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Daughters, Food and Weight

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
My dd is only 11 months old, but I am already pretty concerned on how I will help her grow up with healthy attitudes towards food, weight and appearance.

How do you help your daughters go have a healthy attitude towards weight and food in a diet obsessed culture.

I don't want her growing up thinking that women are always dieting, and trying to look thing, and appearances are important.

On the other hand I don't want her growing up not caring about her health and eathing junk food all the time.

Right now it is pretty easy, I just nurse her when she asks for it, and when I am eating, I give her a little bit of baby appropriate food to play with and eat if she wants. With finger foods, like cheeriors and such, and just put it on her plate, and let her pick it up and eat at will.

She can't eat with a spoon yet, so with banana or cereal I feed her with a spoon, if she wants its.

I was thinking that when she is older I wouldn't give her sweets or anything, and just limit the amount she has, but I don't want sweets or anything to become like the forbidden food.

I am afraid that if I limit her from eating certain foods, she will grow up to really want them.

I am especially concerned about this because I have *issues* with food, and when I was in college bordered on eating disordered. I resolved this for myself allowing myself to eat anything, whenever I wanted. When I allow myself to eat junk, I don't want it so much and for the most part eat pretty healthily.

I am a major chocoholic, and need to eat a little bit of chocolate a day. I am afraid if I just give it up, then I will go back to my bad attitudes towards food. So I am not sure that I could do the "just don't have it in the house thing"

So, how do you make sure your daughters grow up with a healthy attitude towards food?
post #2 of 19
It kinds of sounds to me like you have the answers in terms of how you plan to handle food. I agree that making foods forbidden or taboo simply makes them more desirable. So, while I keep healthy stuff in the house, our kids have also sampled plenty of the fun stuff too, particularly at family parties. Also, there's research suggesting that the more mothers comment on their own weight and diet, the more likely daughters are to take that to heart and follow the example. Common sense, I suppose... although I'm certainly conscious of what I eat and how much I weigh, I've never mentioned in front of either of my children (although dd would obviously not really understand at this point), and I plan never to begin mentioning it. I probably was not helpful, but it really does sound to me like you've already got it figured out.
post #3 of 19
This is a subject that I have thought a lot about. I know that society has a huge impact on our ideas about body image and food, but I believe that what happens in the home has significantly more impact. My mother battled with eating disorders for most (if not all) of my childhood, and both of my sisters and I have also struggled with eating disorders. This is one reason why I was relieved to find out I was having boys (not that I don't also want them to have healthy attitudes about food/body image)! Recently, my family did a weekend-long family therapy retreat, and talked a lot about the way food and body image were addressed in our family. Newly pregnant, I spoke of being afraid that when I brought my baby home to visit (didn't know there were two in there, yet), they would pick up on the yucky food and body image feelings. My mother was shocked and said that when she was first pregnant she decided to make it her #1 goal to keep her bad feelings about food/ body image away from her baby. Well, I adore my mom, but she didn't do a very good job! I think the most important thing for you to do is to have a healthy attitude about the food that YOU eat, and your body. Of course, this can be easier said than done, but if you succeed, I'm sure that that is what will rub off on your daughter.

I used to baby-sit for a family that treated food very differently from anyone else I've ever met, and it seemed to work out really well. There was a shelf in the pantry full of healthy snacks, and a part of the fridge as well. The kids were allowed to eat anything from these areas WHENEVER they wanted. Even if it was five minutes until dinner was ready. They were never made to eat anything that was prepared for them (if they weren't hungry, they didn't have to eat). This approach really worked to get them to associate eating with HUNGER, an association that a lot of people seem to have lost. I remember being little and hungry and asking for something to eat, and my mom saying, "not now, you won't be hungry for dinner in an hour," or being forced to "eat five more bites" when I didn't feel hungry at all.

Although I think I was mostly healed from my earlier eating issues when I got pregnant, being pregnant has made me feel so much healthier than I ever thought possible in regards to eating. I think it is because I just eat something every time my body tells me to, without thinking about it. I now really see food as fuel for my body (and my babies' bodies), something which, oddly enough, I had never really appreciated before.

