When should we start talking to our kids about their bodies?
How do we teach them about hunger
A few weeks back I had a very busy week and ate out for dinner three times during that week. One of the nights, Mike and I thought we would quickly sneak in a dinner date before a church function we were going to as we had my parents babysitting the kids for us.
We were in a rush so I chose a not so great option for dinner at a restaurant that doesn't serve the healthiest food. Boy did I pay for it. Two hours later I was terribly bloated and was cramping and subsequently had very bad nights sleep. My body doesn't respond well to oily food as well as some meat products ( hence one of the reasons I don't eat beef, pork or lamb).
The key point I am trying to make here is that our bodies are talking to us but often we don't listen. My body was clearly crying out to me that i wasn't tolerating the food I have given it. A few weeks ago the same thing happened, I was craving meat (my Iron levels were low) and I indulged in some steak and sausage and I woke up the next morning vomiting and with terrible cramps and heartburn.
Each one of us is unique and our DNA is different as well as our GUT and so the way we eat and digest food is different. Even within your families, parents and children could respond differently to various foods. We have to learn to be in tune with our bodies like the same way our body tells us when we full it also tells us when we don't respond well to food.
Listening to our bodies is key and something that should be taught to our kids from a young age. As a family it is important to teach our children to not focus on weight but rather focus on your body as a whole. Try teach your child about their bodies, and encourage them to focus more on the inside of our bodies than the outside. I am seeing children younger and younger in my practice developing eating disorders because the world tells them their bodies need to look a certain way rather than feel a certain way.
Saying something like you have eaten too much already or if you eat more you will put on weight when you child asks for more food doesn't let the child take responsibility for how they feel about their body . Rather say something like “How does your tummy feel, Does it it feel like there is space in it for more or is it owee and full?
Eating is something that children need to learn, it doesn't come naturally like we think it does. One of the most important reasons why our children should learn to listen to their bodies is that they have to learn how about hunger and the feeling of hunger. When children graze all day they don't ever feel the sensation of hunger and then tend to overeat. By teaching them to listen to their bodies they will learn hunger cues and can establish a healthy eating pattern.
Ways to encourage children to listen to their bodies
1. Don't praise your children for a clean plate but rather for trying a food. If a child gets rewarded or given attention when finishing all their food they will think they have to finish it and will eat even if they full and will ignore satiety signals sent out by their body
2. Avoid saying things like just one more bite. This will make a child think they have to eat even though they are full and this can lead to overeating and obesity later in life.
3.. Teach them about the sound their tummy makes. Encourage them to listen about for any noises their tummy makes which might indicate they are hungry.
5. Children have different taste palettes jut like as adults as we all have different foods likes and preferences so don't force your child to eat certain foods. Keep offering them the foods and exposing them to the foods but remember there might always be some foods children don't like. Use sayings like how did that taste when introducing a new food and avoid sayings like that didn't taste so bad did it or you might not like it but try it.
6. Lastly follow Dietitian Ellen Satters, Division of responsibility guideline for parents and children. This will help to create a happy and healthy eating environment at mealtimes
When a child eats
Where a child eats
What they eat
If they going to eat it
How much they going to eat