Bringing up little girls to love their bodies, to eat healthy and have a comfortable and happy relationship with food is no small task. When I look at my precious girl and as I watch her grow, I am both excited and slightly overwhelmed at the enormous gift and responsibility in raising a women!
Women tend to be critical of their bodies and thus what started as an easygoing relationship with food can often turn into a torturous and treacherous one. So how do we do it – raise a happy, healthy, confident eater that loves her body.
It starts with us moms and our bodies. Making peace with how we look, coming to terms that food is there to nurture us and good close of moderate activity is there to boost us. As we feel comfortable in our own skin we are able to impart this to our daughters.
It starts when they are just little baby girls. Babies, toddlers and young children are known for their ability to be intuitive eaters and our role is to encourage and sustain this. We can do this in a number of ways:
- Respect their hunger and full signals. Never force feed, teach your little girl to listen to her tummy. Introduce vocabulary like full and hungry early on.
- Keep her plate lightly loaded, no overfilling. She can always come back for seconds if she is still hungry.
- ‘cleaning’ ones plate is not going to help the starving third world countries.
- keep healthy snacks in the home. Make your home a ‘safe’ food zone. Some people struggle more than others with saying no to their favourite treats, so limit temptation.
- Model healthy snacking behaviour.
- keep food in its rightful place – a source of sustenance and nutrition to be enjoyed. Avoid treating, bribing or enticing with foods.
- Keep food emotion free. Avoid emotional attachments’ like having a cookie when you get hurt or a chocolate when sad.
- Do fun outings with your girl that doesn’t always have to involve food.
- avoid associating her body shape and size to the food she eats.
- include regular exercise and activity as a normal part of your lifestyle. Organized activities are helpful like dancing, swimming etc but even more important is the activity level the rest of the time, over weekends etc.
Most importantly give her lots of hugs, cuddles and positive affirmations about her qualities that involve her personality, abilities and talents and not just how she looks!