I feel so grateful and lucky to have grown up in a two-parent household that always had enough to eat and provided me with education in academics and life. At the same time, I could have really benefitted from someone teaching me how to not feel guilt or shame while eating “bad” foods, and how to love my body and thank it for all it does for me. As such, I am committed to the quote, “Be the person you needed when you were younger.”
This is totally understandable- it’s impossible to ask two parents to teach their kids literally everything important in life, and many kids grow up with one or no parents. Most parents, guardians, teachers, and coaches do the best they can with what they have, but there will always be gaps and mistakes. We all needed something we didn’t get as kids, and that’s just life.
Being the Person I Needed When I Was Younger
I came across the quote “be the person you needed when you were younger” a long time ago. Probably when I used to relentlessly pin quotes on Pinterest everyday, but I’m not exactly sure when or where I first found it. Goodreads.com attributes this quote to Ayesha Siddiqi. I probably think about this quote at least three times a week, and when I first read it, it knocked the wind out of me.
Self-reflection time! What did you need when you were younger? Someone steady and stoic, able to take on the world without letting emotions get in the way? Someone who believed in you and encouraged you in everything you did? Or maybe someone who could teach you not to live in fear, instead of someone who constantly told you the world was too scary, and that you shouldn’t go out there? There are an infinite number of possibilities here, so go ahead and give it some thought. I’ll wait.
Perhaps in your reflection you thought about how you needed someone to show you how to be gentle with yourself, especially with weight status and food choices. For those of us that got sucked into some form of diet culture one way or another, maybe we needed someone (or many people) to show us that worth doesn’t come from looks or what we choose to eat. Words only go so far; it’s not enough to tell a kid these things, they need to see someone walk the walk. Diet culture is pervasive and vigilant, but maybe if we had seen more examples of people that were at peace with food and their bodies, it wouldn’t have had so much power over us.
Unfortunately, this is the cycle that has perpetuated for generations. Our parents’ generation presented too few examples of healthy relationships with food and their bodies for us, but they also had too few examples themselves from the generation before them. The idea of using tapeworms to lose weight has been around for over 100 years, so the fact that diet culture makes people try dangerous methods isn’t anything new. If our parents would have had more people to look up to in this regard, maybe we would have too, one generation later.
Maybe when you were young, one of your parents or caretakers was always restricting foods or trying to lose a few pounds. Perhaps they sent you to Weight Watchers meetings or put you on diets because that was how they thought they could help you. Maybe they called you lazy or told you not to eat so much in an effort to get you to exercise or toughen you up. Or maybe their parents did similar things whether or not your parents were considered “too big” as children themselves.
Being raised in a culture that values smaller bodies extends far beyond the immediate household too. Teachers, coaches, friends, neighbors, and anyone else in a kid’s life can show them that their worth is determined by their body size or how “healthy” their habits are. Often, when people reflect on their youth or high school sports experience, they can think of many instances of weight bias, fat-shaming, and an overall diet culture message.
According to a study from Common Sense Media, over 1/3 of 6 to 8-year-old boys and girls believe that their ideal body weight is less than their current weight, and that even some 5-year-old children worry about their weight and size. You can, and should, download full report, or view this infographic for more information.
Kids are sponges, and they absorb everything adults say and do, so if they are around adults, or even older kids, who complain about their bodies and always try to restrict their diets, they can’t help but do the same thing to be just like the people they admire. It’s clear that kids don’t always get the best examples of body acceptance and intuitive eating, and that’s exactly what many of us needed when we were younger.
The time has passed to give ourselves that example now, but we can be the person we needed when we were younger for someone else. We can be the people that model healthy relationships with food and stamp out the idea that everyone should be dieting all the time, or that happiness is just __ lost pounds away.
What if we taught kids about how amazing their bodies are, allowing them to play all day long and taste awesome foods at each meal? What if we taught them to use neutral or even positive language when referring to their body instead of inadvertently sending them messages that they should be ashamed by their bodies and always seek to change it? Although I can’t say for sure what would happen, I can’t help but feel it would be a major leap toward a generation of intuitive eaters instead of chronic dieters.
I originally became a dietitian because I had a love for science and food, and I wanted to be the person that helps others improve their lives through nutrition. I now understand my definition of healthy eating was restrictive and made me feel immoral if I slipped up and ate a cookie once in a while. Now I want to be the person that helps people find a more positive and balanced relationship with food, which is the same person I needed when I was younger.
So, I have decided to work harder to be that person, and that’s the reason why I am dedicating my time and energy to this website every week. As of 2020, I can’t go back in time and throw a copy of Intuitive Eating (affiliate) at myself, but I can model and write about intuitive eating practices to show others how to enjoy food again and find the light at the end of the diet culture tunnel.
The goal of this website truly is to burn diet culture to the ground, and I need your help spreading the anti-diet message and role-modeling a healthier relationship with food for one another and for younger generations. Let’s all be the people we needed when we were younger, and rid the world of diet culture for the next generation.
What did you need when you were younger? Let me know in the comments below!
As Always, A Book Recommendation
Because the book cover of It Was Me All Along was featured in this post, it felt like an obvious book recommendation. It’s beautiful, heart-breaking, and hopeful, and I related to it in many ways despite not growing up in a larger body. It is a detailed account of using food to regulate emotions, and eventually finding one’s way toward intuitive eating. It’s eye opening, and it made me feel understood, despite not growing up in a larger body like Andie.
As a proud Indie Bound affiliate, I get a small commission on books and products sold using the links on my website. It doesn’t cost you anything extra! I only recommend books that I truly love and believe in, and your purchases on Indie Bound through my website support both my work and small bookstores. Thanks!
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