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5 Ways to Keep Your Kids from Becoming Emotional Eaters as Adults

 

Many of my adult clients have told me that they just can’t get their cravings for junk food under control. It doesn’t matter how much self-discipline they enforce on themselves, by the end of the week- they somehow find that they are knee-deep in cookies, chips, chocolate or anything else that they’ve always craved.

 

Time and again when we dive into why that person is craving those foods to begin with, I find that the answer has something to do with using food to manage unpleasant emotions. Since most adults who emotionally eat were never taught as children how to manage strong or unpleasant emotions, many use food and other substances to dull them.

 

The following list can help you teach your child how to become an adult who has a healthy relationship with food and only eats when he or she is physically hungry.

 

  1. Don’t bribe with food and keep food rewards to a minimum.

I get it, it’s almost a sure bet to get your kiddos to do what you want them to do in exchange for a sweet treat such as candy or cookies. But, if your kids start to associate doing unpleasant tasks with getting a food reward, you can bet they’ll carry that into adulthood.

 

In my days as a teacher (and emotional eater), whenever I had a particularly long or hectic day at work, I would reward myself by going through the drive-thru on my way home because I “deserved it”.

Eating should be a pleasant activity, not a reward or an incentive. Taking the kids to an ice cream shop as a reward for getting good grades is fine but maybe switch up the reward next time by taking your child to a movie or putt putt golf. Put the emphasis on spending time together and celebrating your child’s hard work rather than eating.

 

Learn the techniques necessary to teach your kids to become Emotion-Free Eaters for life in my FREE upcoming Masterclass, Raise Emotion-Free Eaters: How to how to raise your kids to have a functional, healthy relationship to food from the get go!

 

  1. Don’t forbid certain foods- it just makes them more alluring.

You know how when you are on a diet and you see that list of forbidden foods? It’s almost like an automatic trigger for you to crave those foods more than you ever have in your life. You may not even like those particular foods, but once someone else says you can’t have them, your inner rebel kicks in and you eventually end up eating them- in much larger portions than you would’ve if you hadn’t been banned from them in the first place. I’ve eaten half a loaf of stale, day-old bread on an all day carb binder after doing the first two weeks of the South Beach Diet.

 

Kids are the exact same way. If you tell them they can’t have certain foods at home, guess what foods they will end up choosing when they are at a friend’s house or school? I remember as a kid I was hardly ever allowed to have chips; I always went for the pantry at my friend’s houses when I would visit or stay the night. My focus on getting my chip fix became obsessive and I spent more time in the pantry at my friend’s house than playing and being active because I was unsure when I would be able to eat them again when I went home. Oddly enough, my parents allowed me to have soda whenever I wanted. I never cared much about soda, in fact, I hardly ever drank them.

 

I’m not saying feed your kid non-nutritional foods whenever they want them, I am saying don’t put them on a pedestal by forbidding these foods all the time. Let your child make more choices about what he or she eats by inviting them to pick out foods at the grocery store. Allow them to enjoy “play foods” or non-nutritional foods in moderation. Set healthy limits or show your child what one portion size looks like on your plate and then have them serve themselves however much they choose.

 

  1. Don’t comfort sadness, anger or hurt with food.

It’s an easy habit to get into from day one since babies cry when they are hungry and are easily soothed by the breast or the bottle. It can be hard not to offer a cookie to a crying child who just fell off his or her bicycle, got made fun of by a classmate or was hurt by a remark you made in a weak parenting moment. However, even though this seems to comfort or console the child at the moment, it is teaching them that their unpleasant feelings can be stuffed down with food or that food is a good way to solve problems. Instead, offer a physical bandage, a hug, a listening ear or an apology. Let the child work through the difficult emotion on his or her own without even associating food as a solution to the problem.

Learn the techniques necessary to teach your kids to become Emotion-Free Eaters for life in my FREE upcoming Masterclass, Raise Emotion-Free Eaters: How to how to raise your kids to have a functional, healthy relationship to food from the get go!

 

  1. Do Model good behavior.

If your child sees you eating when you are bored, sad or stressed your child will learn that this is a good way to deal with emotions. If your child hears you constantly criticizing your body or crash dieting your child will learn that this is an acceptable way to live life. You are the most important role model for your child. They see and hear nearly everything you do and say. If their most important role model hates his or her body, your child will start to see his or her body as unacceptable. This could lead to the Yo Yo Dieting Cycle, eating disorders or other food/eating related issues down the road.

 

  1. Don’t allow one child to have certain foods and not the other.

This one is such a common habit that I see parents doing all the time and it drives me insane! Pleases don’t tell one child that just because he or she has more fat on their body than the other sibling, that he or she cannot have certain foods while you feed those exact foods to their skinny sibling.

 

This will cause your child to resent you and possibly eat those foods in large quantities when you are not around. Not to mention, you are conveying the message that skinny people can eat unhealthfully while fat children cannot. Thin does not equal healthy! Treat all of your children the same. Set limits for all of them and do not allow one child to eat certain “fattening foods” while you feed “diet foods” to the other.

 

If your child equates food with love, this is a good way to accidentally convey the message that since their sibling is thin, they get rewarded and are ‘good’, while the sibling who is forced to eat diet-type foods is being punished because his or her body is “bad” or not as good. This will turn your child’s entire focus onto food and could create a very dysfunctional relationship with food as they become adults.

 

Keep in mind, if you are an adult who deals with emotional eating, you will have to work to heal your emotional eating issues in order to help your kids cultivate a healthy relationship with food. I definitely recommend seeking support for yourself so that you can facilitate this for your child. Good luck, parenting is hard but I know that by practicing these steps as often as possible, you will raise confident, healthy adults.

 

Learn the techniques necessary to teach your kids to become Emotion-Free Eaters for life in my FREE upcoming Masterclass, Raise Emotion-Free Eaters: How to how to raise your kids to have a functional, healthy relationship to food from the get go!

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