Teaching Our Daughters Sane Nutrition
Raise your hand if your mom was on a diet your whole childhood. What about your grandmother? Your aunts?
Did you grow up around women who were dissatisfied with their bodies but who looked perfectly normal, even above average?
How would you rate yourself in this area? What are you passing along to your daughter?
For a (woefully short) time, your daughter thinks that you are the most amazing thing on the planet. Even if she fights you, or disobeys you, or disagrees with you, mothers and daughters still have an incredibly unique bond.
As innate nurturers, we have a responsibility to these tiny creatures entrusted to us by God. It is our job to lead them well, and to model well. Of course, if you are anything like me or the rest of the human race, you will often fail miserably at this task! That said, it is our responsibility to provide more than food and shelter and baths and hugs and training bras. We have to provide some sanity in a culture dominated by more and better and not enough.
It’s so tempting to tell our daughters to lay off of the cookies because they are getting chubby. We restrict ourselves and want to restrict them too.
So what is a mama to do, living in this culture, in this time?
Truly, we live in a fallen world.
What are some rational and reasonable ways to guide our young women toward well-adjusted views of body, food, and nutrition? We need a game plan, girls.
I got you! Consider implementing the following suggestions to create a nourishing relationship with food in yourself and your daughter. Or son, really.
1. Find peace with your own food issues.
If you want to lose weight, go get your hormones tested first. Look at your thyroid carefully. Find out what your cortisol and melatonin levels are. You also must be sleeping. If you are not sleeping well, you will not have an easy time getting to a reasonable weight. Also, eat less crap. You already know this.
Once your hormones are optimized, get on an eating plan that you can sustain long term. I’m partial to our 28 Day Reset, which is going to morph into the 6 Week Reset come September. We don’t count calories. We don’t restrict ridiculous amounts of macronutrients. We kick out processed foods, sugar, inflammatory foods, and fat-storage foods.
If that’s not your bag, baby- that’s ok. Find any other eating plan that is not a crash diet with which your body can be sustained. Every single doctor who knows hormones will tell you that you cannot restrict calories long term. Caloric restriction leads to fat storage because your body thinks it is starving.
To recap: Eat real food. Don’t restrict calories. Optimize your hormones. Sleep well. If you still are not at a weight that makes you thrilled, maybe your body doesn’t want to be at that weight. Maybe you are just a normal female. Work on being ok with that.
And then, kind of just let it go. Do your workouts. Take care of your body. Eat responsibly. Treat yourself in a nourishing manner, not a psychotic manner. Treat yourself the way you would treat your daughter. Because that is essentially what you are doing, no matter what.
2. Give her a simple framework for nutrition.
I tell my children that they should eat the following way, most of the time:
1 protein (like meat)
That’s it. If they do that, then they can be free to eat other junk. Our kids play a lot of sports. They also play a lot of video games, but that is a different blog post. If they want ice cream, we let them have ice cream. If they want cereal after dinner, they just may be hungry enough for cereal after dinner. Sometimes they want more fruit, or veggies, or meat. That’s good too. Children are what we call Intuitive Eaters. They listen to their bodies better than we adults do. It’s a Responsible Mom Thing to do to offer meat, fruit, and veggies first. But don’t stress too hard about the other stuff. If your daughters’ bellies are full of nourishing food, the other stuff is just literally icing on the cake.
3. Teach her to cherish her body
Not in a weird, vain way. Just in the way of the fact that she will never get another one. It’s a good thing to move our bodies. It’s a good thing to fuel our bodies. God tells us that our bodies are our temples. The creation is not to be worshiped and idolized, but we do bear responsibility in taking care of it. If she is tired, encourage her to rest. If she is sad, give her a hug and some kind words. If she is hungry, give her the best things first, and then give her some freedom to choose for herself. Like the kid who never got to experience the real world until college because her parents were too strict and wound up partying too much, a kid who has draconian food rules imposed on her until she leaves home will certainly end up with some food issues. No bueno.
Celebrate being a girl by painting each others’ nails or dancing to her favorite songs or swimming with her in the pool (without tugging at your suit and whining that you look like a whale. C’mon, now!) You lead, and she will follow.
Let’s not make things more complicated than they need to be. Take your responsibility seriously, but take fun seriously too! Enjoy her. Even if she does’t meet all of your expectations.
If you want more, or you are not sure where to start, I’m hosting a new 6 week Virtual Class this fall on Basics of Nutrition for Moms and Daughters. Attend online with your daughter, do worksheets and homework and cooking together, and learn how to cultivate a healthy body image in today’s crazy world. Inquire here if you want to get on the wait list.
Thanks for reading,