New Episode! Why Kids Won't Wear Coats with Sara Kostelnik
Feb. 28, 2023

Raising Kids to Have A Healthy Relationship With Food And Their Body with Amelia Sherry

Do you have a healthy relationship with food? Are you constantly worried about what your family is consuming?  

Join me and my guest, Amelia Sherry, as we discuss raising kids to have a healthy relationship with their food and body.  

Amelia Sherry is a Registered Dietitian who practices using a non-diet, weight-inclusive approach. She’s the author of “Diet-Proof Your Daughter: A Mother's Guide to Raising Girls Who Have Happy, Healthy Relationships with Food & Body”. Amelia is also the founder of, a wonderful platform where she offers counseling and workshops on positive ways to parent around food.  


Book: Diet-Proof Your Daughter: A Mother's Guide to Raising Girls Who Have Happy, Healthy Relationships with Food & Body by Amelia Sherry (As an Amazon affiliate, at no extra cost to you, we will earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.)

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Hi, and welcome to Real Life Momz. I'm your host Lisa Foster and Real Life Momz is a podcast that's all about connecting moms through real parenting conversations. I believe that moms have so much insight and knowledge, and together we are powerful. On this podcast, we give moms a voice to tell their stories and share their expertise and resources through real conversations. And this week we are joined by Amelia Sherry. She's a registered dietician who practices using a nondiet, weight-inclusive approach. 

She's the author of Diet Proof Your Daughter, A Mother's Guide to Raising Girls Who Have a happy, healthy relationship with Food and Body, and the founder of nourish, where she offers counseling and workshops on positive ways to parent around food. And Amelia is here today to help me discuss raising kids to have a healthy relationship with food and their body. 

Hi Amelia, and welcome to Real Life Momz. I am really excited to have you here to talk about just healthy relationships with food and our bodies, both for ourselves, but also obviously for our kids. I know personally, this is something I struggle with. I just feel like I'm always yo-yo-ing all over the place when I try to balance this with my parenting, and I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels this way. So I'm really happy that you're here to help me talk through just having a healthy relationship with food in our bodies. 

Thank you, Lisa. I'm excited to be here. I'm, I've loved all the conversations I've heard so far on your podcast, and I'm, I can't believe I'm gonna be one of them. Maybe 

We could just start by telling us a little bit about yourself and maybe just why this topic is important to you. 

Sure. Well, I am a mom. I have two daughters, um, and a stepdaughter in college. I have two younger daughters right now they're six and in second grade, I worked in journalism writing about fitness, health, nutrition, diets, um, you name it, for about 10 years. Um, and after that, I transitioned to become a registered dietician. And from there I worked in pediatric nutrition. I, I worked in pediatric endocrinology to be very specific. 

Did that for about five or six years. And about two years ago, I left clinical care and started my own practice. I wrote a book and I, so, um, started a site called Nourish her, really to promote what I'm passionate about, which is something that came up a lot in my clinical practice, which is how parents function when it comes to food, how they parent around food in particular, and what's going on with kids, how they're, you know, the pressure they're feeling to maintain certain weights or eat a certain type of food or in a certain style, which has become very restrictive and rigid. 

And the beginning of the story, which I talk a lot about in my book, is my personal history overcoming disordered eating. That started in middle school as a young girl and continued in high school, college and pretty much followed me in, created my first career, which as I had mentioned, was all about writing, about how I, you know, how we women can be fitter and healthier and eat better. That was the beginning of the story and thankfully I recovered from that. 

And I'm in a much better place with food and my body now. And I have been for, I don't know, maybe 20 years. 

I mean, I can see why you developed so much passion for it because you also kind of experienced that yourself, a non-healthy relationship with food. Is that correct? 

Yeah, absolutely. 

Yeah. And that middle school time, would you feel, why do you think that's a, such a big area of maybe people having some of these non-healthy relationships with food? 

Yeah, I mean, it's a great question. I think there's a lot going on for one, as a young girl, when I started hitting puberty, I started putting on fat, um, in my abdomen, my thighs. Very, very natural, very healthy process. But it was in exact, you know, opposition to what I was seeing in culture. Just, you know, the thin ideal was being especially revere. This is in the time of Kate Moss, you know, I was really obsessed with her when I was young. Um, but in any event, our body starts changing. 

It changes in ways that are, you know, is against the cultural norm. You know, a lot of things are going on in middle school with relationships, friendships, um, figuring out who you are. Uh, but I think I really turned on my body, whatever kind of discomfort I was feeling socially, emotionally, I thought I could really control it and fix it by not eating and sort of, I guess trying to stay or get back to this, you know, thinner, straighter look, um, like a more adolescent look. 

You know, I just wanted my body to stop changing, I think at that time, for many, many reasons. 

