Hi, I’m Anna. I’m a registered dietitian in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I’m a HER Health Collective expert. I am going to talk today about five ways to keep diet culture out of parenting. Real briefly, what is diet culture? Diet culture is the belief that eating a certain way is more superior than eating other ways. That certain bodies, particularly smaller bodies are more superior than other bodies. It’s a harmful way of thinking and it’s a harmful culture that really penetrates…everything, all of our culture, but particularly parenting. We can pass on these harmful beliefs to our children. And so it’s really become commonplace. We have to be, I would say, active thinking about, “How can I parent in a way that doesn’t include diet culture?”
So the first way to keep diet culture out of your parenting, would be to think about how you talk about your own body and really focus on talking positively about your body in front of your children. Talking about what your body does, rather than what it looks like. We really are modeling how adults talk about bodies, when we talk about bodies in front of our children, and they’re learning and they’re soaking that up.
Second thing is to consider how you talk about food. Do you talk about food and moralistic ways that this food is good or bad, or that you’ve been good or bad by eating certain foods, that’s really a product of diet culture. So instead of focusing on our body, focus on what food looks like, what it tastes like, memories about food. You know, food is used in celebrations, it brings back memories from our past, and really trying to take away that moralistic way that’s so common about talking about food as good and bad.
The other thing to think about is the food you offer to your children, that diet culture can have a big influence on how and what we feed our children. This recently came up for me. We were having fried okra. Okra was something we had been serving our kids this summer roasted. And then one evening, we decided to fry it. And my six year old loved it and ate it up. I thought for a second, you know, if I really am always trying to kind of the most “healthy” thing, then children may not accept food in that way, but serving it in all different ways, whether that’s fried, whether that’s with certain kind of dressings, or dips, we can think of other ways, children may be more apt to accept that food in these different ways than they are in a way that’s the most “healthy.” So I challenge you to think about what is true health, and offer our children all different foods. Helping them to expand their variety of foods is a way for them to eat in a way that fuels their body and to learn to eat all different foods. And so that’s something to consider, “Is diet culture really influencing how, or what, you’re feeding your children?”
Learning to understand how bodies change and teaching that to our children is another way to keep diet culture out of parenting. Children’s bodies change. Adult’s bodies change, this is common. Really understanding during puberty, that children’s bodies go through a very rapid weight gain and that’s a positive thing. It means that their body is changing as it should be. Their bodies are developing and that’s how it should be. If we can understand that normal change happens and teach that to our children, rather than teaching them to fear weight gain, that can be huge for them, because it can be a scary and confusing time. Really understanding puberty, our bodies, how bodies change is a way to keep diet culture out of parenting.
And lastly, when you think about your child’s food or how you feed your family, consider what can we add in rather than what are we going to take away. Diet culture wants us to shrink ourselves, wants us to shrink what we eat and restrict what we eat. Instead, if we can think about expanding, so if you’re thinking, “Wow, I really wish my kids ate more of this, or I really wish we ate more of this,” instead of saying, “Well, we’re not getting these foods.” Think about what you can add in. Do you want to try to cook one more night a week? Or do you want to try to make sure each evening you have a fruit and vegetable at dinner? So really thinking about adding in really keeps diet culture out of parenting.
We talked about five things. We talked about how we talk about our own bodies is important. We talked about how we talk about food, not using talking about food and moralistic ways. We talked about the food we offer to our children to not let diet culture dictate how we feed our children because really, they’re more likely to accept food if we offer it in a variety of ways. We talked about understanding and teaching our children that bodies change and understanding how they change, celebrating weight gain, so they’re not fearful of it. And then lastly, thinking about what we can add into our children’s food? What can we add into the way that we feed our children rather than what can we restrict or what can we take away? I hope that was helpful. We’d love to hear in the comments what you think. And let’s keep fighting the good fight of keeping diet culture out of parenting. Thanks so much.
Anna Lutz is a Registered Dietitian with Lutz, Alexander & Associates Nutrition Therapy and specializes in eating disorders and pediatric/family nutrition. Anna practices from a Health at Every Size® approach and supports individuals in breaking free of diet culture for themselves and their families. Anna is a national speaker and delivers workshops and presentations on childhood feeding, eating disorders, and weight-inclusive healthcare. Anna writes about nutrition, cooking, and family feeding, free of diet culture, at Sunny Side Up Nutrition. She is the mom of 3 very different eaters.
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