Fit Friday: 5 Tips to Help Kids Have a Healthy Relationship with Food and Exercise


Here's another fantastic Fit Friday post by Ashley!

I can only imagine how hard it must be to raise a family in our culture. I am not a mom myself, but I was a kid, raised in a home that strived to promote health, balance, and wellness beyond body image and weight loss. As I thought about how I was raised, and the type of environment I hope to have in my family one day, I have created a list of simple ways that you can help your children have a healthy relationship with food and exercise.

Everywhere we look, the media throws images and expectations in our face on how to look/act a certain way. Young girls as early as elementary school are starting to show signs of disordered eating, and negative body image. As parents, you have a critical role in your child’s development and the way they grow up viewing themselves and their bodies. Children pick up on cues from their parents, they listen to what is said around the home, and they are easily influenced. The responsibility that parents have to create a healthy home might be greater than we ever imagined.

If parents are exercising obsessively, counting calories, dieting, and talking about food and their own bodies in an negative way, kids are aware (even subconsciously) of what is being said and how they should feel about themselves. It becomes normal for children to start thinking that every woman is uncomfortable in their skin, and want to lose weight to fit into a pair of jeans or look thin for an upcoming event. Avoiding these topics can be tricky as I am sure there is a conflict between wanting to raise your kids with healthy habits, but not encourage disordered eating or body image issues.

Here are 5 tips to help your kids have a healthy relationship with food and exercise:

  1. Involve your children in the making of healthy, delicious, and nutritious meals, and eat the SAME meal as them. Encourage your children to see food in regards to how it can nourish their bodies without focusing on the calories, fat grams, or carbohydrates. Set an example by having the same meal so they don’t always see their parents “dieting”.

  2. Throw out your scale! Your child sees what you do on a daily basis, and seeing you weigh yourself every day only encourages the idea that there is value in that number. Watching your emotions change based on what you see can have a damaging impact on your child’s perception of weight and body image.
  3. Encourage exercise and physical activity as a way to remain healthy as opposed to weight loss/control. Do things that your family enjoys as a way to spend quality time together and get those little bodies moving. Be creative, and add variety to your daily exercise to keep it interesting and interactive for your children. Hiking, biking, walking, and all kinds of sports can show your kids that exercise and staying active and fit is fun.

  4. Focus on your children’s strengths beyond their appearance. Look for ways to compliment and encourage your kids that go beyond how they look. Foster this type of communication in your family and speak to your spouse in the same way in front of them. You would be amazed at how easily they can be influenced.
  5. Limit your child’s access to unrealistic images of women in television, magazines, and the internet. These “fake” pictures can be engrained in your child’s mind before you even realize it, and they can grow up thinking that this is the norm and how they should look one day. Talk about how the media Photoshops and changes photos, and be vocal about the lies behind those images.

Did the way you were raised have a negative impact on how you view food and/or exercise? What choices are you making to help your kids?