Monday 25 September 2017

Parents warned of January diet talk around children

There are ways to incorporate a new healthy regime into the family home without causing difficulties for children around food.
There are ways to incorporate a new healthy regime into the family home without causing difficulties for children around food.
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

January is a month full of discussion about diets, weight-loss and body transformations.

But Bodywhys, an organisation which works with people who have eating disorders, has warned adults to keep diet talk away from young ears.

“It is better not to dwell on the specific ins and outs of diets and weight loss or to verbalise food talk in a negative way in front of young children,” Barry Murphy, communications officer with the group said.

“It's important not to talk about food in a way that suggests that there is guilt involved or in a way that gives the impression that you're 'policing' your own food or diet behaviour using a very rigid approach.”

There are ways to incorporate a new healthy regime into the family home without causing difficulties for children around food however.

“When talking about food, focus on health rather than weight or appearance. A positive approach might be to let children know that some foods are healthier than others. Try saying instead some foods make them strong and mean they will have lots of energy, stay in a good mood and can enjoy things whereas some food which taste nice don't make you strong and can be bad for your teeth,” Mr Murphy said.

“Try to approach food in a balanced way rather than promoting an overly black and white approach towards specific types of food. You can complement the children on making healthy choices. Healthy eating should be a whole family approach.”

“Studies also show that children who have a healthy body image tend to make healthier food choices and exercise more.

“There is a lot of emphasis on appearance in the media and the beauty ideals that are promoted are unrealistic and often unhealthy - a slim physique for girls and a muscular look for boys,” he said.

But there are ways for parents to promote positive body images in children and teens, and again it starts with how parents discuss their own image.

"Be aware of how you speak about your own body. Ensure you do not make negative comments about other people's bodies or your own in a way that is degrading,” Mr Murphy said.

“Also be conscious of positive comments you make about bodies to ensure you do not inadvertently endorse media ideals

“Reflecting on your own attitudes to weight and body shape and adjusting your comments and behaviours can help to ensure you do not pass any negative attitudes you might have on to your children.”

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