Yeah, there are, I mean, so many pressures and like, it's almost like that food also, there's a lot of control, right? Like you can actually take control over the eating where maybe some of the other circumstances you are going through in middle school, there is no control, right? So there's one area in life that maybe you can take control over. 

Yeah, I think some of it yeah, is definitely control. And, um, I do also, I think the thing that's so prominent, unfortunately still today is trying to be thinner and leaner and fit what is considered like a cultural norm. You know, trying to meet that idea, which wasn't, isn't really genetically possible for me. I was never gonna be whatever I thought I needed to be. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, that kind of pressure really put a lot, put a lot of pressure on my eating and my self-esteem. And I think that obviously, that's still going on for, for girls and for boys, for all, um, kids who identify anyway, today it is still rampant. 


So how do we start to build like a healthy relationship with food? 

Oh, wow. That's a big question. 

<laugh>. It's a big one. 

I think. Well, as a parent I'll talk about that just to kind of hone in a little bit. I think when you're seeing friction at home where you're feeling tension, where you're feeling you're getting emotional with food or with your kid, your child's behavior around food that can really, you know, shed a huge light on how, like what you might have issues with food, whether it's not healthy enough or if it's, um, you're concerned about calories or sugar or that kind of thing. 

Um, understanding then what your goal is and what you're aiming for. A lot of people will answer that question when I ask it in counseling and say, well, I just wanna be healthy, or I just want my children to be healthy. And so then we have to go deeper and say, well, what, what is healthy to you? Um, and that usually sheds a lot of light, opens up again of worms almost cuz we see, you know, what doesn't mean. And right now, um, think of, you know, being thin is healthy or being thinner is healthy. 

Sometimes it boils down just to that sometimes it is that people are very, um, feel that their diet, you know, needs to be very austere and you need to start eliminating things to be healthy, which isn't true. I consider that very unhealthy and for many reasons, not really answering your question about where to start. I think where to start is to figure out where you're having trouble. I guess that's what I'm trying to say. 

Well, and I think what you're saying is kind of starting with ourselves. Like how do we even define healthy, right? Yes. Uh, because when you ask me that as a parent or as a person, I'm kind of like, I, I think of the same things. I, it automatically goes, well, it's a certain weight. I'm eating fruits and vegetables. And I think that's kind of wrong, but for some reason, that's ingrained in me and then I'm passing that down to my kids cuz I'm, you know, I'm trying to look good as a parent too and have them eat healthy as well. 

But what do you, I mean, you've been in this field, how do you define healthy eating or healthy foods? What does that mean to you, I guess? 

Well, I think of health first of all in a much more holistic way. Like, it's not just let's protect ourselves from disease, right? It's how are we doing emotionally, and how are we doing with our relationships, which is a huge part of our health. And then I think of eating in those ways. You know, eating is emotional, it is social. So that is like a, a much different way of thinking about healthy eating than what we typically think about, I think, in this country, which is eating just to support our physical health, you know, inside and how it looks. 

So thinking about it much more broadly, and a very simple concept is if you are getting stressed out, which many of us do, about trying to be quote unquote healthy with your eating, it's, it's stressful and it's damaging your emotional health, right? Because you're putting yourself under a lot of mental load, a lot of burden. You're typically what happens is we still want to eat all kinds of variety, which is actually a hallmark of good nutritional health, but we start feeling, um, guilty, a lot of internal chaos if we go out of bounds with what we consider to be quote unquote healthy. 

So yeah, things can get very complicated with food, um, in many different ways. There's social element as well. You might, I if anyone, I don't know if you've ever dieted or have a history of dieting Yes. 

All the time. Yeah. I mean, not necessarily dieting. I would say more of a healthy, but I have done like detoxes, you know, I've definitely done things where I go on more of a healthy kick than a diet I would say. Like not looking at calorie counts. But I mean, I've been there for sure and it's always very short lived. It's like I do it for a time period, it dies off. Cuz what I'm hearing from you that I've never thought about is actually the whole, I love the emotional piece you're putting in there. 

That this healthy relationship with food is, is very, it's holistic. It's not just the food itself. It's not just, you know, eating your veggies and fruits and grains and all those things, but it's also how you feel about it. And, and that should all tie in and I love that kind of holistic concept of it. So yes, it's never worked for me personally, I could tell you right now, it's never worked for my husband. I mean, that man <laugh>, you know, he is tried everything like not, not eating gluten, not having dairy, trying these other different things and, and nothing works. 

And not only does it not work, it also tends to make us gain weight after we're off of it, if that makes sense. Like we could lose weight, but then I would say we're heavier than we started afterward. 

Yeah, for sure. We see that in the research. Um, dieting to lose weight is most often does not work. The weight loss might be, it's a small amount and it is usually regained within a year to five years. Um, and also many people end up at a higher weight than what they started or higher B m i. So it's not, it's, it's not just the weight though. It's, I think it's how it's really destroying your relationship with food. 

