As a parent, you may find you worry about your weight.
You may even want to lose weight.
You may think, if I lose 5 pounds, life would be so much better.
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.
In this article, I’ll explore dieting, weight bashing, and other influences on how your child sees herself, and her developing relationship with food and her body.
Wanting to Lose Weight May Influence Kids
Your body image or weight concerns can be passed on to your kids.
One 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 dieting habits or self-deprecating comments about your body like older children, but they do!
Weight Worries Impact Parental Feeding Styles
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 – striking a healthy food balance is key.
Signs You Want to Lose Weight
Have you ever found yourself saying out loud:
“I need to clean up my diet.”
“I’m 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 (no “bad” food labels)
- 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: It’s not a terrible thing to want to get healthier or even trim a few pounds. What is most important is how you go about it, and how your child is processing your statements and actions.
Remember, if you really want to raise a healthy eater, you have to be a great role model. Encourage your child to view and treat their body with kindness and respect. Show them the the way!
Want More Inspiration?
Check out my resources and book, Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School.
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: June 22, 2011
Updated on: May 10, 2019