The topic of dieting for young kids is in the news a lot lately because New York socialite Dara-Lynn Weiss told readers in Vogue magazine how she made Bea, her 7-year-old daughter, lose weight by strictly monitoring her every mouthful and humiliating her in public to keep her from eating.
The tell-all Weiss wrote sparked a firestorm of criticism, of course, but also offers us an opportunity to have a more thoughtful public discussion about girls, their bodies, their body images, healthy eating, the importance of exercise and the damage (and eating disorders) that too often result when mothers get over-involved in controlling what their daughters eat.
We now have more than enough research and evidence that strictly controlling the eating habits of kids (especially girls) impairs their ability to read their own bodies and make good decisions.
In Stop Forcing My Daughter to Eat! I explore the well-researched connection between the Clean-Plate Club and obesity.
Here are 20 Foolproof Diet Do’s and Don’ts for you tiger moms and grandma lions out there who are overly involved in what should be a private conversation between a girl and her own body:
Do think of food and eating as a card game. There are categories of foods you want to eat each day. We each need different amounts and combinations to keep us healthy, to keep our bodies fueled and running well.
Do encourage your children to listen carefully, mindfully to their bodies, their hunger and their fullness.
Do keep the focus internal, not external. Instead of asking how much a child weighs or how many calories she ate that day, focus on what her body feels like after exercising or what she notices about her hunger patterns when she has a breakfast of protein.
Do make the goal for yourself and your children to normalize eating, not lose weight. If you are eating healthfully, mindfully and moving your body in some way every day, your weight and health will be what’s optimal for your body.
Do encourage your child to drink a lot of water, especially before meals.
Do teach your child to eat mindfully – not in front of the television, while talking or texting on their cell phone or while doing anything else. Teach her to pay attention to the food, to how it makes her feel, to the taste, the smell, the texture, the flavors.
Don’t burden your kid with YOUR body issues. Your child is not your diet buddy. You are not in the same body. You are not the same person. Your issues should NOT become hers.