Anyway, good luck with your precious dd . . . it sounds like you are off to a wonderful start with her.

post #4 of 19
Get the whole family eating healthy.

My dd loves dessert--sometimes it's an apple, and sometimes it's ice cream. Do limit soda pop--there is a strong correlation between this and obesity. Teach her to love water!

Don't obsess about your weight. She will pick up on how you feel.

Get her involved in healthy, fun activities, like a soccer team.

Oprah said that sometimes overweight kids are often missing two things--enough attention from adults, and enough gentle limits about what they can and can't do. (They don't have boundaries, so they eat to feel safe.) Interesting theory.
post #5 of 19
I agree that if you don't diet, comment on what is too fattening, complain about your weight, then your daughter will not think much about it.
As for the forbidden food thing. I have read, and find it to be true with my 3yo ds, that the less kids get of 'junk' food in the first 3 years or so, the more they have an awareness of how foods effect how their body feels. So, don't have junk food in the house. Bake healthy treats, etc, with honey and fruit for sweetness. Then, when she is at a birthday and they are having some god awful gooey store bought cake, or whatever, let her have some. I almost guarantee she will not eat much.
If you deny these foods, yes they will want them. But if you don't let them develope a taste for them, they will trust their own instincts and not have that sugar addiction so common in our society.
Live an active life, go for walks etc. But never comment on how this will help you lose weight. That is irrelevent. Your metablisms will take care of themselves. And with a healthy diet, you both should be just fine.
Once they get into school, it is harder to control peer pressure things. I would also recommend not buying her those oh-so-trendy sex-ware they market for little girls these days. And try not to have fashion mags lying around the hose.

It sounds like you know what you need to do. Remember that eating disorders are not natural, they are culturaly created.
Give your daughter a healthy self asteem 'you are so smart, beautiful, strong' (all are important) and healthy eating habits, and she will be better able to resist societal pressure as she gets older.
post #6 of 19
Great thread - I think about this issue a lot myself.

Nursing is a great start to a healthy relationship with food, because the baby decides when she is done - nobody is trying to get her to drink a certain number of ounces per day.

When she starts eating table food, always let her stop when she wants to. Let her learn to eat based on her own hunger, rather than on what adults think she should be eating. And I agree about limiting sweets. My dd ate no sweets until after age two, and now she is allowed sweets in limited amounts (usually one sweet treat a day, and that's usually pudding or a cookie, not candy or really junky stuff). The difference I see between her and other children who are allowed a lot more sweets is that she will stop after one cookie, but her friends could sit and eat four or five.

Never talk about your weight or make negative comments about your own body or anyone else's in front of her. And talk to her about how the food she eats helps her grow and be strong and healthy. It's amazing how many people treat ALL eating as though it is sinful, when our bodies need food! Also, try to help her have pride in what her body can DO rather than in how it looks: "You can jump so high with those strong legs!" And of course, lots of physical activity! Girls who play sports have much better body images than girls who do not.

Make positive comments about women you know based on things other than their appearance, and also point out what is beautiful about women of all ages, shapes, colors and sizes. Her very overweight aunt may have beautiful skin and a melodious voice, and her cousin with the braces and acne may have thick, shiny hair and a great jump shot.

