Parents Role Model Emotional Eating

Parents Role Model Emotional Eating

Emotional Eating Starts in Childhood Through Role Modelling

Emotional Eating is an issue that can have many and varied reasons for starting and being maintained.

If you suffer from Emotional Eating you will know that you may eat for many different reasons:

  • Stress;
  • Boredom;
  • Tiredness;
  • Loneliness;
  • Happiness;
  • Reward, and
  • Celebration. 

Each of the reasons you use food, as a coping mechanism, can have a foundation connected to family, friends, teen years, childhood or dieting. 

A study Published in Pediatric Obesity Journal, conducted by the University College London (2017) found that children who struggle with Emotional Eating are not only influenced by their genetic makeup; they are, in fact, largely influenced by their home environment and role models. 

This study found that Nurture can be even more influential than Nature; meaning that the environment one grows up in is more influential in their adult lives than their hereditary genes.

A child’s own relationship with food, and eating behaviours can be influenced by the following issues in the home environment: 

  • A parent who may be overweight or obese;
  • A parent who overeats or under-eats;
  • A parent who stress or emotionally eats;
  • A parent who uses food to soothe, reward or control behaviour in their children;
  • A family that doesn’t have a balanced, healthy eating practice, and
  • Stress at meal times.

Are You a Healthy Role Model?

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Children learn by watching and mimicking the behaviours of those closest to them.

In other words, monkey see, monkey do – and we want to keep our little monkeys as healthy and happy as possible!

Genetic makeup does influence your children, however being a healthy role model has far more power to shape your child’s eating habits, and set up them up to either have a healthy or unhealthy relationship with food in adulthood.

The Heart Foundation provides some worrying statistics when it comes to the dietary habits of adults:

  • 36% of Australian adults are overweight;
  • 50.2% of adults have an inadequate fruit intake, and 
  • 92.9% of adults have an inadequate vegetable intake.

If this is the state of affairs for adults, then what chance do children have?

Whether it is overeating or under-eating, the hard truth is that eating traits are developed in the formative years of a child’s life (pre-school years) and this trait is enduring.

What this means is that you can:

  • Help your children develop a healthy relationship with food and significantly reduce the possibility of Emotional Eating, OR 
  • Create an unhealthy relationship with food by using food to comfort, soothe, reward or control emotions and behaviours, in your children which will inevitably see them collide with Emotional Eating.  

The choice is yours as a parent and role model.

It might seem easy in the moment to bribe a grumpy child with a piece of chocolate, but the long-term consequences of using food as a bargaining technique can lead to childhood and adult obesity, Disordered Eating, and poor emotional coping skills.

To avoid Emotional Eating occurring, families need to find healthy ways to manage stress and find options reward, soothe, and comfort without food.

Related: Mum’s at War: How To Respond To Mummy Bullying  

3 Tips to Become a Healthier Role Model

There are many practical ways you can become a healthier role model for your children!

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Tip #1: Find Other Ways to Soothe, Comfort and Reward

There are plenty of conducive ways to moderate you and your child’s mood without food! 

  • To soothe, try listening to some gentle music, or going for a walk to the park for some productive play and movement; 
  • To comfort, give lots of affection, or run a warm bubble bath for some splish-splashy fun. If your child is sad, watch your favorite movie or play a board game together for some cheering-up, and
  • To reward your child for achieving something positive, try something like an age-appropriate coloring book, or other arts and crafts, as a creative treat.

Spending positive, quality time with your child is something your children really do crave from you, and is not related to food. Quality time with your child strengthens your overall bond and communication.

This can have a long-lasting, positive effect on adult life. 

Tip #2: Watch Your Words 

Children pick up on the language that is used around them. That is why it’s so important not to talk about dieting, restricting/bingeing, or negative body image. Instead, choose to speak positively about body image, shape, weight, and size.

Each and everybody is unique and beautiful, and this needs to be verbalized to create a strengthened, positive sense-of-self early on, in a child’s life.

Some positive things to say might include: 

  • Healthy food for healthy fuel;
  • We eat plenty of fruit and veg so we can grow strong;
  • You are cared for and loved;
  • Your body is unique and beautiful; 
  • You are important, and you matter, and
  • You are capable of achieving so much.

Tip #3: Seek Assistance with Your Disordered Eating

The first step is recognizing that you and your family may be affected by Emotional Eating or other forms of Disordered Eating. You can make a positive impact on your child’s future self, by taking action to change your unhealthy relationship with food now. 

You can be a positive influence on your family by having discussions about fruits and vegetables and get the kids involved in the choosing and cooking process.

Find fun family activities that get the whole family moving and connecting more.

Ask your friends for tips and ideas on how to bring your family closer together, and keep practicing your healthier habits. 

Seeking professional help is courageous, not something to be ashamed of.

Talking with a professional about your food and Emotional Eating issues, to enable you to become a healthier role model, is the most empowering thing you can do for yourself and your family.

Build healthier choices today for a healthier future for your children!

If you want to action positive change and break the negative cycle of Emotional Eating, make an appointment with Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic today to get you and your family on track for a healthier and happier life!

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