During my internship, I was able to observe a number of conferences and seminars. One in particular, discussed the effect of diet discussions on children; specifically how that can lead to unhealthy diet practices, poor body image and eating disorders. While the overall seminar was fascinating, it was also extremely disconcerting because when you think about it, there is the expectation that children should focus on having fun, discovering new knowledge and not worrying about their shape and size. It made me consider how much of my own body image issues were a result of the media or from family.
We are influenced to so some extent by our parents, sometimes that means we want to follow in their footsteps and other times that means we want to be the complete opposite of everything they stand for. Either way, we are who we are because of them. So if we apply the same mindset to our own kids (just an Auntie thanks…lol) or ourselves when we were kids, how much of what they said in front of us has since become the basis of our current perception of self? (Unsurprisingly, boys were shown to also be affected). It really made me consider how often I’ve said aloud things like “I’m pudgy”, “I’m not skinny enough”, “I’ve eaten too much”, “I’m going to gain weight if I keep this up”, etc. and who was there to hear me.
Obviously we say a lot of things we don’t mean, sometimes it’s even intended as a joke, however not everyone will know that…especially not children in many cases. They hear this and they might start thinking ‘Maybe I should eat less?’, ‘Maybe I’m also too pudgy?’, ‘Maybe I should diet too?’… and other thoughts that aren’t natural for children. It’s one thing for your medical professional to discuss healthy diet and diet practices with you, and a completely different thing to hear other people talking about themselves and you copying their behaviour. In many cases we forget that kids KNOW EVERYTHING!!! (I am being completely serious), so if you’ve said it, it’s likely they will have heard it.
So what should we do? What can we do? Suggesting that everyone in the world stops dieting or changes the way they think and speak about their bodies…extreme (extremely extreme). So extreme in fact that it isn’t possible, short of brain washing, that level of change is near impossible and improbable. Of the options they discussed in the seminar, one that resonated with me, involved increased awareness of how we talk to those around us. So instead of watching everything we say, we can sit with the kids or people in our lives and explain to them what we are doing, why we are doing it and that it only applies to ourselves. For kids especially, unless there is a serious health concern, they really shouldn’t be perpetuating our diet practices…especially not at such a young age.
Even the healthiest and most seemingly balanced diets or meal plans may not necessarily be the best option for you or I. We are all different and our bodies respond differently from each other, so we need to know what works for us (why do you think some diets or cleanses work better for some more than others…). There are a number of factors which contribute to this, which I’m not going to go into at the moment (blah blah blah. Genetics, location, agricultural practices, blah blah blah), the same applies to kids too. At a young age, they need the nutrition, they don’t need to diet and so we should try to make sure they feel secure about their shape and size. Because despite how much they act like they don’t listen to us, they hear a lot more than you’d think (they know EVERYTHING!!!…Lol my mom can attest to that).
(PS. As you might have guessed, I was one of those kids who knew all the secrets…except when mom was secretly haunting me…but still… I hope everyone had a great week. I have a million assignments, but I will be back next week. In the meantime, if you have anything you’d like to share, leave a comment or message me on my social media 🙂 )