Try really hard to limit her exposure to the media, and once she is old enough, watch stuff with her and talk about it critically: "Gee, all the teachers on this show are slim and beautiful and young...isn't that weird? Do all the teachers in your school look like that? Why do you think the show's producers made it that way?"
post #7 of 19
My dd is 5 1/2 and I have thought about these issues a lot too. I have always restricted junk-we don't buy anything with artificial colors, refined sugar, hydrogenated oils. If she is at a birthday party, she can have cake and a treat or two they are serving. Luckily most of our friends follow the same kind of diet and they only serve whole foods for snack at her school as well.
She loves chocolate-so ocassionally we buy grain sweetened choc. or carob things. I have just told her the other junk foods make your body sick. Fruit sweetened soy ice cream is really good! or maybe we have been away from the real stuff too long!
I never talk about weight in front of her-and I have always had a bad self image/minor weight problem. We don't watch tv, so that isn't a problem yet.
My aerobics teacher told me her 7 year old dd and her friends are always talking about diets and being too fat!!!At 7, how horrible! They do watch alot of tv and have a lot of media exposure, so maybe that's it.
Good Luck!
post #8 of 19
As the mom of a son, I still find these issues to be very relevant. There are many men in our society who also have unhealthy relationships with food. And, there are many men in our society who judge women solely upon eating habits, exercise habits, and physical appearance. I am trying to avoid both of these traits in my son. However, I am a thin woman, from a family of thin women, who eat healthy food and exercise every day, and I do become concerned that I send the message of a woman who is fanatical about her weight/appearance. I do not want to send this message at all! (I feel I received it loudly and clearly from my own mom and sister, which shaped some of my misconceptions about food to begin with.) I emphasize to ds that I choose healthy foods because they make my body feel good and give me the right kind of energy to do the activities that I want to do. I explain, when I go to the gym, hat I exercise to help my body work better, to stay strong, and to make my mind feel good (a major part of exercise for me!). I still worry about he messages I send him because eaing healthily and regularly exercising are such a huge part of who I am.
post #9 of 19
This is a sore subject for me. I have battled with an eating disorder for more than half of my life. I want to protect my girls from this. I don't remember my mom ever "dieting." She has always been thin.

We as a family are trying to eat organic and healthy, but it's hard. I'm trying to teach them to be "healthy". I work out at least 3 - 4times a week. DH also works out about the same.

That's the most important thing to me (to teach my girls) -- being "healthy"!
post #10 of 19
So, don't have junk food in the house. Bake healthy treats, etc, with honey and fruit for sweetness. Then, when she is at a birthday and they are having some god awful gooey store bought cake, or whatever, let her have some. I almost guarantee she will not eat much.
If you deny these foods, yes they will want them. But if you don't let them develope a taste for them, they will trust their own instincts and not have that sugar addiction so common in our society.
I couldn't agree more! I have basically stayed away from all sweets with my baby. Most of her food (90 - 95%) has been organic "healthy" food. On her birthday she wouldn't even eat her birthday cake. She tasted it but didn't like it at all. She doesn't like junk. I'm so glad, because it's been a huge battle with my other two to try to eat "healthy".
post #11 of 19
I came back because I was thinking more about this, and wanted to give my thoughts on mealtimes too. I completely agree with lexbeach on the forcing issue. I don't force my kids to eat at meals and I don't fix alternate menus just to please their palates. I make dinner and that's what I serve to them. I don't make foods very spicy, obviously, but I do season them. When my kids are hungry, they eat every bite. When they aren't, they don't. I don't freak out about it or mention it later. I let them snack whenever they ask, and I often offer snacks as well--raisins or maybe a piece of cheese. I really appreciate that my parents never made me finish a meal, or "clean my plate". I believe that just leads to teaching a person to ignoring the body's signals and thus, leads to problems with food later. Anyway, just wanted to say that too.
post #12 of 19
I think that all the right attitudes towards food in the family are important, and that all the answers here are valid and true, but that the issue is not entirely to do with food.

Firstly, you can't avoid your child being exposed to the whole garbage 'thin is beautiful' culture. It is all around us, TV or not, magazines or not, and our children will get the message no matter what we do or say.

However, I believe that through strong self esteem and confidence, children will reject that notion that they have to be thin to be accepted and loveable, and will be immune to the disorders that result if you buy into the culture. That is not to say that they won't be dissatisfied with their legs, their bum, or their height, but they hopefully won't act out in their relationship with food because of that dissatisfaction.

I think maybe we as parents need to look beyond the food issue, do all the right things with food habits and diet, but focus on the overall self-esteem development, as that is what will carry our children through life being strong enough to withstand the pressures of a crazy culture.

