are special.
  • Don’t use food as a reward. Hugs, kind words or a trip to the park are all good choices.
  • Don’t use food to silence tantrums or tears. Comforting kids with food sets up an unhealthy food attachment. Use words, kindness and a reassuring touch.
  • Don’t use adult-sized plates for pint-sized kids. Use kid-sized plates, utensils and cups. Over-served children eat more and take bigger bites.
  • Completely restricting certain foods is a bad idea. This makes that “bad” food more special by virtue of being forbidden, and can lead to sneaking and shame, which can lead the way toward disordered eating.
  • Don’t say “clean your plate” or “just eat 3 more bites”. This teaches children to disregard their body’s natural messages of hunger and fullness and leads to overeating.

BIG YES: Dear parents, trust yourself to find your way through. You will. No one does it perfectly and no one has to. If you find you would like some help, I’m all yours.

You are learning, growing and figuring things out just like your children are; feel free to let them know you’re learning too. Discovering how to live well with the good gift of food can be a family adventure!

Pick a few things you can do this week and start moving forward. The rest will take care of itself.

Helping Kids Build A Healthy Food-Life Part 2: Body Image

kidsHow do we help our children navigate the image-saturated, skinny-worshiping, body-perfect culture we find ourselves in?

In Part 1, we looked at helping our kids build a sound relationship with food. Now let’s look at a few ways we can help them develop a healthy relationship with their bodies. These two – food and body – are inextricably connected.

Media Madness: By the age of 17 the average child has received over 2 million commercial messages telling her how she’s supposed to look and live, and the models in these ads are 23% thinner than us “average” women.

Lucky for us, involved parents still have the most influence.

YOUR WORDS ARE POWERFUL:

I. Talk about qualities that have nothing to do with appearance.

It’s easy to be saying more about being pretty, little, big, tall, cute, etc. than we realize. With a little thought we can move our daily conversations more in the direction of inner qualities. For example:

“Great job working so hard at your math. I know that wasn’t easy, and you saw it through.”

“I heard the kids gossiping today, and you didn’t join in. I really admire that.”

Our culture will lead them to focus on their appearance. The more we shine a light on their true personhood, the more likely they are to value their inner strengths.

II. Use the media as an avenue to discuss body image and beauty.

Blocking all media isn’t realistic but we can help our kids interpret the messages they see and hear.

Ask questions about what they think is real and not real in the media they watch. Listen well. Over time help them understand what advertising is and how it works. Show them how images can be manipulated. Help them think for themselves.

Rich conversation can help our children understand that bodies in the real world are more diverse and unique than those portrayed in media. Talk about the beauty of differences. Children learn to appreciate and value what we appreciate and value. Help them see that beauty comes in all colors, shapes, sizes, and ages and that all human beings are intrinsically valuable.

III. Listen, Sympathize & Share

If your daughter is unhappy with her body, listen to her concerns, acknowledge her feelings, and let her know if you’ve wrestled with those feelings too. You might say something like “When I was growing up I was always self-conscious about my arms; I thought they were too big. Now I’m realizing that these arms let me hug you, and wrestle with Daddy and plant our wonderful garden. This body of mine is one of my dearest gifts!”

As your children get older you can have honest conversations about your own struggles, and that even now, you don’t have all the answers, and that’s ok. You can let them know that wanting to be thin or beautiful can feel very important to any of us, but that it’s even more important not to let these desires take over or get in the way of being who you want to be, or doing what you want to do.

IV. Teasing, or allowing teasing, about appearance is off limits.

Do not tease a child about their body, any body part, their weight, or their appearance in any way. Just don’t. We now know that even commenting on weight can set our kids up for body dissatisfaction later.

Click here for more…

V. Stop using the F word.

Stop saying: “She’s fat” or “Look at all these fat people.” These statements are not helpful or kind, and they give our children the go-ahead to judge, and possibly feel judged themselves.

I am not saying that we should pretend being overweight isn’t real – I am saying that judging or disparaging people is harmful.

VI. Curb your conversation.

If we are stuck in body-preoccupation-mode our daily conversations and attitudes will pass on to the next generation by default. Complaining about looking fat when you try on clothes sends a strong negative message. On the other hand, when you say things like “I feel stronger since I’ve been walking – and that feels really good” you are sending a positive message.

This extends to food as well. Saying “This ice cream is going straight to my hips” sends alarming messages about food and body. Saying something like “Sharing this ice cream with you reminds me of a fun childhood memory. We used to churn home ice cream on the porch at MawMaw’s and…” This makes an occasional sweet treat a simple and neutral gift.

YOUR EXAMPLE IS POWERFUL:

I. Become an honest role model for having a healthy body image.

Our children are soaking up how we view the world and ourselves in it. Those of us who struggle with our own negative body image may find this challenging, but it’s important to be aware of the language and phrases we choose to use. It’s essential that we find the strength and the help we need to stop making negative comments about our own bodies. Modelling respect and compassion for yourself, not just for everybody else, is powerful indeed.

II. Daddy plays a big part too.

Girls need to hear sincere, appropriate and positive feedback from their fathers. What they hear their dads say about their mothers, and women in general, is just as influential. Click here for more…

III. Set your kids up to feel comfortable and able in their body.

Helping your kids find physical activities they love is another huge life-gift we can give, and leading by example is by far the most powerful tool you have. Please know this doesn’t need to be about being athletic; this is about the pleasure of living in a body. Gardening, fishing, rope jumping, skipping, sailing, swinging, hiking, trampolining, biking, tree climbing, hop scotching, dancing, prancing…the fun-stuff list is endless!

Help them make the connection that the stamina and agility that comes from being active feels good. The emphasis is on feeling joyfully embodied – not on being thin. Help them recognize the thrill of vibrant health, rather than in chasing the illusion of a “perfect body”.

