How to Raise an Intuitive Eater When You're Learning to Become One
Have you wondered HOW to raise kids who feel confident with food and in their bodies when you might struggle with food yourself?
Maybe you’ve had your own issues with food over the years.
Maybe you are a chronic dieter and don’t know how to eat without food rules.
Maybe you have had a history of disordered eating or have struggled with an eating disorder, like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.
Whatever your past has been, motherhood - with all its highs and lows - can bring unresolved issues with food and your body right to the surface.
I understand, because I’ve been there, too, mama.
As a mother who has recovered from an intensely turbulent relationship with food and my body, I understand the fears and anxieties you might be feeling about feeding and raising your own kids.
No matter how you currently feel about eating or in your body, I’m sure we could agree on one thing:
You want your kids to have a healthy relationship with food and to experience life without any of the struggles you’ve faced with food and your body.
You don’t want your child to fear food or eating.
You want your kids to be confident in their bodies and resilient to the damaging messages they’ll face in our culture that will tell them they’re not good enough.
You desire for your children to develop healthy eating habits that will help them feel good in their bodies for the long term while rejecting the diet mentality completely.
Maybe you worry if these things are possible for your kids when you haven’t been there yourself?
If so, please know that you’re not alone, mama.
Trust that there is absolutely hope for you and your kiddos.
Know that by healing your relationship with food, you are protecting THEIRS and generations to come after them.
You are creating a different outcome for your children, which will allow them to experience food and their bodies in a more positive way.
There is good news for you here, mama. You can absolutely nurture a positive upbringing in your kids, with respect to food and their bodies, even while you continue to do your own healing work in these areas.
You don’t have to be totally confident or comfortable in your body or around food to begin to help your child develop confidence.
The love you have for your own children can be a powerful motivation factor to take a stand against generational cycles of dieting to create a different future for you AND your kids.
It takes so much courage to be aware of these patterns in your life and to be committed to changing things for the better for you and your family.
Give yourself patience and grace along the journey. Keep the long-term goals in mind as you go through this process to give you and your kids the space you learn and grow along the way.
The task ahead can feel monumental because in many ways, you are headed into uncharted territory.
You are working to take your kids to a place you may not have experienced before in your own relationship with food and your body. But you will make it through this stronger, resilient, and even more confident as a role model to your children as a mother who honors your health.
As you learn to trust and listen to your body as the best expert of what you need, keep these things in mind when raising and feeding your own kids:
You Can Trust Your Kids With Eating
While you might still be learning what it means to trust your body, you can absolutely trust that your kids are the best experts of their own bodies!
More important than trying to teach your kids about food is to TRUST them around food.
The good news is that your child is born with an innate ability to eat what they need to grow at a rate that is right for them. You can nurture their innate intuitive eater by building a trusting feeding relationship with your kids.
This means you allow them to do their part with eating while you focus on doing your part with feeding.
No matter what past experiences around food and your body have taught you, you can clear the clutter and release internal and external pressures so that you can learn to trust your child with eating.
Practical ways to build trust in your child’s eating ability might include:
Allowing them to eat as much or as little as they need from the foods you have provided at meals and snack times
Exposing them to a variety of foods, including foods that you might still be making peace with or undoing food rules around
Not forcing, bribing, tricking or coercing your child to eat certain things or amounts
Giving them consistent access to food through regular meals and snacks
Knowing that your kids will grow into the body that is right for them without any interference on your part
Trusting your kids’ appetites and the amount of food they need, no matter the size of their bodies
As you build trust in your child’s relationship with food, this can also help build your own confidence in yourself and how you approach food and your body.
2. Approach Food in a Neutral Way to Create Positive Experiences With Food and Eating
If you’re trying to heal your own relationship with food and your body, you might feel unable to create positive experiences for your own children.
The important thing here is to try to have a neutral environment from which you feed your kids.
It’s okay if you’re not in the positive zone yet.
Kids can thrive in settings that are neutral, as this creates a space for them to learn and explore food and their bodies.
What does a neutral food environment look like? This involves:
Choosing to use language about food and your body that isn’t shaming or degrading
Talking about food without using polarizing terms, such as good or bad
Not discussing diets or weight loss when talking to your kids about food and their bodies
Minimizing non-verbal messages or gestures that might communicate negative messages about food
Meal time setting that help your child comfortable explore food
Ensuring that your child doesn’t feel shame about their food choices or portions
Sometimes the fears and anxieties you might have around food coupled with external pressures to raise healthy kids might influence you to micromanage how your child may eat.
