Dietitian Tips for Promoting Healthy Body Image in Children
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By Calgary Nutritionist and Online Dietitian Andrea Holwegner

Parents and caregivers can do so much to help shape the body image of children and how they respect and perceive themselves. Over the years as a Calgary Nutritionist and Online Dietitian and parent myself, here are some of the key messages that are helpful to foster with the kids in your life as a parent, caregiver, teacher or coach.

How to Improve Body Image in Kids

There is no one way to have a body

As children age and change they become more aware of their bodies and need help to understand that there is no one way to have a body. We all grow and develop differently.

Body’s change and we are all imperfect. The key is to normalize how we grow.  Explain to your child that as they grow their body and hormones will change faster than his/her brain can often handle. Some kids stretch wider before they stretch tall while others stretch taller and then fill out.  Each person grows in their own unique way. 

For teen girls moving from a flat chest and narrow hips to higher body-fat and womanly curves is a big adjustment that is often difficult. Throw in media images of air-brushed and digitally “skinnied” models and societal messages that contribute to the over-sexualization of girls and you can see why adolescent teens feel inadequate and unsure about their body.

To help with this transition teach your child early on to embrace diversity.  Remind them that just like we all have different eye colors, we all have different body types and there is not one way to have a body

Fat is not a feeling

As a parent or caregiver, you play a huge role in helping children understand their feelings and overall self-confidence.

When your child says, “I feel fat,” gently reply that fat is not a feeling, just like the colour green is not a feeling. Ask him or her what they would say if the words “I feel fat” could not be used. Is it angry, lonely, discouraged, rejected, nervous, scared, or sad?

Naming and emotion is an important aspect to tame an emotion. As author and psychiatrist Daniel Siegel says, name it to tame it.

Your child or teenager needs help to figure out what was happening before the “I feel fat” comment was made. Remind him/her that feelings come and go just like the weather, and help him/her with some coping suggestions that make them feel stronger and more in control.

Children learn what they live

Do you think your kids didn’t see you skip carbs all day while following yet another fad diet? Stuffing uncomfortable emotions with food? Wonder why your child is worried about getting fat or preteen is obsessing about the number on the scale?

Kids learn what they live.

The best job you can do as a parent and caregiver is role model regular healthy meals but also save room for fun foods like chocolate or potato chips chosen for non-nutrition reasons. Expose them to moderate physical activity to keep the body strong.

Remind them that just like we accept that we all wear different shoe sizes, we also need to accept that we all wear a different body size too.

If you or one of your children is struggling with body images issues, weight concerns or a poor relationship with food, contact us for help. We work one-on-one with families to navigate the challenges so many kids face in learning to fuel their body properly and grow confidently into their own skin.

We can also support you as parents to figure out the answers to common questions such as:

  • What can I do to help my child who is being teased about their weight?
  • How do I get my kids to eat enough (but not too much)?
  • My child is sneaking and hiding food. What should I do?
  • How much sugar is OK for kids?
  • What do I do when all my child wants to eat is sweets and treats and dislikes vegetables?
  • What is some speedy (but healthy) meal planning ideas kids will actually eat?
  • As a parent, I struggle with my weight and a poor relationship with food and don’t want my child to struggle the same way I do. What can I do?

Our dietitian Calgary and online nutritionist services can help you with family nutrition counseling. As university-trained Registered Dietitians, you can count on us for credible advice and practical meal planning advice for busy families. We specialize in pediatric nutrition, picky eating, weight concerns, body image, and eating disorders. We can work with you as parents to help you navigate the challenging parts of food and weight for your family. Let’s talk about what this can look like for you. CONTACT US.

Read more about our nutrition counseling programs by our local Calgary Nutritionist team / Online Dietitians (including our Pediatric Dietitian and Eating Disorder Dietitians here: NUTRITION COUNSELING.

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Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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