Ditch the ‘diet’ discussion and empower your kids to embrace a healthy lifestyle


While data from Growing Up in Ireland tells us that 20 per cent of 13 year olds are overweight, (with six per cent being obese), it also shows that some of those obese children actually perceive themselves to be a healthy size or even skinny; meaning, when it comes to body image, there appears to be a level of misinterpretation and indeed, around some children’s perceptions, when it comes to their physical appearance.

  On the other hand, if we’re to believe a New York Times article, statistics show that, according to studies ‘cited by the National Eating Disorders Association, (in the US), 81 per cent of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat,’ with, quite disturbingly, it discloses that some ‘nine to 11 year old girls ‘feel better about themselves if they’re on a diet’.

  So, as January is typically the time when we, as adults, have that talk about detoxing and making lifestyle changes and where dieting and losing weight seems to be the hot topic of conversation, both while standing around the water cooler or sitting in the staff canteen, perhaps it’s time for those of us who’re parents to understand that while being motivated by our friends and colleagues to drop a dress size before spring is all good; the fact is, chatting about dieting in front of our young and impressionable kids may be having the opposite effect.

  You see, while we may not realise it, our kids, both boys and girls, are constantly evaluating their bodies.  Don’t believe me? Read my first two paragraphs again for the stats!

  And so, if we, as parents, (who are in the strongest position to influence our kids in all aspects of their lives), wish to make healthy lifestyle changes and, at the same time, help our kids in a positive way, why not decrease the pressures this modern, social media-driven world imposes on our little darlings’ mental and physical health, and, when it comes to so-called ‘food guilt’ perhaps our 2019 resolution should be to empower rather than to criticise our own body shapes and sizes. Below are our tips.

  Nobody has the perfect body, and, unless you’re educating your kids that this is not how real humans look, we’d suggest you ignore those airbrushed images that tell our boys they need to bulk up and become more muscular, and guilt our girls into becoming waif like and skinny.

  Don’t have conversations in front of your kids that begin with what size clothes you wear. Remember, it’s 2019 and modern homes are not body shaming zones. Empower your fantastic kids that their real beauty comes from their character and their ability to be compassionate, kind, understanding, and from having a sense of purpose in life. 

  Monitor what your kids are viewing on social media, look at who they follow and see what messages they’re soaking up. If these messages are not coming from positive role models, block them and find better heroes and heroines for them to follow.

  Teach your kids that food is not the enemy; rather it nourishes and fuels our bodies and, that a healthy diet, combined with exercise is vital for both physical and emotional health and wellbeing. A healthy lifestyle will make our kids strong…so place the emphasis on strength as opposed to obsessing about weaknesses. Combine that positivity with avoiding labelling certain foods as being ‘bad’ or even as being ‘good’ and, by example, show your kids  that all foodstuffs, along with exercise/sporting activities, can play a part in a balanced and healthy diet.

  While we know it’s often difficult, do try to sit down and eat together as a family.

  Have a happy and healthy New Year, and remember, always consult a medical professional before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.