As moms, we know that our kids learn more from the examples we set in our day-to-day behavior and conversation, than the lectures we give or the lessons we try to teach. In turn, we know that if we want them to be body positive, it’s important that we send body positive messages about food.
Body positivity is the belief that all bodies are worthy, not just the thin, able-bodied, usually white ones that contemporary American popular culture holds up as "ideal." Body positivity is about recognizing that all people deserve to love and accept themselves as is, and that people should pursue their own health and well-being because they deserve to be healthy and happy, regardless of whether that results in them having a “desirable” body type. Many body positive moms have spent a lot of time unlearning negative messages about our bodies that we grew up with, so we can set a better example for our little ones. We know that our children are watching us, and they’re learning how to feel about their own bodies by how we talk about and treat ours.
The same goes for how we talk about food. Instead of constantly going on and off of diets and talking in ways that suggest we’re at war with our bodies, we try to maintain a healthy lifestyle overall, eating things that make us feel good, moving as much as we can, and resting as much as we can. Instead of talking about foods in terms of rewards and punishment, or quipping about which pantry items will “go straight to our thighs,” body positive moms know that while it’s important to eat to keep ourselves healthy, it’s also totally OK to indulge in foods purely for fun, sometimes. So, with that in mind, here are ten things body positive moms say about food, and that makes it much easier to follow through with action:
Talking about how our food makes us feel models for our kids that there is a connection between what they eat and how they feel. That’s key to helping them discover how their particular body responds to different foods, and ultimately to helping them make their own choices about food.
Body positive note: we don’t say that a particular food makes us feel “fat” because 1) fat is a visual descriptor, not a feeling, and 2) if it’s said in a negative way, it sends the false message that fat is inherently negative.
If your children spend any time outside of your protective bubble, they’re going to encounter messaging that suggests certain foods are more or less "moral" than others. Indeed, this is one of the hardest ones for many of us to unlearn, given how prevalent these messages are. However, moralizing food sets us up for problematic relationships with food in the future, by distracting us from making food choices rooted in our health and well-being, while luring us into making food choices based on what we think of ourselves as people. All sorts of body shame and emotional issues follow from there, so it’s a path best avoided altogether. Foods aren’t categorically “bad” or “good,” but some foods absolutely make us feel more sluggish, more energized, queasy, etc. than others. Noting that helps us and our little ones make choices that serve us, not some outdated cultural norm or another.
Instead of being the "Food Police," pressuring kids into eating certain foods while banning others, body positive moms try to focus on helping our kids understand how our bodies feel and react in response to our food. This helps kids value their own sense of well-being and stay in touch with how they feel, as opposed to external messages (advertising, peer influences, etc.) about what they should eat.
Understanding that eating a variety of foods helps us feel our best, body positive moms try to expose our kids to lots of different things, rather than restricting what they “can” eat. We also model open-mindedness around food, instead of fear.
Spending time in the kitchen together, learning and preparing food, is a great way to bond and develop an appreciation of and for different kinds of foods (as well as the effort that goes into preparing a meal). It’s also a great way for kids to develop a sense of accomplishment, which helps them appreciate yet another thing that their amazing bodies can do.
Rather than shaming ourselves for the different things we eat, we openly enjoy our food, and revel in what tastes good and feels good to us.
Body positive moms say, “Eat until you feel full” instead of “Clean your plate,” because the former focuses our attention on our own needs, instead of external cues. That reinforces the body positive message that we can trust our bodies to tell us what we need to know to be healthy, and that we are in control of what we put into it.
Our bodies do a lot, so they need energy and nutrition to keep going. Being body positive means respecting our bodies’ needs, not restricting ourselves or setting arbitrary rules for how much we eat based on a desire to have a certain body type.
Body positive moms embrace the social aspect of eating, as well as the memories and traditions we associate with certain foods and occasions. We eat for pleasure, not just to stay alive.
Modeling how food contributes to our overall lifestyle helps kids develop a positive understanding of how to care for their bodies, and how to make food choices that align with what they want to do and how they want to feel.