Disclosure: This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with the Healthy For Good initiative of the American Heart Association. The views, opinions and positions expressed within this post belong to The Truth and do not necessarily represent those of The American Heart Association unless explicitly stated.
Food is something that I’ve always had a strained relationship with. Kind of like that bad boyfriend you just can’t quit. Let me rephrase it, it’s not the quitting part that I’ve had the problem with, it’s the walking away in a healthy way.
As many of you know, I have a past with eating disorders. It started when I was 12, the same age my oldest daughter is now, and it lasted actively until I was 25-years-old — though anyone who has ever survived disordered eating will tell you, much like alcoholism, it’s a lifelong disease but unlike alcohol, you can’t quit food and that has always been the trick.
I won’t spend a lot of time explaining my past with anorexia and bulimia because I’ve done that already. If you are interested, you can read all about my eating disorders here and my body dysmorphic disorder here. I just wanted you to know where I’m coming from now. We are all products of our past, after all.
As I said, I have daughters; my oldest is 12 and my youngest is 10 and one of my biggest fears since becoming a mom is that they’d inherit my predisposition to eating disorders. So, I decided years ago that I needed to shift my thinking from dieting and restricting to eating healthy, moving more and controlling my portions. For better or worse, we are our children’s first role models. They see and hear everything we do, even the words we don’t speak. These little people are smarter than we usually give them credit for.
But how does a woman who has spent her entire adult life, since she was 12-years-old, having a love/hate relationship with food and her own body teach two little girls to be healthy?
It’s hard. It’s really hard. It’s something I work on every single day. I have become very aware of just how disordered I was through this journey of motherhood but it’s also made me more mindful of what kind of relationship with food that I want to model for my girls.
My eating disorders have made it so that I have a better handle on what to say and not say, do and not do, in relation to food and body image with my girls. I’d like to think, if anything good could possibly ever come from eating disorders, it was that they made me better equipped to raise strong, positive self-image, self-loving, confident and healthy girls and that almost makes what I went through worth it.
So how do I do it? How do I model healthy eating habits for two little girls on the precipice of becoming women? Carefully and thoughtfully. We try to keep red meat to once a week or less. I’ve always fed the girls a variety of foods that included lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Those are the staples but I have also taught my girls that everything is okay in moderation. There can be no absolutes because always and never just end in disappointment and fall short.
It’s my responsibility to demonstrate a healthy lifestyle that includes free will, informed food choices, living actively and drinking plenty of water. No one says that has to be boring. My girls love infused waters. I want being healthy to be a way of life for them, not a chore so we look for activities that they enjoy doing. It doesn’t matter so much what you are doing, just that you are moving. Food is fuel for the body and our bodies really are a temple. But we only get one, so we’ve got to take care of it.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re foodies in this house. We love a good meal full of different colors, textures and flavors. We love to try new foods, the more exotic the better. In fact, we implemented a rule when the girls were still toddlers that you try everything at least twice and if you hate it, well, then you try it again at a later date. This has made for children who are very food adventurous which helps to integrate a variety of healthy foods rather than them always wanting chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese but hey, like I said that’s okay too, in moderation.
One of our favorite things to do, and we’ve done this since the kids were small, is to cook together. Both girls love to help us cook. I found out a long time ago that even if there is something that they don’t really like, if they help cook it, they will eat it. Somehow, their hard work seems to magically make it infinitely more appetizing to them. Plus, it gives us the chance to experiment with new recipes and flavors. For instance, why not throw some fruit on the grill?
The biggest thing I do and it really is so simple, if you don’t want your family to eat certain things, don’t buy them. Why not do a pantry audit and add healthy staples to your shopping list. If unhealthy foods aren’t in the house, they’re harder to put into your body. If you don’t want pop and chicken nuggets to be a part of your kid’s regular diet, then don’t let it be an available option. This will eliminate you having to police what your children eat.
I don’t ever want to tell my children not to eat something because I think the natural assumption when you tell someone not to eat something is that they don’t need it. And, speaking from experience, especially coming from a parent, thinking they think you are anything less than perfect is soul crushing. Not that any of us think we are truly perfect but we all believe, at least our parents believe we are.
The key is trying to be mindful and purposeful in what we eat most of the time. Sure, sometimes we want a pizza night or some frozen custard but I really try to make that the exception more than the rule.
If you are like me, you are always looking for good resources to keep your family healthy. The American Heart Association’s Healthy For Good website is a great resource full of healthy living content. It offers an extensive suite of recipes, videos, and editorial/infographic health content. Healthy For Good focuses on the following 4 pillars.
Did you know that June is National Fresh Fruit and Veggie Month? What could be a more perfect time to get some fresh inspiration from the American Heart Association’s Healthy For Good Eat Smart and Add Color pillars? I say eat the rainbow! Variety is the spice of life and it’s healthier too.
The AHA’s ultimate goal is to help people navigate barriers so they can create and maintain behavior change. They don’t just tell you what to do, they show you!
Why not join the Healthy For Good movement for amazing weekly tips, recipes and motivation (scroll down here www.heart.org/HealthyForGood and click “join the movement.” I did! What are you waiting for?