Teach your kids about nourishment
Ask Dr Libby
Q: I want to make suremy kids are raised to have a healthy relationship with food. Do you have any tips or advice please? – Kimberley A: I want to preface this by saying the last thing I ever want to do is create a situation where anyone experiences more guilt – goodness knows mothers experience enough! So please take the following information in the way that it is intended: I simply want to help you bring more awareness to how you communicate about food, nutrition and your body weight, particularly around children.
If we want our children – especially daughters, as the pressure to be ‘‘slim’’ and ‘‘pretty’’ is far greater on girls and women – to have a positive relationship with food and their bodies, then becoming aware of our own relationship with food, nutrition and weight is a critical part of this. Sadly, we are kidding ourselves if we don’t think children, particularly girls, are absorbing what they see us do and what they hear us say when it comes to food and our bodies.
I can’t encourage you enough to reflect on your own experience of body shape and size. Do you ever discuss dieting, weight loss, being skinny or slim, bikini bodies, fitting into a pair of jeans and so on in front of your children, or leave magazines lying around that discuss these issues? How often do you weigh yourself and feel disappointed by the number that appears on the scale? Does the number on the scales influence your behaviour – such as the way you treat yourself and interact with others, the foods you choose or the way you move your body? Do you refer to certain foods as good, bad, clean, healthy or unhealthy?
Our language around food matters – it is more accurate and helpful to describe foods as nutritious or nourishing (or not), and to base our food choices on nourishment. I’m not saying you have to watch every single word that comes out of your mouth, but I do want to bring awareness to the fact that your children will tend to model their relationship with food, nutrition and weight around your beliefs and behaviours.
Focus on health and nourishment, not on calories, fats or carbs. Talk about foods with regard to how they nourish your body rather than their effects on body shape and size. For example, explaining how nutritious foods such as vegetables are going to help give your body the nutrients it needs for clear thinking, clear skin and, of course, energy. Or sports performance. Relate nourishing food choices to what your children value.
Make it your mission to help your children understand that food is nourishment and fuel, it is neither good nor bad. Using food as a reward or offering it as comfort sets up a false notion that it can soothe strong emotions, so please do your absolute best to avoid this.
Helping your children to understand that it’s what we do every day that impacts our health not what we do sometimes, can also help to prevent a dieting mentality, rigidity in food choices or an ‘‘all or nothing’’ attitude when it comes to food. Remind them that food is nutritious (or not) and people are healthy (or not). And the more nutritious food they choose, the healthier they will usually be. ❚ Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional. Dr Libby is touring 17 towns and cities with her Food Frustrations event, talking about the confusion around food and what you’re supposed to eat. See drlibby.com/events for full details.
CASUAL RELIEF TEACHER WANTED
Seatoun School teaches Year 1 to 8 and is seeking expressions of interest for its list of suitably qualified, available casual reliever primary teachers to cover classes for absent teachers. Applicants should be qualified and experienced in teaching in a progressive primary school environment and must be fully registered with the Education Council and eligible to teach in New Zealand. We seek outstanding classroom teachers who are committed to high standards with the ability and willingness to contribute to the school. Casual relief teaching gives you the opportunity to gain experience teaching across a range of subjects and to a variety of age groups. Please send a cover letter and an up-to-date CV
with two referees to: email@example.com or phone the school on 04 388 7600
if you have any questions.