WithAll Blog


Supporting our children in developing a healthy relationship with food & body

Feb 11, 2021

Dr. Katie Loth, and Erin Martin
We all want our children to lead happy, healthy lives. But in today's world it can be increasingly difficult to know how to best support kids' physical and mental health. As a parent you have a powerful opportunity to shape the way your children think about and feel in their bodies, and in turn, you have a powerful opportunity to shape their current and future health.

As parents, we all want our children to lead healthy, happy lives. You face a constant barrage of information from doctors, social media, public health initiatives, and other parents who provide you with tips and tricks for the very best ways to help your children achieve optimal health. Many times, these messages come with advice on how to help your kids maintain a healthy diet and optimal weight. As a parent, you’re encouraged to make sure that your kids fall within certain narrow margins of weight and height limits, that their snacks don’t have too much sugar, their meals are homemade and carefully chosen to include only the freshest local ingredients, and that they are getting the exact right amount of movement each day to maintain or achieve the “right” weight for them. And you’re are made to feel that if you don’t do these things, you’re failing as a parent.

Along the way, many of us end up teaching our kids a number of black-and-white messages about what it means to be healthy. You might teach them that there are good foods and bad foods or that physical activity is just something we do to help us lose or maintain weight. And many parents find themselves emphasizing to their children the incredible importance of maintaining a low weight. But these ideas oversimplify the incredible complexities of how diet and weight impact our health. And when you talk about diet and weight in these oversimplified ways, your efforts can backfire. The result is that you risk setting your children up for a lifetime of physical and mental health challenges – something none of us would ever intend to do as parents.

When we focus exclusively on diet and weight, we’re missing the point. The point is that you want your kids to feel healthy and comfortable in their bodies. However, research shows that engaging children in weight-focused conversations can set kids up to feel shame or guilt about the food they eat or the way they look. Worse yet, overemphasizing the importance of weight and shape to the children in our lives can lead some children to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges.

What if instead, we as parents shift the focus away from diet and weight and towards a focus on health and overall well-being?

Health and well-being are the result of many factors. To achieve health and well-being kids (and adults, too!) need relationships that foster connections, hobbies that show and remind us who we are, physical activity that invigorates and refreshes our minds and bodies, opportunities to learn new things, take on challenges and succeed, time spent outside in nature, food that we enjoy eating and nourishes us, and so much more. As a parent, you can work to shift your focus away from diet and weight and towards teaching your children about the happiness that can come from cooking, eating, and joyful movement, all activities that can help children to feel like their best selves. You can move away from teaching kids to count calories or carefully monitor the number on the scale, and instead seek to help kids develop a broad understanding of health and all of the things they need to develop into healthy, happy adults.

As a parent, you have a powerful opportunity to shape the way your children think about and feel in their bodies, and in turn, you have a powerful opportunity to shape their current and future health.

So, how can you engage kids in understanding the importance of developing a sense of overall well-being? Check out our other resources for more tips and tricks here. But as a parent and Registered Dietitian myself, here are a few tips I often suggest to families to get started:

  • Create a healthful home environment that includes a wide variety of foods and opportunities for joyful movement.
  • Model healthful food intake and regular physical activity, including eating meals with your child and finding ways to be active together.
  • Ask your child to reflect on how certain foods or activities make them feel, and encourage them to do more of the things that they enjoy, that give them energy, and that nourish their mind, body, and spirit.
  • Talk to them about what vitamins and minerals specific foods provide to support their growing bodies, or share with them how their bodies work.
  • Watch this video to learn more about how I deal with some common challenges in my own home.

And remember, you’re not always going to get it right. Do your 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.

Dr. Katie Loth, Assistant Professor, Dietitian, Mother of Three, and Erin Martin, MBA, MSW, LISW, WithAll’s Director of Engagement and Programming

What to Say Coaches Challenge

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THE PLEDGE: I believe that words matter. I want to make a positive impact on the kids in my life by stopping harmful diet and weight talk. I am committed to making sure that every child gets a chance to develop healthy relationships with food and body.


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Shannon assists with the logistics of development and operations and making every day run as smoothly as possible. Her day-to-day focuses on our Recovery Support Program, budget management, events, and administrative support. She enjoys being part of the nonprofit world and finding ways to help enhance the organization. She has a heart for serving others and helping people succeed.

Shannon has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Health & Exercise Science from Gustavus Adolphus College and a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) from Walden University.

Outside of work, you can find Shannon chasing her two girls around, attending sporting events and finding the next brewery or winery to explore.

Lindsay leads our operations, programming, fundraising, and communications to better fulfill our mission. She enjoys engaging with our supporters and stakeholders to build stronger connections to our work. Outside the office, you can find her planning her next trip, exploring the Twin Cities, or reading her book club’s latest pick.

With ten years of experience in nonprofit and foundation administration, Lindsay is a creative project manager working to strengthen all our operations. She loves being a part of a team deeply dedicated to discovering innovative and effective strategies to end eating disorders and is excited to invite others into this important work. Efficient and collaborative, she executes activity across all operations, including fundraising, events, communications, and programming. Lindsay has a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Northwestern, St. Paul, and a fundraising certificate from the University of St. Thomas. She and her family live in Richfield, MN.

As Executive Director, Lisa leads WithAll’s strategic growth as a sustainable social enterprise dedicated to the prevention of and healing from eating disorders.

Lisa has more than 20 years of experience in public affairs, community relations, and law, and nearly 15 years of experience in non-profit leadership, most recently at Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media. She is a graduate of Mitchell Hamline School of Law, a member of the Minnesota Bar, and a Minnesota Supreme Court appointee to Minnesota’s Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board. She volunteers with her daughter’s school and with youth sports.

Lisa does this work because she knows eating disorders are not a choice; they are deadly, and they are everywhere. She also knows kids are not born with harmful thoughts and actions around food or their body—and it’s our job as adults to keep it this way so they can focus their precious brains and time on things that matter.

Lisa finds laughter, all children, and the numerous variations of sparkling water to be delightful.