Body Image and Parenting


One thing I realize when I start getting real excited about food and eating is how differently we all view eating.

I think of food and I think of great tastes, of sitting back and feeling fat after someone has done the work for you. I think of how you can know when you ate faster than you should have, of meals mixed with conversation, and new cuisines- all of these things get me real excited about food.

Often though food is thought of much differently in our society and culture. We’re taught to deprive ourselves for seasons and for different reasons. We use it as a punishment and as a reward, we know just how much we’re ‘allowed’ to consume and how much will make us feel guilty or bring on judgement.

I’ve been blessed with good genes and a fast metabolism. When friends, generally grumpy on diets, ask me why I never get fat I chalk it up to that. However, and more importantly I believe, I was also blessed with parents who set a tone of healthy eating and healthy body image.

Neither of my parents ever remarked on my weight or size. Neither of them discussed their own weight or diets with me. Instead they lived by example.  My mom walked every morning with our neighbor and my dad played basketball with coworkers. I think my mom did diet (I especially remember a time when there was a lot of cabbage soup in our house, I didn’t mind cause it tasted pretty good), but it was never really talked about. When I think back, I don’t ever remember seeing either of my parents on the scale in our bathroom. We had one (I know because I would mess around with the little arrows all the time), but it seemed like a forgotten relic more than a daily ritual.

I have friends who watched their parents fluctuate in weight and obsess over diets and portion sizes. Now their children are struggling with the same thing. Instead of seeing food as a source of nourishment and daily sustenance, they often see it more as a daily struggle and a war.

Our peers will always pressure us to see our bodies in certain ways or to judge ourselves, and there are plenty of outside influences that tell us how and when to diet and how much we should change. It seems important to note that parents have a unique advantage in being the first and most influential person in a child’s life. Think about that the next time you step on the scale and groan or the next time you swear off bread or cheese or sugar. Teach your child to be healthy  by preparing food that you know you should eat with them… and then by eating it with them.

It’s true that I don’t have children, and I want to be clear that I don’t know how to parent. I know though that I’m very thankful deprivation was never preached in our home, but moderation was.

What do your children think about when they think about food? What do you think about, as a child of your parents, when you think about food?

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