Teaching Healthy Food Habits When You Have Issues with Food

Our kids want to be like us. They copy what we do. Our behavior and what we say, even when we wish they didn’t. They catch our curses and things we say under our breath. They watch our movements so closely. I have tried my best to monitor what I do, but I know some things escape. We use the word “treats” too often to describe sweets or chips. We have already set these things up as rewards and I don’t know how to fix it.

I am terrified of my daughter picking up on my issues with food.

I don’t want her to inherit my health problems.

The relationship that most women have with food is a complicated one. Growing up in the ’90s, it was especially difficult to know the “right” way to eat. Sugary cereals and low-fat foods were pushed hard. My parents never really got into nutrition with me, so when I became an adult, I had to figure it all out on my own, and I realized all of that information from my past was wrong.

In my late 20s I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (or PCOS). Although not everything is known yet about this condition, there is likely a hereditary component. I do not want this for my daughter. It comes with difficulty losing weight, mood swings, and infertility. I know I need to teach her the best way to fuel her body to decrease the odds of developing this and diabetes that also runs in our family.

I don’t want her to see foods as either good or evil like I do.

I also have a sugar addiction, and I fear that allowing my kids to have treats will cause this in them as well. I do not want to forbid foods, but sugar is a slippery slope. The more you have it, the worse the cravings are. While I do not want her to see foods as “good” or “bad,” I tend to feel this way about sugar, and when I eat it, I feel guilty about it. I beat myself up about eating badly and get caught in an awful cycle. I want her to believe that food is just food. I want her to know the right choices to make most of the time but be able to eat more indulgent foods once in a while too.

I don’t want her to use food to calm her emotions.

The practice of connecting emotions to food is one that many people engage in. I eat when I’m stressed, and as a mom, I get stressed a lot. Sugar acts as a balm to calm me down, which is a terrible habit. Using sugar in this way gets addicting really fast. I want to teach my daughter other ways to calm down instead of resorting to food. If she is actually hungry, that’s different, but if it is purely stress-related, I want her to know there are other things she can do, like take deep breaths or exercise. Because I want better for her, I’m trying to employ these things now in my life. That way, instead of seeing me stress-eat a cookie, she sees me using other ways to calm down.

I don’t want her to obsess over the scale.

My husband notices on days when I weigh myself and I’m unhappy about it, because I let it poison my mood. I am working on not letting it do that, but women sometimes become so obsessed with the number on the scale that it affects their self-esteem. I do not want this obsession for my daughter. I want her to be aware of her healthy weight range for her body and how to keep it there, but I don’t want it to affect her self-worth.

I want her to be strong and feel good about her body.

I am more aware of what exercises work for my body now and what adaptations I need to make. I’m also more aware of what I need to eat to be able to work out. I didn’t know this information growing up either, so I want to make sure to teach her how to fuel her body and put together fun exercises so that she actually wants to do them.

I want her to eat mindfully.

Eating in front of the TV is another bad habit that I have already passed on to my kids. Extra screen time over the last year was easy to fall into for all of us. I want to make sure that we have more meals and snacks at the kitchen table, so my daughter slows down and actually pays attention to what she’s eating and how she’s feeling.

I want her to enjoy her food and the different traditions that go along with it.

There are traditions that I had growing up that I use with my kids. One of them is, of course, birthday cakes. I want her to enjoy these treats and occasions without worrying about the extra sugar. I want to teach her the difference between cake once in a while and treats every day. There is something to be said for moderation or keeping certain foods mostly out of your diet.

I want her to know how to keep her blood sugar and mood level, so that she can stay in control.

I’m terrified of my daughter inheriting my issues with food, but I want to use that to motivate me to teach her to be better. We always want what’s best for our kids and for them to be better than us. I don’t want her to have the worries that I have manifested, but it is hard as a woman. The associations I’ve made with food have been reinforced over the years. I want to start with her now, so she understands how to fuel her body correctly, but that it’s also okay to have a cookie sometimes.

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