Like you're, a lot of these diets are elimination, restrictive. That's also known in research to backfire into being, you know, feeling out of control around food, food. So the more control you put on yourself or try to have around food, then the, like when you finally give in or stress hits or you know, whatever, then you tend to go overboard on those same foods. Um, sort of like a natural reaction. 

That's what happens to many people. And also you're really losing trust with your body because you're looking to the outside world for rules and guidance about how and what you should eat when you know, eating is really a, a body led experience. We need to listen to our body. We do get some information. We need to know what's safe. We need to understand what's balanced, but we also need to listen inside. Um, how hungry are we? You know, what is satisfying our needs change from day to day based on a whole host of factors. 

How stressed we are, how active we are, where we are in life. Are we menstruating, are pregnant or, you know, getting older. We growing, we were talking about pre you know, teenagers and adolescents earlier and we are, our body is, you know, reflexive. Like we, it changes its needs change. 

We need to listen to it. We can't look up in a book every day like, what do I need right now? Even though that's what we try to do, right? We try to follow a set of rules about it. And just to talk a little more about what healthy eating is, I work with a lot of research from the Ellen Satter Institute if anyone's interested. But there's a concept that's been researched and validated called eating competence. And those are eating skills, I call 'em essential eating skills in my practice. And those skills aren't just, I eat a lot of vegetables, I, you know, don't eat sugar. 

Those skills are, do I take time to prepare food? You know, do I make time? Do I think about, about meals ahead of time plan? And I'm not talking about the burden of making family meals, I'm just, let's think more simply like, you know, I am having, when I worked at the hospital, I had a really busy day at the hospital. 

I could not eat between eight and 12. So except for a quick snack. So was I planning for that? Cuz I would get really irritable, really grumpy, um, if I didn't, so would I pack a snack? Would I pack a lunch? Many of us don't do the simple things like that. And teaching our children how to plan and prepare is an essential skill to be a good eater as well. So that is something that really makes a good eater. For example. The other thing would be that internal regulation, which is how well are you able to listen to your body? 

You know, if you've heard of intuitive eating, that is what intuitive eating is, is being able to listen to internal cues of hunger and satiety, uh, as opposed to following a calorie plan or even some of the other diets that you mentioned too. Like an outside plan to tell us how much or how little, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative>. 

Yeah, just kind of, am I actually just taking a moment? Am I actually hungry <laugh>, right? Or am I full while you're having dinner? If I were just to come to you as a client and say, as a parent, I want my whole family to eat, I'm gonna go do air quotes healthy. What what does that look like? And how do I do that for my family? 

I'll tell you one thing that everyone needs to do that helps a lot, which is to separate the idea of, um, eating to control our weight because our weight is not as controllable as we have been led to believe. Um, and when people do eat in a way to try and push down their weight or even push up their weight depending on, you know, what's going on with them, that really w reeks a lot of havoc on our, our what we call eating competence. Like how good we feel about our eating and what we're doing. 

Um, and it can just lead you again to make a lot of choices that aren't based on enjoyment, satisfaction, or even, or balance or even meeting your actual metabolic needs. Like how much do you actually need some of the, like a hallmark of healthy, I'm using air quotes again cuz it really depends on what you're thinking about as healthy. 

But for that well-rounded what we call eating well-being, a hallmark of that is variety. So that's another reason that having these elimination diets, unless you are, you know, trying to figure out an allergy or something like that, but having these more rigid rules and limits that, you know, you start cutting out food groups that you're not gonna get that variety, right? Like if you cut out carbs, you know, now you've just cut out fruit like the, one of the best sources of vitamins and minerals, right? Mm-hmm. 

<affirmative>, you've got out grains where you're also getting not just, um, you're getting fiber now where you're gonna get your fiber. You know, there you've just narrowed it down quite a lot. Um, your B vitamins, you know, you're just really cutting out all these sources of, um, what, you know, what nutritional health is, which is getting a wide variety of vitamins and minerals and macro nutrients as well. 

Making time to eat, and having family meals you mentioned is a great, I mean, I would consider that also a benchmark of whether are we eating in a healthy way or having eating well-being. Again, prioritizing, do we make take time to eat? Modeling that for your children, you know, not walking around the house and eating without much thought. It really kind of shows that eating's not a priority to you, right? Mm-hmm. If it's sort of something you're doing while you're doing other things. There are so many, and I'm sure you're probably aware, but there are so, so many great studies out there about the wide variety of benefits that people experience. 

Children in particular from family meals, you know, social emotional benefits and more diversity in their diet. And you were, were talking about conversation, I do recommend keeping the conversation positive and enjoyable and not focusing on the food itself. 

