How to teach our kids to manage food:

When people find out I have a background in treating eating disorder clients, they often ask me, “How do I prevent my own child from getting an eating disorder?”

While there is no fool proof way to prevent eating disorder, as they have multiple biological, hereditary and cultural components, there are things I believe we, as parents can do, to help assist our children to learn to love their bodies, feel more confident and build resilience.

1.Nurture a positive view of yourself. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience.

2. Model good eating habits for your children: don’t skip meals but insist your child clean their plate.

3. Avoid teasing about appearance. Likewise, praise your children for other qualities outside of their appearance.

4. Don’t get caught in the clean plate club trap. Teach your children to eat until they have a sense of being full.

5.Encorage balanced and flexible eating. No food is "bad".

6. Avoid dieting and diet talk. Girls and women who diet are 18x more likely to develop an eating disorder (ANAD Newsletter, Summer 2001). Focus on being healthy, mind, body AND spirit.

7. Encourage family meals, but also allow for the flexibility that maybe your child is not hungry at dinner time.

8. Teach your child do honor their body. Encourage them to respond appropriately. When they say they are full, don’t insist they “eat one more bite”. We are telling them that the signals their body is sending them are not accurate.

9. Teach your child to honor and express their feelings. Avoid telling your child, “That’s not how you feel” or “It’s not that bad”. Listen to what they say.

Often when I see clients who don’t manage food well, it is coupled with a significant distrust of their feelings, emotions and thoughts. They don’t trust their body will tell then accurately when they are full, hungry, sad or happy. They have learned not to honor their body and are open so disconnected from what is going on inside. When it comes to our children, teaching them how to accurately identify and trust their internal compass is a key component to building healthy, flexible, balanced adults.