Becoming physically active and playful is almost magic. It’s a mood-lifter, a stress reducer, a memory maker, and it sets us and our children up for a robust life, inside and out.

WHAT ABOUT US?

We cannot give our children what we ourselves do not possess.

Research and experience teach us that if a mother feels negatively toward her body, it will probably pass on to her daughter. As a 30 year disordered eater and the mother of 2 grown daughters and one granddaughter, this gives me pause.

Passing on the legacy of appreciation for and enjoyment of our body, at every age, size and stage, is one of the most valuable gifts we can give those we love.

If you don’t have a peaceful relationship with your body, reading this can feel disheartening, but the good news is that your outrageous love for your children can become the impetus for finally getting the help you’ve been worthy of all along.

There is a sane way through – and it won’t be another diet.

If you want to make changes, there’s a path for you. Give me a call at 615-330-8884 or email me at cindy@theliberatedeater.com and together we will find effective steps that fit you, your life and your situation.

This struggle can be the very door through which you – and your children – find a deeper joy of living in your bodies than you have ever known.

 

Next week: Part 3    Making the Most of Family Meal Time

 

Helping Kids Build a Healthy Food-Life Part 1: Our Words

nomGOOD GRIEF…this parenting thing can be daunting! Our fore-parents worried about protecting their kids from starvation, small pox and hungry bears. Today we’re concerned with protecting them from eating disorders, media addiction, weight and body image struggles, to name a few.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring some ways to help our kids (and maybe even ourselves) grow into a healthy, balanced relationship with food and body.

When Bob and I began our parenting adventure back in 1984, our first pediatrician was the remarkable Dr. Denmark, who helped kids and parents grow up until she was 103 years old. She told us something invaluable…

“Don’t make eating, sleeping or toilet training into control issues

between you and your child.

Both of you will lose.”

With this good advice in mind let’s look at how we might best help our children grow into mindful, intuitive, reasonably balanced adults. By the way, if your kids are grown and you wish you had a do-over in the food area, please know that an honest conversation around what you wish you’d known then can open all kinds of wonderful conversation and healing now.

Our goal is to help the kids we love grow up without food and weight becoming a big hairy deal. This can be tough in a culture that is food and weight focused, not to mention perpetually busy and distracting.

FAMILY PATTERNS: We tend to say and do what our parents said and did, even though our food culture has changed dramatically since the Great Depression. We are over-served rather than under-served now. We often order-out rather than hunt and plant. What worked then is not working now.

Let’s look at a few things we can say, or stop saying, that will help:

Stop saying “Clean your plate” or “Just eat 5 more bites”

This causes children to stop listening to their innate hungry and satisfied cues – which are the most accurate indicators of when and how much your child needs to eat. Babies do this perfectly and we do well not to talk them out of it. Also, please don’t mention the starving children around the world – this attaches guilt to eating.

  • Start saying things like:
    “You’re done? Ok, you can save the rest for later. If you get hungry it’ll be in the frig.”
    “You’re done? Ok, time to play!”
    “Ok Love. Please take your plate to the kitchen.”

Stop saying things like “Eat your vegetables before you get dessert”

This glorifies dessert. Vegetables seem like something yucky to be endured before the glorious sweet prize.

  • Start saying something like:

“I love trying new food – it’s like going on an adventure!”
“What’s your favorite nut/fruit/vegetable right now?”
“When I was your age I didn’t like that either; did you know that our taste buds grow up as we grow up – that’s pretty cool.”
“Hey, did you know these carrots give me supermom powers?”

FOOD-FUN IDEA – Make a SUPER-FOOD POSTER: You and/or your kids can make a poster of Super Foods to hang in the kitchen. Let them add to it as they find out about new super-foods. Talk about the “super powers” these food have and make it a family adventure to try a new one each week. This makes nutrition fun, relaxed and not about being good or bad, right or wrong. Make sure, as you try new foods together, that everyone is safe and free to have their own likes and dislikes.

Stop saying things like “You’re a big eater” (or picky, sloppy, etc.)

It isn’t helpful to label your child’s eating behavior. Remember, we want to help food be a safe subject in our homes. Calling someone a picky eater can have an undertone of shame.

  • The less we say – and the more we lead – by being relaxed examples of intuitive, mindful eating ourselves, the better.

Stop calling food “good” or “bad”, fattening or non-fattening.

I know this can be tough if you’re concerned about your child’s weight – but please understand: making food “good” or “bad” leads to unhealthy extremes and disordered eating. We tend to eat all or none of the foods we view in this way, and feel deprived or guilty in the process. We eat none when we’re being “good” and we eat a ton when we’re “bad”. This view of food encourages binge eating, sneaking food,  and makes food emotionally charged.

A few statements to try on for size:

These are just starters; you will think of your own…

  • I love being with y’all at this table – this is one of my favorite places on the planet!
  • Wow, thank you for washing up all our fruit – it looks so pretty in the bowl!
  • Hey Gang, let’s make good use of our food budget. Remember to check in and find out how hungry you are before you serve your plate. [Be careful NOT to make them feel they must clean their plate. The goal here is mindfulness – not food monitoring.]

BIG PICTURE: As parents and grandparents we will help our children most by relaxing about food, trusting and honoring our own bodies, having nutritious and delicious foods easily available, ascribing no guilt or shame to eating occasional treats, and by helping our kiddos stay life-focused (children are born this way so we can learn from them on this score) and not become weight or food focused.

Let’s begin to retrain ourselves to think and speak in ways that help us and our families be well fueled for LIFE!

Please let us know your biggest child/food concerns in a comment below and I’ll be sure to touch on them in the weeks ahead…