‘Tis the Season. Give Yourself the Gift of Enjoying Food
A friend of mine once told me, “more than half of parenting is figuring out how to parent yourself.”
As a mom to two small girls, this is something I have come to appreciate, and have been humbled by on more than one occasion. Her advice to me was to observe and reflect when I lose my cool, recognizing what it is that triggers me and to manage my own emotions to help calm the inevitable storms of parenthood.
As a dietitian, what struck me was how true her words were when it comes to feeding. I think about this especially during the holidays. As holiday treats are generously served, so is the worry and guilt.
Though, just how and why our children eat and like what they do is complex, our role as parents starts within ourselves. It’s hard to help our children learn to self-regulate and to develop a healthy relationship with food, including holiday treats, if we don’t have one with it ourselves.
Unfortunately, the holiday season can be one big trigger. All it takes is a half-hearted scroll through Facebook, and a pattern emerges. A predictable cycle of posts filled with recipes for indulgent treats and parties, mixed with tips asking you to replace those treats with “healthier” versions, followed by the inevitable shameful reckoning of how to keep to New Year’s resolutions and promises of quick weight loss. The indulge-restrict-indulge-restrict pattern doesn’t just hurt us, it can impact our children. Studies have shown that children, especially daughters, whose mother diets or struggles with her body image, are more likely to have a poor body image themselves.
So how can you take back the joy of eating and encourage healthy relationships with food during this holiday season? Start with you.
- Make Peace with Food
- Make pleasurable foods part of your regular life.
- Part of the trouble during the holiday season is we give ourselves permission to eat foods we restrict ourselves from the rest of the year, leading us to overconsume.
- The goal is to develop a relationship with sweets where you eat to your fill. Somedays it might be all or extra of any given dessert, and other days it might mean bites.
- If this is a struggle for you, check out Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch.
- Don’t Restrict Yourself or Your Family
- Restriction backfires
- Children will develop a healthy relationship with food when they are given an environment to do so. If they’ve been restricted from foods they enjoy, they’ll be more likely to overconsume when they’re given the chance.
- Ellyn Satter, a leading child feeding expert recommends offering “forbidden foods” on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean unrestricted. During the Holidays it might mean allowing children to pick a treat as a dessert or to eat with dinner – but keeping it to one serving size. Then, on occasion, aka not every day, allow unlimited access to these foods at snack time – or at a party or during a celebration.
- Here are some of Ellyn’s tips on making peace with “forbidden foods” all year.
- Keep Structure
- Holiday schedules can wreak havoc on mealtimes.
- Try to keep regular meals and snacks and offer a variety of balanced foods. We are more likely to overeat when we go to a party hungry.
- Be Kind to Yourself and Watch Your Words
- How you speak about yourself and the foods you eat matters. Little ears are always listening and learning.
- Avoid labels like “good” or “bad” and talking about weight.
This guest post is from Jaclyn Chamberlain is a registered dietitian with Pinnacle Prevention, an Arizona-based nonprofit organization dedicated to growing healthy families and communities. Jaclyn has more than 13 years’ experience in public health nutrition. She is a Board Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition and has vast experience working with child nutrition programs across rural, urban and tribal settings.