Not sure if this makes sense, but I just wanted to think about a wider perspective.
post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
Let me clarify--- When I say a healthy attitude about food, I mean more than just eating healthy foods. Sometimes being too healthy can be unhealthy. I don't want her to feel guilty if she eats McDonald's once in a while, or doesn't exercise for a few days. Being healthy taken to the extreme can be unhealthy (I know, I've been there)

I want her to generally eat healthy, whole grains, whole foods, fruits and vegetables, etc, but to also be able to enjoy the occasional unhealthy food guilt free.

I want her to be able to buy generally healthy foods at the store, but when she goes out to dinner, to be able to enjoy fried chicken and french fries once in a while, if she wants to.

You see what I mean. I want her to most of the time drink water, but to maybe drink soda once in a while if she is out with her friends. To me, that is a healthy attitude towards food.

To me healthy eating is being able to enjoy chocolate cake without guilt at a birthday party, but not eating cholcolate cake or lots of sweets everyday.

That is my question. Finding the balance.

I want her to enjoy physical actitivity, but not to feel guilty if she misses a couple of days of exercise.

I agree that probably the most important thing is fostering self-esteem, and modeling healthy behavior myself.

I am finally at the point in my life where I feel I have a healthy attitude towards food and exercise. I do exercise, because I enjoy it, not because I "have to".

I generally eat healthy, but enjoy the occasional unhealthy food sometimes, without feeling guilty.

So, I guess I can just hope she will pick up on that.
post #14 of 19
Amelia, I think you're right on track and will do just fine!

ITA w/pretty much everything that's been posted. The only thing I have to add is to be careful about pairing the words "thin and beautiful" or "fat and ugly" too often. A kindergarten teacher once told me about reading her class a book in which "they came around the corner and saw a big...fat...ugly...MONSTER!!!" The class squealed in delighted fright--except for the one pudgy little boy who looked so dejected! The teacher started thinking about it and realized just how often the phrase "big fat ugly" cropped up and how fat people must feel about that.

Similarly, while I agree w/LunaMom about critiquing media, I'd avoid saying, "Gee, all the teachers on this show are slim and beautiful and young...isn't that weird?" Take out "and beautiful" or replace it with "and blonde", "and straight-teethed", or something else that *objectively* describes their appearance. Otherwise, kids may pick up on the message that only people who look like that are beautiful.

My parents actually put some effort into poking fun at the conventional standards of beauty. For instance, we once spent an evening trapped in a motel by torrential downpour at the Miss Texas pageant: "Her smile almost makes her nose disappear! You can see her molars!" That was pretty effective, but OTOH it really isn't nice to make fun of anybody.
post #15 of 19
I grew up with sooo many food issues, I blanch to think about it. Needless to say, we're trying to avoid this with 13mo dd. I figure I have "control" more or less only for the first three years and plan to take advantage of that. Here are the main elements (though she's still primarily breastfed):

1. Boob on demand and for hurts or anything else she wants. It's not just food and I don't think it's setting her up for desiring comfort "food" for ills and spills.

2. We don't feed her at all anymore. She gets a choice of 2 or 3 healthy foods at each meal and single foods for snacks. She can eat nothing or anything. If she asks for something from our plates if we have something different, she's given some on her tray. If we're not eating the same time she is, I'll either putter about the kitchen reciting nursery rhymes or read to her. There are no time limits... she can pick for an hour or be taken out of the highchair seconds after being put in; it's completely up to her. (Though I'll try again in a half hour or so if she didn't eat anything.)

3. No sweets until 3 years old. This includes juice (although sometimes I'll cook or sweeten porridge with a bit of juice). I think this is what Dr. Sears recommends... the theory is that their tastes are more or less developed in the first few years and they won't be as desirous of LOTS of a sweetened food. Overheard a conversation the other day in which a couple mothers were talking about their 18 MONTH olds' favourite chocolate bars. Still shaking my head over that one. Yes, I want dd to know the pleasures of good chocolate, but I think she can wait a few years.

