Balance for Better

I recently met Sonni Abatta, a mother, lifestyle blogger, podcaster - and most importantly, amazing human! She hosted me on her podcast, 30-Something, right after she shared a post on her social media accounts which went viral, about the way we message food to children, particularly young girls.

In case you missed it, here’s what happened.

While shopping, she noticed a pink and gold sparkly lunch box that read “Cheat Day” on the outside. “What kind of messaging is that?” she wondered. “Why are we telling our young girls that eating one way is healthy, and eating anything else is cheating??

So she wrote about it, and about a million people got into the conversation.

The implication that some food is allowed, and other foods aren’t, is a curious thing. It plays into our crazy dieting culture and the contrast between foods that are health promoting, and foods that are vilified. Our cultural definition of these things changes with the seasons. Is dairy in? Is protein out? Carbs or no carbs? Is pasta Paleo? It changes so fast it is hard to keep up.

But what doesn’t seem to change, and what might be getting worse, is how we talk about what we eat, and how our choices are treated as a reflection of our body image. And the images children are raised with today – perfect Facebook posts of bikinis on the beach, blemish-free selfies, stick-thin models everywhere –  these constant “ideal” images can distort our children’s views on what matters.

So how can we communicate to ourselves and our children what matters? How can we, as parents, be strong and clear about good and healthy body image?

What do we focus on?

A few things.

Your body matters. Not for how it looks or what jeans it does or does not fit into. Because of what it does for you, and how it is strong and capable, and brings you to many incredible experiences. If you have ever hiked a hill for a stunning view, gone running with a dear friend, kayaked around a bunch of sea lions, or jumped rope with your kids, you know what I mean. We connect with the world and with the people around us by moving. Bodies need care and movement to grow and be strong.

Your relationship to your body matters. Having a loving and trusting relationship with your body is one of the greatest foundations to health and happiness. Nurturing your body, knowing what it needs (and what it doesn’t), and treating it well is elemental to good health. Learning how to honor and respond to your body’s needs – hunger, fullness, need for sleep, need to exercise, need to cuddle our children and curl up with our partners – leads to a sense of love, trust, and enjoyment of the bodies we live in.

Food matters. Good food matters. Fueling yourself with what our bodies need: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins, is the foundation to a strong, capable body.  Your body cannot be healthy without good food. Nutritious food, most of the day, most days of the year.

Connection matters. As a culture of humans, we have a basic need to eat together. We need to gather together, eat together, and share our stories – and have since the begging of time! So whether it is a 30-minute family meal, a coffee break, a long lunch with an old friend, or a luxurious, romantic date, food is one of the most basic and important ways we connect as people.

Desserts matter. Loving and indulging in a bowl of chocolate chocolate chip ice cream is NOT cheating. It is the opposite of cheating. It is loving and appreciating that incredible experience of perfect sweetness and flavor and chocolate deliciousness. That is experiencing one of the most magical human creations of all time. Chocolate is incredible. Ice cream is sublime. Desserts should be experienced and savored.

So please, let’s not teach our children that some food is cheating and some isn’t. Let’s encourage strong relationships, good food, eating together, and being active together.

And if you want to discuss this more over ice cream, I’m in!

No cheating required.