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Important Positive Body Image Message from an Eating Disorder Dietitian Print

An Open Letter to Parents, Teachers, Coaches and Role Models

 

four young girls with their arms around each other smile for a picture ouside on a sunny day As a Registered Dietitian and nutrition counsellor working with many young athletes, adolescents struggling with anxiety and depression, people with body image concerns, families, and young people with eating disorders, I want to share some key things I have learned that I believe can help with issues faced doing the toughest job.

Being a parent is the hardest job in the world! I truly believe that. Add to that the pressure of getting it right and it might feel impossible at times.

Are you doing enough? Are they in the right school and doing the right activities? Do they know right from wrong? Are they safe? Did I feed them well enough? Are their friends good influences on them?

Being a kid is hard too! And whether we know it or now, they feel a lot of the same pressures we do.

So please. Let’s make a few things easier for everyone. I want to bring your attention to a few key points:

1. PLEASE be very cautious of the words you use when you discuss another person and their body.

 

Size does not equal health.

Larger bodies are not inherently unhealthy, just like smaller bodies are not automatically healthy. We are all meant to be different shapes and sizes. That is what makes us beautiful.

So please teach this early and often to your children; you cannot tell the health of a person by looking at them.

2. Do not put yourself on a restrictive diet.

 

Unless you are allergic to a food, truly do not like a food, or avoid a food due to religious or ethical purposes, please do not cut it out of your diet.

 

I encourage you to eat the foods you like. I promise you that there is a place for all the foods that you enjoy. You will not be less healthy enjoying a wide variety of foods, in fact, you will likely be healthier thanks to a greater nutrient diversity.

a small flabread pizza sits next to fresh herbs and a bowl of green salad in a sunny spot on a table

3. Food. Is. Just. Food.

 

Do not label food. Do not call food good or bad.

 

Food does not have morality. You are not bad for eating cake, just like you are not good for eating carrots.

4. Be very careful what you say about your own body.

 

Stay positive or at least neutral about your body image.

 

Even if you think your child has the most beautiful amazing body, if you label your own body as too big, too small, or bad in one way or another, they will know exactly what you mean and learn to apply this to themselves.

four young women of a variety of body shapes and skin colours laugh together while wearing workout wear

5. Do not encourage weight loss.

 

Even if you call it “getting fit”, “getting leaner”, or “getting healthier”, I promise you that person knows exactly what you are saying to them. They hear any of these phrases as “you are not enough as you are”.

 

Now that you are aware, and know what to avoid, let me highlight things that I want you to do!

Positive ways to encourage a healthy body image and healthy relationship with food and your body

 

DO: Eat a variety of foods and offer a wide variety of foods in your home.

A nother and daughter stand in a kitchen looking at each other. Their noses are touching. It is a very loving image. DO: Talk about beauty in all sizes and shapes of people. Let’s focus on what bodies do instead of what they look like . Try saying things like “they carry themselves so confidently”, “they light up a room”, “they are so easy to talk to”, or “I am always happy to be around that person”.

DO: Speak positively about your own body, but yes, still avoid size and shape labels as much as you can.
I feel strong, powerful, confident, energized, capable, rested, beautiful, empowered.

DO: Encourage your kids to explore in the kitchen and try new things.
Baking is a wonderful creative outlet. Cooking is a life skill that we can all improve at.

DO: Move your body and encourage others to move their body because it feels good, it is great for mental health, and it’s a fun way to get social.

DO: Shut down body talk and diet talk if you hear it. I don’t care if an elder came from a “different time”, it is still not okay to judge or label a body or food. If you are feeling confused about what to say or not to say, remember the old adage: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

 

If you want some guidance or coaching on this, please feel free to drop me a note in the comments section below.

 

If you are struggling with your own relationship with food and your body image, reach out to me for help. Building confidence for yourself is one of the best ways you can empower your son, daughter or any young person in your life to also feel comfortable in their skin. Contact us for help.

 

You might also want to check out some of these previous articles on our blog:

 

Looking for more simple meal planning tips and healthy recipes for a healthier lifestyle? Sign up for our weekly newsletter for a healthy recipe of the week (and nutrition articles and videos with a balanced living philosophy to help encourage healthy habits but still save room for your favorites). Our nutrition newsletter is written by the Online / Calgary Nutritionists on our team who each hold a professional Registered Dietitian license to ensure you are getting credible advice.

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"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
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Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
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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
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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

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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.”
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