Last week, I talked about a hidden challenge facing parents when it comes to Raising Body Confident Kids.
The hidden challenge being: our fears about our children getting bigger, are caused, at least in part, by the pressure on us to make them fit within a so-called healthy weight range.
We looked at how, even if we wanted to keep our children a certain weight, we can’t, and trying to often back-fires.
It would be easy, when reading those emails, to mistakenly think that because I’m suggesting we stop focusing on weight, by extension, I’m suggesting parents should stop focusing on health altogether. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The idea that weight and health are intimately linked runs deep in our society. It’s one of the hardest ideas to unpick and comprehend, that I talk about in these posts and in the work I do with parents.
It can help to know, it wasn’t until relatively recently, that health and weight researchers started to ask if fat itself caused health issues in bigger bodied people, or if fat was more likely correlated to health issues.
That question is of critical importance when it comes to putting together the puzzle that health, body image and confidence presents parents. We have a lot of data that show us…
1) we have no dependable way to change the size of a human being in the long run without serious side effects
2) we absolutely know how to make humans healthier (but can’t guarantee weight will change in the process).
The behaviours we know lead to better health outcomes in humans – eating plenty of veggies and fresh foods and getting regular exercise – can sometimes lead to weight loss, but it’s no guarantee, and we have no way of knowing who will and who won’t lose weight when adopting healthier behaviours.
Some people who get enough to eat (that is satisfying, including plenty of veggies and nutritious foods) and get regular exercise end up at at the high end of the size scale.
Some people who eat a low nutrient diet, don’t exercise and engage in behaviours that lead to poor health (drink alcohol, smoke, get poor quality sleep, etc) end up in the so called ‘healthy weight’ range.
In other words, engaging in healthy behaviours is not a sure fire way to ensure you’ll end up a particular size. But you are more likely to be fitter, enjoy healthy blood pressure, have a good resting pulse, be stronger, get better sleep and other measurable health indicators.
It’s worth noting here, too, that health behaviours only make up a small portion of our overall health picture. It is entirely possible for two people to eat the same nutrient dense diet and get an equal amount of exercise and end up with very different health problems during their life. To blame our individual health solely on what we eat and how much we move is highly problematic at best.
Having this understanding of health and then applying it to parenting practices is critical if we want to raise confident children who want to take as good care of their bodies as possible.
One of the first steps is to familiarise ourselves with the data that helps us unpick weight and health and to see what’s really happening when we stop assuming weight is the cause of health issues in most bigger bodied people.
The research is highly nuanced, with many smart individuals working to get a more realistic picture of how health and weight intersect into the public domain.
These three books are a great place to start…
Body Respect by Lindo Bacon and Lucy Aphramore
Anti-Diet by Chrissy Harrison
Food Isn’t Medicine by Dr Joshua Wolrich
If you’re enrolled in the Raising Body Confident Kids parenting course you can visit Module One, Lesson Four (a new perspective on Health and Weight) and all of Module Three (food and mealtimes, from battles to freedom) to refresh yourself with the tools.
Not enrolled, but ready to learn? No problem. You can find out about the Raising Body Confident Kids parenting course here.
It’s such a pleasure to support you on your parenting for body confidence journey!
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