“I’ve been dieting since I was 8,” said my new weight loss client. She is now 50-something. “The doctor looked at a chart and told me I was on the high end of normal, but with a little luck I might grow into my weight. I remember feeling like something was wrong with me.”
Sadly, this is a familiar story. Sometimes it is a well-intentioned doctor, sometimes a loving parent, but the effects are often long-lasting and life-changing. Imagine what it would feel like to be the only one in the family not allowed to eat pizza (true story). How would you feel if your parent compared your body to your sister’s? (another true story).
Kids often grow through various stages with varying levels of body fat before they reach their full adult size. Left alone to listen to their needs, and given an assortment of reasonably healthy food and activity, they are not likely to develop disordered eating patterns.
Once the weight judgments start, however, body image starts to plummet, and eating can become an emotional refuge. Parental “help” in the form of diet advice, often fueled by their own personal weight issues, only tends to push children away from natural patterns of healthy eating. Food can become a battle, with “winning” often playing out as sneak eating.
I know most parents and medical professionals mean well, but the dieting mentality still lives on. The trend toward a more mindful, compassionate approach to managing weight is still new, but it is based on science and it is building momentum. Let’s all raise our awareness of the need for a non-diet approach, starting at home with ourselves and our children.