A child's relationship with food may affect them throughout their lives. It's important to establish a positive relationship with food from the get-go.
Food is one of the greatest joys in life. Well, in my world anyway. It represents so many of the things that make me happy. It pleases the senses in so many ways.
I am one of those people who take photographs of my food when it looks particularly “well” on the plate and I love the social element of eating with friends and family.
So many of my favourite conversations and experiences were enjoyed via some kind of dining. Food and meal-times can have a profound effect on the dynamic of a family and the way we approach daily life.
It was not always this positive for me though. Until my late-twenties, I was a massive comfort eater. I’ve kicked the habit and now have a completely different relationship with food (and myself). I see food as something that is to be celebrated and enjoyed rather than being the enemy.
Now that I am a mother, I do not want my children to go down the same path that I did. Huge chunks of my childhood and teenage years were spent comfort eating and secret eating. They lead to me being extremely over-weight which affected my confidence in a really big way. It also had an impact on my health and overall well-being. I missed out on school trips, opportunities and experiences due to my insecurities regarding food and my appearance. I do not want those things for my children.
I’ve been doing some research and have come across some interesting approaches to help a child to have a positive relationship with food. I am hoping that they will prevent my children from being comfort eaters and to instead see food as a positive thing.
Reward Them with Things That Are Not Food
When a child falls and scrapes their knee or breaks their favourite toy we very often offer them an edible treat to help them feel better. From a young age, we are teaching our children to seek comfort in food. There are other things that we can offer to help them feel better such as a hug, a relaxing bath or a trip to the park.
Be Mindful Of Your Language Regarding Food
Our children learn so much by watching what we do and how we speak about the world. Do you talk about needing a take away because you have had a bad day? Do you talk about being “bold” when you refer to eating chocolate for example? This could label that food as something that merits guilt which could lead to your child eating that food in secret as a result.
Communication Is Key
Encouraging your child to talk about their feelings regularly can be a great release. Thrashing out their fears, disappointments and worries can really help them feel smaller. This will teach them that talking about your feelings is comforting in itself.
Monitor Your Children’s Intake
It is important that your child does not have free-reign when it comes to what they eat. You might consider leaving healthy snacks at their level for them to choose throughout the day. Most children, if given the opportunity, will binge eat chocolate and treats. This can be the starting point of comfort eating. Hunger and food should go hand in hand.
Comfort eating can often be a result of boredom. Encourage your child to participate in sports or activities like arts and crafts/jigsaw puzzles to keep their mind preoccupied and active.