I've recently read a bunch of articles on the topic of talking about healthy eating and the impact that has on kids. In my own home, we have a set of food values that we try to adhere to, and I do my best to talk about why those values are important to us. Whether it's for allergic, religious or other lifestyle reasons, people everywhere have food preferences and avoidances. My kids notice that other homes have different food rules, so I've been sure to discuss the importance respecting others. I think having an allergic mom and a kosher grandmother has been helpful for them to understand that people eat differently for a variety of reasons.
Along these lines, I really enjoyed the four tips for instilling healthy habits in this article, by Sally Kuzemchak, aka Real Mom Nutrition. But here's the thing: it's a battle out there. Much as I try to keep our discussions about food focused on the positive, and emphasize that there are different rules in different homes and be aware of mixed messages, my kids live in the world with others who don't abide by those rules.
My eldest, soon to be 9, has come home from school telling me that another child made her feel bad because her lunch was too small. On another occasion, there were comments that her lunch was too big. She's been asked why she gets vegetables in her lunch (the vegetables came back uneaten that day, and for several days after that). She's been asked why her desserts aren't bigger. And why she gets chocolate but not Cheetos. Then yesterday, I got an email from her teacher that a child in her class called her fat. She happens not to be even remotely fat, but that's not the point, is it? It's a disheartening reality that though we can do our best at home (which, mind you, is not easy), there's another battle out there that we have to prepare our children to address.
Lunch at school is a social thing. I am proud to empower my kids to have a voice in their lunch so that they feel confident about what they're eating. But I feel sad when I hear about food shaming on either side of the aisle (too "healthy" or too "junky"). And body shaming? It makes me want to cry. At home, we say that being healthy isn't about what your body looks like. I like to tell my kids that in broad terms, good health comes from four things:
1. getting enough sleep
2. staying hydrated
3. eating a variety of foods
4. being active
Luckily, my daughter didn't seem too bothered by the substance of this child's comment. She was more annoyed that he was badgering her throughout math class and concerned that she hadn't heard the teacher. It was a good opportunity to discuss both the hurtful impact that words can have and on the flip side, the concept of "sticks and stones." But I wonder if I've addressed it properly. And how often to address it. The battle continues. It's imperative to be mindful of what happens both at home, and at large.
So I wonder: what tips do you have to deal with food and body shaming? How have you responded when your children presented issues like this?