So when you're preparing a meal, maybe you're thinking about let's, how can we get a variety of foods in here? Or what have we been eating over the course of a week? But also thinking about enjoyment, is it gonna taste good? And then when you sit down, just letting it go, you know, let people, your children, um, your spouse, let their appetite and interest lead them where they may and keep the conversation, like, remind yourself that this is not as much, yes, we are eating, but we don't wanna put pressure on everyone cuz it really makes it more difficult them for them to eat in a sort of competent way. 

You wanna focus on having a connection and good conversation so that your children and your spouse, partner, whatever, want to return to the table, want to come back to this time and continue to eat, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> nourish themselves in a sense. How's that sitting with you? 

Yeah, well, there are so many things that are coming up, honestly. Um, you know, what you're saying about like, sitting and not, and, and kind of prioritizing that time. I think a lot of families, including our own, um, sometimes get really wrapped up and busy in the day-to-day. And that sitting time isn't all the time. And I mean, I do it too, like sometimes we are grabbing dinner because this one has to get there or this one has to do this, and I am like done with the day <laugh>. I just wanna sit down somewhere else quietly. 

And you're right, that doesn't look like we're prioritizing each other and the health of eating, you know? And I, I'm like, wow, that's, that probably needs to change to show that. Just making that time shows that it's also a priority to sit there and be with each other, enjoy a good meal, and then bring that health to it. 

So that needs to change in my own family. Um, but I loved how you put it. And then it also brings me to the conversations around food. I think there could be a lot of just negative talk around it saying something like, gosh, I feel like I am fat today, or I feel like I'm just eating too much, or I'm trying to cut back. Or how much that can just trickle down into what the kids observe and see, um, from just maybe things that we're saying in passing about ourselves that we don't even notice that they're listening to. 

For sure. We want to be, um, mindful of how we refer to food, how, what kind of, sort of judgmental language we use about food. You know this is healthy, this isn't, this is good, this is bad. Oh, I, I didn't, I wasn't good today with my eating. We don't wanna do that. Especially if you have, you know, younger kids and whatever age your kids are or who else, who the people you, you care about. Because people, especially kids though, will internalize that. I mean, just be, you know, you're saying me, I'm not, you are not you Lisa, but you know, I've said, I've said I've done all of these things, by the way, <laugh>. 

Yeah. Um, yeah. You can blame me, I'm telling you. Yes. Yeah. It, it has happened in our house for sure, you know? Yeah, it does. And I, and I, um, am in, you know, I've done all of these things. 

I, I still slip up just because I, you know, write, write about it and talk about it a lot. There are times where, um, you know, I fall back into old patterns. But in any event, what I was saying is that when you are judgmental about food, especially, you know, it doesn't make like say we're saying like this, this cake, it's, uh, it's so good but it's terrible for me and your child or whoever else is eating it, isn't going to not want it all of a sudden. Or even if you just say very innocently, um, and with all good intention, hey, that's not healthy, don't eat so much mm-hmm. 

<affirmative>, your, the cake tastes delicious, it's a pleasure. And by the way, there are nutrients in it mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, and your child, or you even will still want to eat it. But now we have a lot of conflict about it mm-hmm. <affirmative>. 

Um, and that's where things get really sort of mucked up is what I always like to say. Because then you might restrain yourself, then you lose control later because you can only restrain yourself so long, um, and you're not even enjoying it. Then when you eat it, not only, you know, you might be eating it really quickly because you're trying to gonna get through it fast cuz you feel like this is really taboo or this is off limits so you're not even tasting it. Things like that can and often do happen. 

And as far as family meals, I think family meals are incredible for parents. It's not always realistic for parents, especially. I, I heard you with like, you're really, really busy. Um, what I usually like to encourage moms, I work with a lot of moms in my practice and dads as well. Just think about where you're at. 

If you like this idea and wanna prioritize it, then just maybe add one more, you know, sit-down meal. You don't have to say okay every night. Um, because that again is not gonna be achievable. It's not gonna be pleasant. It's gonna feel like pressure, but maybe just work in one more meal and think about it that way. You know? And also language you're using when you talk about, you know, I recommend never talking about your, your body or your weight. You really sending a message, especially of younger kids, that that's something that's really important to you and like, looks or something. 

And weight and thinness is something you really value. And you know, when I talk about that a lot, of course, this is a very, very personal issue and we all have different values. Many parents say that's not a value I want to share, you know, to show model for my child and I don't value them because of their, you know, body weight or size or looks. 

So, you know, being mindful, like you said of like, what message am I sending when I say things like that, it is so built into our culture mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, that, um, I tell a story when something I wrote one time, I tell a story, I have celiac disease, so I can't eat gluten. I get very sick from it. And it's can be sometimes, especially in a family with like, uh, older generations, sometimes they just don't understand that I can't eat it or just gets really, um, uncomfortable for me to keep refusing the food and having to reexplain. 

