Don't Diet in 2019 - Reason #21: Your Diet Is Bad For Your Kids

Your children are watching you…what message are you sending?

Ooooh, ouch! This one hurts and I know some folks will disagree with me on this. But the research proves me right, I’m afraid.

According to this article in Today’s Dietitian magazine, the children of parents — especially girls of moms — who diet are more likely to experience body dissatisfaction, go on diets themselves, and experience disordered eating behaviors.

This study showed that children who are forced to go on diets, or whose parents restrict their food intake, are statistically more likely to be obese as adults and also more likely to acquire an eating disorder.

If the child is aware that mom and dad are restricting food - especially junk food - this often increases a child’s desire for it — and may leave a “bad taste in their mouth” for healthy food. Children who experience strict food rules or are forced to eat in specific ways are also more likely to hide food or overeat in situations where they can get palatable and yummy junk food.

Yes, it’s important to model healthy behavior for our children…but is dieting a healthy behavior? Is standing in front of a mirror and pinching the fat around your belly sending a good message? Is restricting all week long and then going on a pizza bender on Saturday really a good habit? Should we be teaching our kids to fear certain foods and food groups?

Kids are pretty intuitive and they learn by watching us. So if you’re constantly in a battle with food, your body, and your weight, they’re going to pick up on that…even if you think you’re hiding it behind the guise of “mommy’s being healthy”.

Case in point: when my daughter was about 4 years old, I asked her “why do we eat healthy?”, and this is what she said: “to lose weight, mommy”. This was a major light-bulb moment for me. Despite the fact that I had never uttered the words “I need to lose weight” or “I’m so fat” in front of her, she knew why I was dieting. Even at the precious age of four she could see that I was exceptionally restrictive yet utterly focused on food, and obsessed with my body.

 What you should do instead…

Anti-Diet Wisdom: Be conscious about how you treat and talk to yourself. Choose to eat the fruit and veggies more often, but do so for the right reasons. Exercise to build strength and confidence instead of just to burn off last night’s pizza. When you look in the mirror, rather than pinching a roll, pick out something you like about yourself. Throw your scale in the trash! And for goodness sake never say anything about your child’s weight or food intake! It doesn’t help you when someone comments on your weight and food intake, so don’t say anything about theirs!

Children learn by example. Exercising and eating well for health doesn’t require extreme measures, nor should it cause feelings of guilt or self-hate and shame when we “mess up” and eat a cupcake. Teach your children – through your actions – that health is more than outward appearance, and that being overly restrictive with food or doing too much exercise is just as harmful and disrespectful to the body as not caring at all.

Special note: As I write this I realize that some parents are forced to restrict either their own or their child’s food choices due to allergies or sensitivities. Unfortunately, restrictions - even for health reasons - still often cause disordered eating habits in children. If you are in this situation, I have utmost sympathy for you and I understand the need to be restrictive. I wrote this article for those who are being ultra-restrictive for the unnecessary and sole purpose of weight loss and aesthetics.


Blog Author: Kelly Bailey, IIN certified holistic nutrition coach, and NPTI certified personal trainer

Learn more about the author here.