How to Eat

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Good news! Here\’s something we can take off of our mothering plates: teaching our daughter to \’eat healthy.\’ Turns out, it\’s not something we need to teach at all.

Research shows us that the most effective way to parent around foods is to create a safe, structured environment that supports them in their natural ability to be competent eaters.

Do to this, we must first realize the mistake of focusing on \’healthy\’ eating. A healthy eater could mean a different thing from one day to the next and is often defined by the current diet culture of the day.

If we teach our girls to be ‘healthy’ eaters, they will second-guess themselves as the tide changes with regard to what’s best to eat. She’ll be searching—like the rest of our culture—for that ever-elusive, ever-changing form of eating \’perfection\’. She will berate herself for not meeting standards or following a long list of \’shoulds\’ around foods and eating.

To set your daughter up for success, stand her up on solid ground and focus on building eating competence instead.

Competent eaters have a natural ease around foods. They are positive, comfortable, flexible, and matter-of-fact about eating. Competent eaters have self- confidence and trust in themselves with it comes to their ability to eat satisfy, enjoyable, and nourishing foods. Competent eaters trust themselves and turn inward when it comes to getting messages about foods, eating, hunger, and satisfaction.

Believe it or not, eating competence isn’t just a dreamy idea that sounds like an impossible reality. Eating competence a real, valid, and scientifically researched concept that was pioneered, coined (as ecSatter), and studied by registered dietitian and psychotherapist Ellyn Satter.

Competent eaters are not at odds with themselves when it comes to foods and eating. Competent eaters do not have deep internal conflict between what they want and should eat, according to Satter.

Healthy children are born with an innate connection to their hunger and fullness. They can sense these things in their body without thinking about them at all.  Competent eaters are the ones who stay in touch with these bodily skills throughout life.

Children and adults who show eating competence are less likely to diet, have better self-esteem about their bodies, maintain steadier BMI, are more active, sleep better, are more trusting of others and themselves, have healthier diets (more vegetables and fruits than average), and do better when it comes to feeding their own children, according to research.

Our job as parents is to help our child develop and maintain eating competence that will last throughout their lifetime.

Diet culture destroys an adult’s ability to raise a competent eater. Diet culture tells us we cannot be trusted around food and, thus, we cannot trust our children around food. Diet culture tells us that if a food is enjoyable, it likely cannot be enjoyed. Diet culture destroys our ease and flexibility around foods, putting us in constant battle between what we want and what we think we should want.

Since women and young girls are particularly targeted by diet culture, it is our job as parents to adamantly defy it.

As mothers and primary feeders, it is our job to understand eating competence, model it ourselves, and support the development of it in our daughters.

 

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