So I will be honest, I have said, oh no, I'm, I can't eat that. I'm watching my weight, I'll, I've said that not in front of my children because I'm adamant that that is not something I ever want my daughters to hear. Um, but it is, I say this as an example because that is more acceptable than me saying, listen, I have it. 

Um, an autoimmune disorder. I cannot eat that. Like to say I'm refusing it because of my weight. Somehow people say, oh, okay. You know, and like, past, like, so it's just really baked into our culture. It's, um, in the water we drink, you know, it's something that we sort of take on without, without, I think giving enough thought to and challenging that is really important. Especially, you know, the book I wrote is about mothers raise and girls, um, you know, I have two daughters and I don't wanna put that pressure on them. 

I, I don't, I'm very intentional about avoiding putting that pressure on them with regard to, you know, having, I don't want them ever to think that they're being valued, at least from my, from my eyes because of the way they look or the size of their body or their food choices. You know, any of those things. 

I mean, there's so much. I feel like even like for our kids, I feel like even, you know, they go to the doctor and the first thing that they do at their checkups is weigh them. You know, I've been to the doctor where my son, when he was very young, he was like falling off the charts. Like he wasn't even on the charts. He was so little, you know? And, and that was a problem, you know, the doctor was like, okay, this is a problem. He is not on the chart. And my doctor's wonderful. I do love her. But then it's like, now he's at like the 90th percentile. 

He's also a teen and he, now that's a problem, you know, <laugh>. And it's very confusing also as a parent, um, when you're going in and you're getting some of this feedback too, and the pressures you feel because you wanna make sure that they are quote-unquote healthy. 

Right? And you're hearing these different percentiles and you don't get the feeling that your kid is healthy. Even though, you know, it took me a long time. I, I'm gonna be honest, it took me a long time to really sit down. Cause I felt this yo-yo push and pull. Like, is my kid eating too much? Is he not eating? And then finally, and this is years when I say finally I sat down and I was like, oh my God, my son is so healthy. He eats such healthy food. Like he chooses the right foods to eat. 

He actually enjoys those foods and he has a good mindset around food. And then finally I just had to pull back and say, I don't care about these percentiles. I don't care where he falls because I know that he's healthy. I know that he's happy and I feel like I'm causing him a disservice because now we are like, you know, for a while we were really looking at the food that he was eating and look and really just, you know, putting him under the microscope. 

And that had to feel awful. And then when I was able to pull back from that and say, Hey, you know, he's doing well, I know he's okay. I mean, I felt like I saw him change his mindset, change how he felt about himself, how he felt about food. So I do think there's like this, I don't know if it's a disconnect or disservice or, or whatever, but there's something wrong <laugh> with this picture. 

Yeah. Well I think what you're saying is wrong or you're talking about the using, like when a, uh, and I love pediatricians, but when a pediatrician sort of uses the B M I or the B m I percentile to judge your child's health, that is Yeah. You know that is not so there, the BMI is being shown more and more talked about, very controversial, and it's been exposed as not a good measure of our health. And there are many interesting political reasons why, um, healthcare continues to use it. 

And we don't have to get into 'em right now, but certainly to protect your child from the pressure and that, uh, judgment again from the pediatrician can be really important. Um, I always recommend, especially if you have a very, very small child or a child that's at a higher, like in a larger body or at a higher than average, um, B m I percentile to give your provider and the nurse or whoever the medical assistant is there a note ahead of time that you do not want them to discuss their weight in front of your child. 

And for the, you know, if there's an issue, they can speak to you after the visit on the phone, um, outside the room. The reason it's one reason is all it sounds like maybe you felt the pressure more than your son, but we wanna protect our child from thinking that there's something wrong with them or they're eating, you're, like you said, your son has amazing habits. Um, and we don't wanna, we wanna keep up that positive mindset and his good habits and not send him down a rabbit hole trying to, you know, manipulate his body shape or size or even to fit some arbitrary, um, number. 

Um, it is about habits and health like biochemically. How is he doing? How's his blood pressure? What are his habits like? Is he active? Is he happy? Does he have, you know, positive relationships is his, you know, what's his cholesterol? 

Those kinds of things are much better markers of health than the BMI percentile. And I do think that we need to protect our kids from, from hearing that they're, oh, you're in this category, you're in that category. We're also just drawing attention to it. And like I said,, your body weight is not as controllable as we think for the very reason that you pointed out at the beginning. Even if you do diet and have some success, it does come back, it does come back more than what you started at. Not to mention dieting is the leading risk factor for eating disorders. 

It's very dangerous you to, to start down that path. So we certainly don't wanna give our kids any ideas that their body size is wrong or incorrect, um, and that they need to change it. Yeah. 

And, I have to say the pediatrician did pull me out of the room. So she did do that, but doing that, it created a responsibility as a parent to change something. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, do you know what I'm saying? So like, even though it wasn't in front of the child, and I agree that shouldn't be in front of the child, it just instilled in me that I'll, oh, I have to do something. But at the same time, he was doing fine. You know, like he was, I, it just made me feel that like he was, he was doing fine. He, is fine and he was a growing kid and I don't think we needed as much pressure on that matter. 