4. Spices, no added salt. Whole grains, beans, etc. Lots of different fruits and veggies to get her used to variety. High quality cheeses (cubed or grated), eggs. Yogurt, sometimes cottage cheese, but no cow's milk to drink. Started growing sprouts at home... great finger foods.

5. Taking a cue from years of cats, I always offer her a taste of what I'm eating, as long as there aren't new ingredients.

6. If we're out, she gets some of whatever is available, even if it's not the most healty of choices. However, we do not and will not do fast food. She's exclusively organic at home, but it's very difficult to keep it up while eating out.
post #16 of 19
I think everyone has given great advice. I just wanted to say on record that my parents fed me very whole foodsy ( i know, not a word, oh well ) and we never had crap in the house. They didn't however make a big deal out of unhealthy things. If we were at friends house, etc, we were welcome to them. Or if the neighbors brought treats, we helped our selves. I have always had a pretty good relationship with food. My mom was a dieter of sorts and that did have an inpact on me. Now I have a 3 yr old and we keep mostly healthy stuff in the house, but she is welcome to treats etc. on occasion. We go to my inlaws monthly and they eat horribly, koolaid, etc. We aren't to strict about it there, but find she cuts herself off.

What I try to do is teach her to be active. I am very fitness oriented, so as a family we do active things. I think that encouraging her to active and by her seeing me being active, this we be the norm instead of dieting.

Just my 2 cents
post #17 of 19
I think the two most important things are to:

1) set a good example for her in what you eat. Have good healthy foods around and tackle any eating disorders you may have.

2) never talk disparingly about your own appearance, nor hers, nor anyone else's. Especially with regards to "fat". This is so important. Start early with this one - it's a hard habit to break for some people.
post #18 of 19
There are so many good points here.

My mother was always talking about how "I dieted all day today," when I was growing up.

My testy older sister used to tease her that "diet" referred to eating, not not eating, so the statement was meaningless. That whole discussion discharged any pressure to imitate my mother (who is actually very fit and always has been).

Dh's family has lots of food issues, as well as a tendency to overweight. Dh, from teasing his sister and cousins, often makes comments about how someone is fat. I've asked him to refrain from judgemental comments about women's bodies now that he is the father of a girl. He's been great about it.

I do not eat regular meals, so I could never imagine doing strict meals for Dd. We do what lexmark described above - healthy food is where you can get to it. A few times a day I sit down and eat something, (actually many minimeals per day), and I invite Dd to join me.

She is slow on weight gain and she's getting taller but I'm not sure she's staying on her "curve." But she is so vibrant and happy and has such a healthy approach to eating. When she is hungry for more than breastmilk she will run to the kitchen and sign for food. She knows when she's had enough - when she's done she heads toward the bathroom signing for soap to wash her hands, or signing for her toothbrush). She loves healthy food, she loves cold water. I often second guess myself on this but I don't think it's worth pushing food for the sake of keeping up with growth charts, when so many things wrong in our society are making obese children and eating disorders.

Dd has only had organic, healthy food. I do not expect her to never eat junk, but as someone else said above, while I can control what she gets, it's a time for her to develop a sense of what's good. I think that happens over the first 2-3 years. Then, when she gets tastes of less healthful food, she will have her own sense of whether or not they are good for her. Even though I'm adamant that she not get junk at this point in her life, it's for the sake of developing a healthy appetite, not for the sake of not ever letting her have any junk.
post #19 of 19
Dh and I have talked about this some and part of what we are trying to do is talk about our food choices. Not really to DD but to each other. In her presence. We comment on how we feel after we eat fatty foods in the hope that she will pay attention to her own bodies response. We talk about intentionally eating a really good meal because we have a busy or active day planned and want to enjoy. I guess you could say we're brainwashing her, but it is my hope that the result will be someday she will think, 'Ice cream, yum, but if I eat to much I'll feel all loguey' "Just one scoop, please." etc....
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