This one’s hard you guys. There are so many factors at play here and so many ways to parent. We’re all doing the best we can and I just want you to know I am on your team.
To start this post today I’m sharing some startling statistics that show WHY this conversation is even important in the first place.
•80% of 10 year olds have been on a diet.
•95% of diets fail and most regain all or MORE of the weight they lost.
•75% of females endorsed unhealthy thoughts or behaviors around food.
•35% of occasional dieters progress into diagnosed disordered eating.
•40% of newly diagnosed anorexia cases are girls between the ages of 15-19.
• For females between 15 – 24 who suffer from anorexia, the mortality rate associated with the illness is 12x higher than the death rate of ALL other causes of death.
Now I’m asking you to think about where children and teens get the idea that the restriction of certain foods is a necessary tool for health. Of course from the media, school conversations and general diet culture influences, but have you considered the message you’re sending at home? I’m asking you today to think about it in the context of your sugar “policy”. In our house, and because of these statistics, our main goal in raising our children to be healthy is to help them develop a positive relationship with food and a positive body image. We cannot protect our children from being exposed to diet culture or certain foods (unless they’re allergic or have serious health conditions, of course). What we can do is help equip them with the tools of resilience from these startling statistics and the inevitable exposure to what we’re trying to protect them from (cough, cough, sugar). This starts with empowering them to readily hear their body’s signals and act on them in a way that is positive and healthy. To let them know that they can assert autonomy over their decisions without falling into restrictive/controlling behavior. To teach them to trust themselves and all food. When we control their food choices, we’re removing valuable learning opportunities that happen daily and add up to a strong, healthy relationship for life. These lessons must be learned, and the longer you shelter your child from making them on their own, the more opportunities diet culture has to beat them to it. You can, however, still influence a healthy diet by encouraging conversations around food and creating valuable food rituals within your home and family.
— I’m sharing a real life anecdote to why allowing your child to eat sugar intuitively may surprise you over on my Instagram homepage under Sugar + Kids in my highlighted videos.
— If you are nervous about the “addictive” qualities sugar may have on your children, I’d really like you to read this peer reviewed article. It tells us that the addiction we hear about actually comes from the deprivation of a food group that is readily available in our culture (think feast or famine, as sugar inevitably works its way into your child’s life).
— If you’re confused about how to integrate Intuitive Eating into your family culture, please check back for my 10 Principles for Raising Food & Body Confident children. In the meantime, I encourage you to explore my resource page.
Parents who are concerned about their child's diet may attempt to limit what and how much food is eaten, pressure their child to eat a healthier diet, or reward their child for eating healthy foods, practices which may all lead to unintended consequences.27,37,38 Excessive restriction of children's access to, and intake of, highly palatable foods can promote increased preference for, and over consumption of, those restricted foods when they are readily available.37,38 Highly restricted children have poorer self regulation of energy intake, which is associated with greater weight gain across childhood.27,37,38 Similarly, research indicates that encouraging or pressuring children to consume more fruits and vegetables is associated with lower fruit and vegetable intakes39, and higher intakes of dietary fat.40 In addition, using food as a reward may also have inadvertent effects in that rewarding children for consuming healthy foods actually results in decreased preference for those foods.41 These findings indicate that, regardless of parents' rationale for controlling their child's eating behaviours, excessive control may have negative impacts on child food intake and weight status.