You know, and I didn't wanna to go back to that, like, that weight is what I'm hearing it does not necessarily equal how healthy you are. Right? 

Absolutely. There are people living in larger bodies who have, you know, are in optimal health and there are people in dinner bodies who are very unhealthy. Think back also to the other elements of our health, emotional health, and social health. So that that is not an, and you cannot judge someone's health or even, um, clinically speaking just based on their BMI or body weight. And, you know, we do that to ourselves all the time or you know, um, you're, you pediatrician sounds wonderful, but also sounds like there was an assumption that the eating habits weren't great because of a number on a chart. 


So think about that. You know, and parents are so anxious already, you know, um, I've had many parents come to me because of something a provider said, a pediatrician all always in their pediatrician's, always acting in a child. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> what they believe is a child's best interest. Um, but they're coming to me in a frenzy, you know, about Oh my gosh, oh my gosh. And we sit down and look like, you know, even you experience, you had at the, um, habits that the child has, what the parents are doing and everything is, you know, fine. 

And now that anxiety is just ramped up so much and talking about eating confidence and feeling good about your habits. A parent walking into a meal with all that pressure on their shoulders is absolutely gonna transmit that to a child even, um, not even directly, but indirectly. 

You know, just even staring at a child's plate as they're eating, you know, sort of quietly monitoring your mind, like how much they had tonight, how much they had at lunch, that is pressure and it's negative and it does not help your child be, be a better, healthier eater for sure. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. And I think just the social media for parents, you know, I think it's really important, the conversation you and I were just having as adults. Like, if you look at a picture, what does it really mean? What's a really important skill to teach our children, right? Because we want them to look at these images and also have that same can discern, you know, is this real? 

Is this not real? Um, why, you know, especially like you think of, um, I, I've worked with a lot of young girls who are very focused on their stomach and they all show me pictures. 

Well, look at my friend and there are pictures and pictures and pictures of this very thin-looking abdomen, you know, and first of all, it's so unrealistic, right? You know, and then you have to have important conversations. Like, why do you think she keeps posting pictures of her stomach? You know, like, let's kind of be more conscious and critical of what we're looking at. Like, is it actually, is it real what it looks like? Is it the way she's posed? Why, what's going on with her that she thinks that this is the most important thing, you know? 

Mm-hmm. <affirmative> to share with everyone. Um, that's really important because, you know, I have, um, uh, so my daughter, my oldest daughter is in sixth grade right now. And so far my first, you know, instinct when we're getting closer and closer to the use of social media, which she doesn't have yet. 

Um, my first was, well, she's not gonna have a phone, she's not gonna have a tablet, she's not gonna have this and that. And as, as now we're getting really close to it, um, I realize that's completely unrealistic, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So the other option is just to, yes, we'll have controls on different, um, accounts and stuff, but basically, what I'm trying to say, she's gonna get exposed to it regardless in movies, advertisements, and she will be on social media. I'm sure it's part of life. Um, so the important thing is to teach the skills to be able to understand what you're looking at. 

And I always love sharing too, with young and older clients. Like I, I mean, I, we struggle with this as adults as well, you know, the comparison with all kinds of things. Maybe, you know, I don't compare my stomach with other people, but I might compare their success with work and how that looks and, you know, being an entrepreneur, sometimes it's about image and not necessarily how successful they are. It's not about image, but we can go online and on these accounts and sort of make up stories or believe things that are false. 

Yeah. It's just important to be able to, again, discern. And I think that's a good skill to teach our children for 

Sure. I have a teen, um, daughter as well, so totally in it, totally in the comparison. Definitely, body image is huge in those years, and I know you, um, specialize with girls, uh, especially with eating and, and having a healthy relationship with their bodies and food and, um, yeah. What do you say to moms of teen girls? Because there is a lot of comparisons and a lot of self-doubt in how they are looking. 

You know, I have a, um, in my book I give tips about how, you know, how to use social media responsibly and sort of be more critical and analytical of it. For example, what accounts are you following? Like how do they make you feel? You can kind of go through each one and have them sort of be more mindful about what they're following, how it makes them feel, and what's the purpose. Is it educational, or inspirational? Um, is it just social to be connected to a friend? That kind of thing. So I give a little, um, some advice in the book about that. 

Um, there are actually skills that there's about, there are four skills that have been shown in research that mothers have that, um, they, so daughters that had higher body satisfaction, they looked at what the habits were of the mothers of these daughters compared to other girls who are more dissatisfied. 

