Many of us easily fess up to the reality that we often eat emotionally. But, that conversation typically ends there … usually with a sigh, a resolution to cook or exercise more, start a new diet, eat less sugar or more vegetables and green smoothies, etc.
Now, let’s put our angst aside for just for a moment and imagine all the dreams we have for our children.
Clearly, we do not wish for them to experience the pain of yoyo diets that never work, of distrusting themselves with food, or otherwise obsessing over their weight.
The harsh reality, though, is that our children are learning how to care for themselves from us, their parents. And, that includes how and what they eat.
According to Ellyn Satter, registered dietitian and eating specialist, children have a predisposition to want to learn how to eat the food that their parents eat… but yet we consistently pressure them to do so on our schedule, rather than trust and support them to do so on their own.
So, no matter how much we love them or how well-intentioned we are in wanting to teach them to eat healthfully by making them eat all their veggies before getting dessert, or instituting the “No-Thank-You Bite”, we have to recognize that, ultimately, our babies will choose to either nourish themselves or diet, savor every bite or begrudgingly force themselves to eat a salad everyday based on how WE – their parents – eat ourselves.
They are watching us, like hawks. The see how we plan and prepare food, how we seem to feel when we sit down for dinner and how we essentially feel about and care for our bodies.
Famed life coach Tony Robbins said, “Everybody’s life is either a warning or an example. You’ve got to decide what you’re gonna be and you have to draw a line in the sand.”
As parents, our actions either demonstrate to our kids how to cherish their precious bodies, or how to slap their bodies into submission.
Needless to say, the idea of cherishing ourselves can make a lot of us rather uncomfortable. But, ironically, we would do anything in our power to ensure that our kids feel this way about themselves.
Or would we?
We have to make a decision. Knowing the power we hold to influence them, are we willing to continue battling ourselves over food? Or, can we recognize that the time has come for us to learn how to love and nourish our own bodies, if only for the sake of our kids?
If we can’t, then we are not just simply emotional eaters. We then become emotional feeders, too. And the painful cycle then gets perpetuated through our children.
Acclaimed Clinical Psychologist and author of Conscious Parenting, Dr. Shefali Tsabary, said in her TedxSF Talk,
“It is time for us to change the spotlight, to turn it inward. And change it from being the child who needs to be fixed, the child as the one with the problem, [to] parental evolution as the solution.”
In other words, we have become so fixated on what our children are bringing to the table – from picky eating, to not sitting still, to sneaking food or refusing to eat – that we’ve completely ignored the fact that as their parents, we have an enormous impact on how our children are behaving.
Or, more pointedly, how it is they are reacting to our own behavior: the rigidity we feel with food, the angst over portion-control, the guilt over not serving the “perfect” Instagram-ready dinner, not to mention any triggers from our own childhood.
Let’s vow to let our kids off the hook and to raise them to be in touch with their own rhythms, cravings, and hunger levels separate and apart from our own.
But, we can only do this by stopping ourselves from focusing solely on their issues, and beginning the journey of looking inward to resolve some of our own.