How Do You Raise a Daughter with a Healthy Attitude About Food and Her Body.

Updated on March 10, 2010
L.O. asks from Sterling Heights, MI
12 answers

My daugter is 4. Her grandmother and aunt on her dad side had serious food issues.. they were both bulimic at some point in their lives..

My daughter is naturally tall and thin. She is a very anxious nervous child. I worry that due to her genes from her grandmother and aunt and also her anxious personality she is a bulimic waiting to happen.

I do not talk about weight and diet with her as I do not feel it si a necessary at 4...

any one have any ideas...

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Philadelphia on

I think it is very smart to be very aware of the family history of food issues.

I think it's important to not focus on food or weight and just be a good role model and show her how many different things she can succeed at that have nothing to do with her weight.

I have two 3yr old girls so this issue is on my mind as well

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answers from San Diego on

I think it's great that you're aware of the potential dangers for your daughter, especially given her family history. My suggestions: Model healthy eating and exercise habits without overemphasizing that that's what you're doing. Give her lots of unconditional love. Try to build up her self-esteem, especially in areas that are completely unrelated to appearance. Eating disorders are largely about control, so help her feel that she has control in her life. Also, I think it's a good idea to limit her exposure to mass media, especially TV and fashion magazines, where unrealistic and unhealthy images of women are so frequently portrayed.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Madison on

Make sure you are setting a good example for your daughter by eating healthy and being active. Don't make negative comments about your own body. Don't put a focus on what her body looks like. If you and your family lead a healthy, active lifestyle there is really no need to be talking much about weight and diet even as she gets older.



answers from Austin on

Wow, I have the exact same question! I don't have any foolproof answers. But first off, I am raising my kids to be super healthy eaters. If they are used to and attracted to healthy food, they will have an easier time making better choices.

On the body issue thing -- I think the best thing you can do is to focus on making her feel confident and happy in general. I know a few larger women who are so happy and totally comfortable with themselves. I envy them. Of course, you don't want her to be obese, but that doesn't sound like it will be an issue. I thinking raising confident kids is hard, and I will be looking for help to do it. But I think you're right to not zero in on body image per se... Help her feel good about herself in every way possible, make sure she knows she's loved, valueable, all that. If Dad's in the picture -- I think hearing from Dad that she's beautiful, all through her life, will make a huge impact. Some guys naturally do this, some don't. With my husband, I have to tell him "Your daughter needs to hear that you think she's beautiful."



answers from Kansas City on

I agree with the moms...of course. Eating disorders are the SAME as drug addiction sex,gambling, shopping. When the person quits the behavior...they have to rehab thier brain, too....or else you end up with a "dry drunk" You have someone that still has a distorted opinion about body image, food, and so on.
I believe also that food should be a non-issue. If it comes to the point that they are trying (or insinuating) that they'd like to see her lose weightor eating less...ANYTHING...YOU put a stop to it immediately. ..even if it make things uncomfortable for a bit. We all know ONE little comment can change EVERYTHING, in a child's mind.
Would you let a sex addict teach your child "the birds and bees?"



answers from Portland on

Provide healthy meals. Praise all of her good attributes without emphasis on physical beauty. Do tell her she's pretty. Just be normal. Stop thinking about what might happen and live day to day in a healthy way. Provide a calm, predictable home life for her. Accept her feelings and reassure her when she's anxious.



answers from Jacksonville on

Anorexia runs in my husbands family.
I don't say anything abotu my weight. I also do not allow much tv. My duaghter caught one of those commercials that said "doesnt' everyone want to be a size 0" THen she came to me and wanted ot lose weight. I told her that people who were 5'7" and size 0 were ugly and looked like giraffes. Sorry all you who are that size but she didn't want to look like a giraffe.
I have also told both my girls that beauty is what is within and not what is without. So far mine have pretty healthy body images, in fact my 14 yo still doesn't wear makeup and my 12yo eats mroe than I do and weighs 70 lbs.



answers from Detroit on

A lot of it is learned from us...

How many times have you ever asked someone if your "hips" look big in this dress... etc...Or made a comment about how someone else looks...