So there are actually things we can do to help our daughters. One is, um, filtering, it's called in the research, but it's like what you were saying about being more mindful of what we're actually saying, like to, to our children, um, filtering out messages. So the diet culture messages, the thinner is better. Um, messages we filter out, we don't bring them into our home, for example, or use them in conversations with our child. That is one example. Um, so there's a lot of, there's a lot of things moms can do, to support their daughters. 

Um, being open about the dangers of dieting and, how it can be a very slippery slope into an eating disorder. You know, being open with your child if this is an issue for them, you know, if you see them restricting or limiting or getting very stressed about their food, that this isn't a, you know, um, something that we wanna dabble in, it's not good for us. 

And, um, so having that kind of conversation can be helpful because, um, the f you know, the m thing most girls do when their body satisfaction is not high turns dieting and restricting, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that is the action that they take. So we, we wanna be proactive about, you know, helping our daughters understand that if you're not satisfied with your body, dining is not the answer. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, at, you know, at all. Yeah. There's ma there are many things being more embodied, more in understanding, like pointing out and helping your daughter recognize the things her body can do and not what it looks like. 

That is a lifelong practice that we all have to work out. Um, 

I love that. I love that. 

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. There, there are many things. So moms don't have to feel hopeless, um, even if you're struggling yourself, which we, you know, we all do. Um, I think actually most moms I know have become very, very motivated to get a grip on this and get clarity around their own body image because they want to support their daughter in a way that it's almost like a reparenting themselves and support them in a way they weren't supported. I think it's great. I think it's, it's wonderful. Yeah. 

And I think some of us don't even know that we have these issues until you do have a child and then you realize like, wow, these are little mirrors of ourselves. And then you're seeing them do things and you're like, whoa, I must be saying that or doing that, you know? So it's almost like this check-in of ourselves so that we can be modeling something different. 

Oh yeah. That's like one of these, um, tricky things about parenthood when I see my daughter doing things or saying things that I'm like, Ooh, my mom used to say that. How did, and they're like, oh my gosh, I must be saying that. You know, like, oh, that's, it's a tough one. 

Yeah. It's like, how did that, how did that happen? Yeah. Well, I, this is such, such a tricky, um, like topic because I do think it is just so sensitive about, you know, doing the best for our kids and, and, and ourselves. I think it's an important topic for ourselves first so that we can be modeling and talking openly, um, with our kids. So I think that is a, a big point. Can you tell us a little bit more about your book and kind of, not only wh where to find it, but tell us just a little bit more about it itself? 

Yeah, of course. My book is a mix of my personal story, which starts with me. Um, when I, when I realized I was having a girl for a child, that was really, um, scary for me. So, I share a lot of my personal experience growing up with food, and parenting daughters, with food. I share experiences that I have had working with parents. And that is just interwoven into all of the what to-dos, the strategies, and the tools, which is what the bulk of the book is. 

Um, how do we deal with if our child is sneaking food, um, what is emotional eating and how what's a good way to think about it and handle it with our kids? What is eating well-being? And you were asking me earlier, like, what is it, what is a healthy eater? So I really help parents kind of think about that more, get clarity on it, what it means for them, and what it could mean for their child. 

And it's very much about mindset, about food and eating, um, with the objective to protect girls and boys, um, from eating disorders and disordered eating, and just that lifelong stress of worrying about everything that we're eating or worrying about. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, the way we look, which the second is, is, you know, challenging, but it is, um, not what it is not is a book about please, you know, eat this, make sure your child's eating that. 

There are plenty of books out there like that, and you won't find that in this book. There is one, um, the chapter called Simple Nutrition. So try to simplify things for parents who are even interested in that. I, you know, I recommend skipping it if that's kind of triggering for you, but, um, if it's helpful, it's just being more relaxed. Understanding the basics of nutrition is such a better, much better way. 

I think most of us almost known we're burdened with nutrition information because we are told it, you know, all the time. And, that's a contradiction in our culture. We were kind of hitting on it in the beginning, but this, we are very focused on healthy eating, almost like obsessed with like, almost like a national obsession. And then there's the contradiction of also not prioritizing meals and not prioritizing eating and um, eating really quickly, eating on the fly, you know, so that those two things are in contradiction to each other. 

Right. Makes it difficult, for all of us, not just parents. But yeah. So the book is a mixture of personal stories, stories of parents, and then just those tools and tips. 

And then what's the name and where can we find it? 

Oh, of course. Most important information, right? <laugh>. It's called Diet Proof Your Daughter. Um, and the subtitle is A Mother's Guide to Raising Girls who Have Happy, healthy Relationships with Food and Body. Um, it's available on Amazon and Barnes and There are about 40 or 50 reviews there too that you can read if you're kind of interested or not. Sure. Many people have told me it's great sons and daughters and that has helped them with their relationship with food, which I find so flattering and really the point of the whole book, which is that these two things are intertwined with our feelings about food and our relationship with food and our children. 

So I really hope it's helpful for, for parents, anyone that's interested in it, um, finds what they need. 

