You may worry about your weight. You may even want to lose weight. Maybe you think, if I just lost 5#, life would be so much better. Sound familiar?
Be careful…even though this may be an innocent desire on your part, if you’re talking about it, taking action (ie, using diets), or dramatically changing your behavior, your child may be tuning in. Children hear what you say, and see what you do. Your behaviors and comments can leave a lasting impression.
How Wanting to Lose Weight May Affect Your Child
Your body image or weight concerns can be passed on to your kids. Research shows that focusing on thinness and taking action to control your weight may promote eating disorders, low self-esteem, poor body image, and weight bias in children.
A 2001 study showed family food environments and attitudes around food and eating affect even preschool-aged kids’ eating behaviors. You may think youngsters don’t pick up on your drastic dieting or negative comments you make about your body like older children, but they do!
Worrying about your own weight and wanting to lose weight can influence your feeding style. For example, you may forbid high calorie foods or sweets in your home to help you gain control of your weight, but this may influence your child in negative ways. By restricting food, your child may sneak food or feel deprived and overeat when given the opportunity. Overly controlling or eliminating fun foods simply doesn’t work with kids – balance is key.
Have you ever found yourself saying out loud:
“I want to lose weight, and fast.”
“I have got to lose weight, I am getting so fat”
“I am going to be good and skip lunch today”
“No more desserts for me, I don’t deserve it”
If so, you may want to censor your comments and think before you speak. Remember, your words may negatively influence your child’s attitudes about food and eating, and may even contribute to your child’s weight gain!
How to Be a Healthy Role Model
As a parent, you can model “good for you” behaviors without fixating on weight. There’s nothing wrong with guiding your child towards adopting healthy habits that will benefit him or her – that’s part of your role!
Even if you want to lose weight, there are several steps you can take to promote a healthy weight for yourself while empowering your child.
- Be physically active and limit your own sedentary activities
- Aim to eat when feeling physically hungry
- Have a neutral view about all foods
- Stock a range of nutritious foods in your home and choose these options more often
- Offer balanced family meals as much as you can
- Choose to talk about yourself and others with respect and appreciation
- Get caught up in the latest fad diet or encourage your child to diet
- Skip meals
- Eliminate all sweets or high calorie foods from your home
- Use food for rewards or punishments for yourself or for others
- Eat while standing up or distracted (may lead to eating mindlessly)
- Emphasize effects of unhealthy eating
- Focus on anyone’s weight, especially yours or your child’s
Bottom line: If you want to lose weight, remember, you are your child’s biggest role model – do you want your child viewing and treating their body the way you do?