My aunt used to always buy "low fat" labled foods... My cousin picked up on this REAL quick...

Start now... Focus on a healthy diet... Do not use the word "diet" in the context of loosing weight... Use it in the context of any food we eat. Talk about a diet of fruits and veggies... a diet of whole grain cereals, etc. Then as she grows and hears others talking about "diets" it will take her longer to connect it as being a BAD thing...

We do not keep junk food and soda in our house... Healthy food. Train the kids to recognize what is "healthy" and what is not so healthy... DO NOT put such a stigma on junk food that it becomes WANTED... We allow our kids to eat junk food. Fast food, etc. When we are out, on a trip, around town, etc... We tell them that we try to eat healthy foods so we stay healthy... But sometimes its good to have a treat...

I grew up with a family who did not let their kids have sugar... EVERY time I saw these kids they were sneaking some type of sugar, candy, soda, etc behind their parents backs... I would much rather allow my kids to have it in moderation WITH me than have them feel like its some big secret... Focus on portion sizes of snacky foods... Yes, you could sit down and eat a whole "single serving" sized bag of chips... Or you could share it with her and help her read the lable that says how many people it should feed...

We do not even own a TV and all the movies my kids watch are g rated. I have an 8 yr old girl... Her daddy has always been physically active and lifts weights. It is a family activity. Daddy and girly go for walks... Just the 2 of them. (bonding time also). Daddy, mommy, girly, and her 2 brothers work out together... (2 yrs, 5 yrs, and 8 yrs old use little to no weights. ) But they do the moves and we are spending time together...

We make a point of keeping our kids physically active. (sledding, swimming, etc) BECAUSE of the fact that my family does have a tendency to be heavy... But so does my hubbys (not to the same degree as my aunts and uncles though)... We figure it is better to train them to make decisions that are healthy for them, focus on the HEALTH (won't get sick as much) aspect of it and live as an example.

I have been battling in the last few months since I am now 8 months pregnant and have developed Gall stones... One of the only ways to keep the attacks to a minimun is to eat a "low fat" diet... So do I totally cut out the salad dressings, sour cream, mayo, etc or do I buy the "low fat" options? How to explain to my 8 yr old that mommy HAS to eat this stuff so she doesn't get sick... Without linking regular foods = makes you sick?

Take it one day at a time and live as an example...


answers from Charlotte on

Help her understand what food does for our bodies. I tell my boys carrots make us see good, milk makes out teeth and bones strong, meat gives us strong muscles and so on. Also lead by example. If she sees you eating a well rounded healthy diet, she'll follow. If she sees how confident and happy you are with the way you look, she'll follow. If you're together and pass by someone who is overweight, compliment them in front of your daughter.


answers from Kalamazoo on

It's not about "weight" and "diet"'s about eating healthy foods to grow up big and strong and healthy. Healthy foods make our brains grow, our bones strong and our skin and hair healthy. Get her active in sports. Focus on the positive of health, not the negative of diet and weight. What she weighs is not important at all - it's just a number and obviously not all skinny people are healthy. At age four, you should be talking to her about what she eats.



answers from Eugene on

I think being the best example you can by loving yourself and showing her that you love her! It is SO SO SO hard to have a good selfesteem in our culture that praises women who are totally skinny. Remind yourself to never say anything negative about your body in front of her. This can be hard, but if you teach her that you love you and you love her, it can be a great foundation to build on. It is so tough...



answers from Seattle on

My sister has struggled for YEARS with weight and her body image and I see her daughter having body image issues (she is 7 and it's been going on for a few years).
My best advise is to make food a non-issue and watch what you say about yourself and other people regarding weight and what they eat. My sister would make off hand comments about how she could not eat something or she felt fat, etc. She never said anything directly to her daughter but she picked up on it. It's amazing what kids pick up from those around them.
I would also keep an 'ear' open on what the Aunt and G-Ma say around your daughter. It's OK to correct them if they are saying things that you find concerning. I have done that with my Mother in Law around my girls!
Just keep healthy food and snacks in the house and keep the talk about being healthy to grow tall and strong.

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