Have you ever had someone tell you as you’re eating something, that you shouldn’t be eating it? Or as you help yourself to more, say “Jeez, you’re having more?” How did you feel? Angry? Annoyed? Embarrassed? Shameful? It often feels like an intrusion when others comment on our food and eating choices. Because it’s OUR choice.  One of the biggest mistakes we as parents make is telling our kids what to eat or how much to eat. It may or may not result in negative feelings. For children, it is a normal part of the parent/kid dynamic for parents to set boundaries, to guide, to teach. So we do that at the table too. But it is important that we do it in the right way. If we don’t, it could do more harm than good.


Children have an innate sense of what their bodies need. They are naturally in tune with their body’s signals of hunger and fullness. When we start to influence how much they eat, they start to second-guess their body’s cues. They love and trust us so much, their confidence in their body’s wisdom begins to waver. With time and persistence on our part, they may completely lose touch with what their body tells them. How many adults do you know who eat when they aren’t hungry, or eat until they are uncomfortably full? I work with many adults who have lost the ability to recognize hunger and fullness cues and I see how it impacts their relationship with food. It takes a lot of work to restore this mind-body connection.

What if we as parents could preserve that connection? What if we could raise our children to eat intuitively? We have the ability to empower our children to trust their bodies and its internal cues, diminishing the influence of external cues. We are bombarded every day by external influences—food advertising, social pressure, cultural customs. When we ignore what our body tells us, it negatively affects our health and wellbeing.
Intuitive eating starts at your family table. Allowing your child to choose from the foods you offer and to decide how much he will eat gives him confidence that he knows what he needs at meal time. I am here to tell you this is not easy! The urge to guide and to teach is strong in us parents! But we can still do that; the solution lies in that old adage, actions speak louder than words. Our power lies in our actions. When we enjoy a variety of nutritious foods in the presence of our children, they see us. When we provide a variety of nutritious foods at meals, they see what a balanced meal looks like. These are strong and consistent messages that will stay with your child into adulthood. Deep down, this information is registered and stored. Positive role modeling is the key. Use it to SHOW them how much you love them! Challenge yourself to get through one week of speaking through your actions at your family meals. Share your experience in the comments below!

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