Remaining neutral around food can be a solid foundational point from which your kids can grow into confident and competent eaters who enjoy food and respect their bodies.
3. Be Committed to Your Own Healing Journey with Food and Your Body
As you walk through this journey, continue to reflect on this question: Is your relationship with food something you would want your kids to replicate?
This is not something intended to shame you or make you feel bad whatsoever, but rather, something to continue to encourage you to do what is needed to help you heal.
If you have struggled with disordered eating, chronic dieting, or an eating disorder, understand that your journey may take time, but it will unfold exactly as it needs to be.
What is needed to recover might be different for everyone. Your journey and life experiences might look different from someone else, and that doesn’t mean you’re failing or not doing a good enough job. You’re right where you need to be.
Often the road to healing your relationship with food and your body doesn’t have a final point where you can say, “I’m here, I’ve arrived!”. Instead, it continues to evolve and grow through self-reflection and the different seasons of life and motherhood.
Some aspects of motherhood might be more difficult than others when it comes to trusting yourself as the expert of your body.
For example, you might get to a place where you feel confident with intuitive eating but then feel uncertain about how to navigate the food and body changes that come with pregnancy or postpartum.
Again, this doesn’t mean you’re failing but that you might need extra support to help you through a challenging transition.
Approach the different seasons of your life through a lens of curiosity rather than judgement in order to help identify any potential triggers as clues for areas you may need to focus on.
Recognize that as a mother who is working through her own issues around food, certain things may come up for you that may need more attention to fully work through.
Take these scenarios as examples with the understanding that every person is unique and might experience things differently:
Is your child going through something in regards to food or their body that might bring up feeling of shame, guilt or anger?
Do past food rules limit the way you feed your kids or experience food as a family?
Are you going through a season of motherhood that might make it more difficult for you to trust your body, like pregnancy or postpartum?
Do you find yourself suddenly more hyper--aware or focused on what you or your child are eating or your body sizes?
Do you experience anxiety or feel worried when your child eats certain foods like desserts or sweets/
Do you have fear about your child’s body size or worry if they are in a smaller or larger body?
How do you feel about food on special occasions, like holidays, birthday parties, or traveling?
Are you unsure about portion sizes or worried if your child might be eating too much or too little?
These types of situations can sometimes bring up feelings of guilt, anger, anxiety or frustration. But try to look at them like clues given to you for a reason to help you dig a little deeper beneath the surface to find out what underlying issues might be there for you to work through.
Remember that the journey toward intuitive eating and rebuilding trust with your body and learning to trust your kids is a lot like peeling an onion: there are many layers to it that take time, compassion, and patience to heal through.
As you navigate these experiences, learn to reconnect with your body through the different stages of motherhood.
Approach food and exercise as a way to care for and nurture your body, not to punish it or to manipulate it to look a certain way. Through this gradual shifts in your own relationship with food, you will help your children build confidence in their own bodies.
Redefining Healthy Eating Habits for Kids
When you are healing your own relationship with food and your body, recognize that fighting diet culture can sometimes feel like an uphill battle.
You will likely face well-meaning “advice” from a variety of people in your life who have good intentions, but remember to keep the big picture in mind when it comes to raising kids who enjoy food and respect their bodies.
Sometimes these things might bring up insecurities or doubts as you continue doing your own healing work.
Especially in these instances, hang on tight to your mama intuition and stay focused on the big picture goals: you want to raise kids who have a positive relationship with food and their bodies, and you want to enjoy the same thing for yourself.
Mainstream media does not define health in this way, and that can create some conflicting ideas about what it means to bring up a healthy child. Stay connected to your purpose and be sure you are supported along your journey to help you and your kids stay the course.
You are doing the brave and hard work to create peace with food for you and your kids.
Hang in there as you fight for the freedom that you and your family deserve, and know that you don’t walk alone.
This process might feel uncomfortable as you venture into territory with your child that you have yet to experience for yourself - that is OK.
Give yourself and your kids space to learn and grow along the way.
Things might feel messy and muddled at times as you blaze a path into new territory, but know that it will all be worth it to create a generation of individuals who live in food freedom that will have benefitted from your own healing.
You’ve got this!