Consider, for a moment, that your relationship with food is just as important as the decisions you make when consuming food. Along with that truth, how we learn about nutrition and health as children impacts our relationship with food and our body throughout our lifetime.
Studies have shown that the way parents (moms in particular) speak about weight, body size and food can increase the risk for unhealthy attitudes and behaviors related to food in children. This is not to place blame or point fingers; these are messages we’ve learned from diet culture.
In a Business Wire report in February 2019, the weight-loss and diet industry are worth $72 billion, a powerhouse of products and messages telling us how we can do better and look better. Childhood through adolescence is a critical time in foundational health—bone development, generalized growth, puberty and brain development are not to be overlooked. During this same time, the environment, influences, behaviors and routines associated with nourishing your body; exploring food pleasure; and autonomous food decision-making are also being established.
Let us, for a moment, look at the word “unhealthy,” not in the context of food choices and portions, but with consideration to profound differences in individual food needs, preferences, body sizes and overall food access/availability. We must also address the mental health burden that accompanies the painful efforts that come with being in a smaller body; efforts such as restricted energy intake (hunger) and reduced food enjoyment, both of which fuel feelings of deprivation and dissatisfaction.
Food dynamics (what we eat, when we eat, where we eat, how much we eat, etc.) are much more nuanced and complicated than most of the messages we see in the media. Messages that are loudly taunted by diet culture might include:
“Smaller is better.”
“You’re eating too many carbs.”
“You can be in charge of your body size, so try harder.”
“You just haven’t found the right diet yet.”
Feeling as though you are not good enough feeds poor self-esteem and can develop into long-term insecurities that arise during key childhood and adolescent years.
By // Megan A. Kniskern MS, RD, LD/N, CEDRD-S
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