We all want the kids in our lives to lead happy and healthy lives. Not talking to the kids in your life about food and body in oversimplified ways doesn’t mean that you can’t help them form habits that will protect their mental and physical health for years to come. But learning what to say that can support the mental and physical health of the kids you love is a journey. We’re not always going to get it right. Do you best to incorporate these new ideas into your life, listen to yourself and adjust as you go until you find the words and actions that you believe and want the children in your life to take with them. Be kind to yourself, and trust that even making a few changes to the way you talk to and around the kids in your life can have a significant impact on helping them grow into healthy and happy adults.

Hover over some of the common phrases below to learn some alternate ways of talking about food and body around the kids you love.

If you’re worried about the kids in your life and their relationship with food and/or body, please consult a healthcare professional. You can also find more information here.

'How many calories are in that?'

'No, thank you'

We always have a choice about what we eat. As adults, we may choose to focus on maintaining a certain diet that
makes us feel our best. However, commenting on things like calorie counting in front of kids is unhelpful. Instead, if
someone offers you something that does not fit your preferences, a simple “no thank you” will show kids that they
can still make choices about their foods without explanation or for reasons related to the “label” that we’ve placed
on that food.

'You can have ice cream only after you've finished all of your carrots.'

'We are going to have ice cream after dinner.'

As as an adult, you can help kids to make good food choices. Instead of telling a child they can only have something
if they eat something else, consider making things seem less like a treat and more like they are just the next part of
the meal.

'This is bad for me. I'm going to need to work out after eating this.'

'This food is delicious. I will have a small serving.' OR 'No, thank you.'

Exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle. However, the idea that you can “cancel out” certain foods or meals with
exercise, is not only ineffective but can be dangerous, especially for children. Instead, focus on finding balance and
show kids that they can still enjoy the foods they love without shame and guilt. If the food doesn’t fit your
preferences, a simple “no, thank you” will also show kids they can choose what to eat without explanation.

'I hate the way my stomach looks in this shirt. Time to lose a few pounds.'

Say nothing

We all have days that we don’t feel like our best selves. Realize that you may need some extra self-care. Reflect on
how you have treated your mind and body lately and think of ways you can nurture your health. In the meantime,
avoid negative statements and be kind to yourself!

You may also point out to your child that it may be the clothes, and not you or your child, that is the problem. Try saying “ugh, clothes sizes can be made so unevenly, I thought this was the right size but it looks like I need to exchange it.” or “Oh, this shirt isn’t very comfortable. We don’t wear uncomfortable clothes in this house. Our bodies are way too important.”

'I exercise so that I don't gain weight.'

Exercise is a part of living an active, healthy lifestyle . But connecting exercise with weight loss can send the
message to kids that the only purpose of moving our bodies is to maintain or lose weight. Instead, help kids develop
a love of activities that involve movement because it helps them nurture their bodies and mind.

'You shouldn't be eating that, it's so bad for you.'

'That's not on the menu right now.' OR 'We aren't going to have this today.'

As an adult, it’s okay to help children make food choices. Instead of telling a child they can’t have something because
it’s “bad” for them, you can just say “that’s not on the menu right now” or “we aren’t going to eat that today” and
offer them something else.
If you are struggling with how to help a child maintain a balanced diet because of issues such as picky eating, food
insecurity, or any other reason, it’s best to consult a health care provider.

'If you get all A's on your report card, we will go out for ice cream.'

'Great job working hard in school. I'm really proud of you. Would you like to have a friend come over to celebrate this weekend?'

Choosing to reward or punish kids with food can undermine the healthy eating habits we are trying to instill in kids.
This can interfere with their natural ability to regulate their eating, and teach them to eat when they are not hungry,
can lead to emotion-based food choices, and more. Consider instead using other, non-food based ways to
reinforce (or discourage) certain behaviors.

'You look great! Have you lost weight?'

'I love the energy you have about you!'

There are so many wonderful things about people besides how much they weigh. Instead of commenting on a
person’s shape/size, comment on something about their character

'You look like you're getting a little heavier. We should get you up off that couch and start eating healthier to help you lose a few pounds.'

Say nothing OR talk with a healthcare professional

If the child is not your own, say nothing. Adults should always consult with a parent or guardian before talking
directly to children about their weight. Even these types of seemingly harmless comments can have a lasting
impact on a child.

If you are a parent/guardian of a child, and you or your doctor have concerns about your child’s weight, keep that
conversation among yourself and the professional—do not bring those issues to your child. After all, it is their
health—not their weight—that you are most interested in.
Be an advocate for your child with your child’s doctor. Explicitly ask the doctor to not talk to your child about
weight. Specifically request the conversation be kept to improving overall health.

Feeling distressed about your child’s weight? Reflect on the reasons why and seek out resources like how to
incorporate more physical activity for your family, how to engage your family in more balanced food choices, or talk
to a healthcare provider who can help zero in on specific health concerns related to you and your child. If you do
decide to make some changes, do not single out one child. Make the changes for the sake of the entire family’s
health.

YOU HAVE A POWERFUL VOICE.

TAKE THE PLEDGE TODAY.

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