Yeah, I'm, I'm excited to read it. I am going to read it. Um, and I, I just wanna point out the, I like the feelings and once again, that mindset, how you incorporate that because our brains are so in charge of our body and how if, if we are always feeling badly about what we're eating, I can't even imagine what that is doing on like a physiological level in our bodies, right? Like, how do we metabolize something that we think is like not good for us or, you know what I'm saying? 

Absolutely. There's a study I sort of hesitated because I don't remember all the details of it, but there's to that effect, I think I'm, it's just one study, one or two studies is not a huge, um, um, amount of research on it, but it, it did, it did show a decrease in absorption. I think it was iron and maybe one other mineral, um, in people who were, uh, you know, I don't remember what was going on, but it was basically what you're saying about negative feelings about food. It did show a decrease in absorption of different nutrients. 

And just, I always like to say too, nutrition is like such an infant science and our bodies are so brilliant and so complicated. So studies don't say everything. I think what you just in, you know, intuitively said, which is like if you're our, our, our body's so wise, if we do know, um, that our thoughts, you know, really, and our feelings really do impact not just us, but everyone around us and our body for sure. 

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and I have to say, um, I'm gonna just put this in there. One of my things that when I kind of came to the conclusion that my son is perfect just the way he is mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, one of the things I did say to him was, I want you to change your mindset about food. Um, cuz he got to the point where he didn't wanna go to the pediatrician, right? And I do wanna say my pediatrician is awesome, really is, doesn't sound this way, but really is. But he had gotten to the point where he is like, I can't weigh a certain amount and show up there. 

And so he gets into this like groove of like eating healthier and exercising more like a few months before the appointment. It's horrible. It's really horrible. And we got to a point and I said, you know what? 

I think you are absolutely perfect. You are so healthy, your blood pressure is good, and you are awesome. And he looks actually really good. And I said to him, I want you to change your perspective on food. Let's do nothing else. Let's eat what you want. Let's eat our portions, let's be healthy, and whatever, but let's just change your perspective when you eat something that you think it's good for you. And I swear a month later he just, his body started to change. Like granted he's going through puberty, he grew quite a bit, you know, he's like 14 now and he is, you know, taller than me. 

Um, but I said, what did you do, you look amazing. What did you do differently? And he is like, my mindset changed around food and I thought that was huge. 

Yeah. I  love that you kind of intervened and went, um, you know, against sort of what, maybe not what the pediatrician said but intervened and said, you know, we have to stop this and focused on the mindset. I don't think that, um, you know, doctors are seen as such authority figures. Like I don't think a lot of parents feel that they can do that and um, uh, hopefully, more do feel more empowered, um, to see, you know, this isn't working for him. Whatever happened isn't helping him, it's hurting him and we need to, we need to, to change and do something different. 

Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah. So I say actually for me, I would tell parents to go with your own intuition about things, um, cuz you know your family the best and what's gonna work for you and your family. Um, but what would you say to parents that are listening? What's a message that maybe you want them to hear today? 

That they're gonna, their, their child is going to do a lot better if they can be more relaxed and about food instead of more rigid and concerned. Um, so trying to focus on everything that's going right, just like you did Lisa, your child is growing. Focus on those things and bring that positivity, to meals. Um, Stressless, you're feeding your child, they're getting fed, they're getting nourished. That is amazing. 

That is your job. Um, and just appreciate yourself for that. You know, you don't have to put all this pressure, um, that everything has to be perfect. And if it's not, then it wasn't a good job. Or we shouldn't even eat, you know, that's what I hear from many parents. So, um, just try to be more relaxed and I think your children and you will get a lot more benefit out of, your meals. 

Yeah, I love that because I do think for parents, like, it's kind of like the one thing, right? Like we need to, like, especially when they're even infants, right? We need to be able to feed our kids, right? Keep them alive, feed them, and let them grow. That's kind of one of the core things of parenting, right? And so I think that's why it's so touchy sometimes of just making sure that we're doing it correctly almost, you know? So I appreciate your insight. I appreciate what you're doing for the world and your book and all the things that you are promoting out there about just healthy eating because it is more than just food. 

It's the whole package. So thank you so much. 

You're very welcome. Thanks for giving me space to share it. 

Thank you for listening to this episode. Having a healthy relationship with food starts with us. So let's start with letting go of the worries around food, creating a positive mindset, and building connections around that dinner table with your family. And if you'd like to learn more about this topic, visit 

Amelia SherryProfile Photo

Amelia Sherry

Author, Mom, and Nutritionist

Amelia Sherry is a registered dietitian who practices using a non-diet, weight-inclusive approach.

She is also the author of Diet-Proof Your Daughter: A Mother's Guide to Raising Girls Who Have Happy, Healthy Relationships with Food & Body and founder of, where she offers counseling and workshops on positive ways to parent around food.