It’s not the body that craves food it’s the mind and our minds only respond to two things – words and pictures – so it’s all about making those words and pictures healthier and more exciting. A disordered mind = disordered eating and low self-esteem can often be the driver of emotional eating and weight gain so here are some tips to help:

  1. Our beliefs and thoughts create our feelings which then create our actions so if your child has negative beliefs and thoughts about themselves this can lead to the action of overeating to feel better. Get them to write down all the things they’re feeling, understand where the emotion is coming from then work through each of those to help them see how great they really are!
  2. Get your child to write down a list of 20 things that make them great e.g. I’m smart, I’m funny, I’m kind then print the list off and have it where they can see and check in with it every day
  3. Food is very often used to push down emotions so help your child understand what they’re feeling and that it’s normal and okay to have those emotions
  4. Low self-esteem can lead to comfort eating to feel better so praise your child many times every day and get them to do the same to themselves
  5. Reduce sedentary activities such as gaming and scrolling on phones as we can become almost trance-like in these activities which leads to mindless eating, not being fully aware and present in the amount or quantities that we’re eating
  6. Don’t make your child feel like they’ve done something wrong or that there’s something wrong with them. If they have a belief that they’re not good enough already this will just compound the issue and they’ll need something to make them feel better and what makes us feel better instantly? Food!
  7. Educate them into what goes into processed food and why sugars and processed foods are unhealthy. Make it into a fun project so they want to get involved in it
  8. Get them involved in the cooking and cook from scratch where possible, make it exciting by getting them to research recipes and give them responsibility in planning meals
  9. Don’t use words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ when talking about food. If your child thinks they’ve done something bad they’ll feel guilty and like they’ve failed, self-esteem plummets so they’ll want something to feel better – a ‘bad’ food and so the circle continues. Use ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ instead
  10. Don’t call sugary sweets and chocolates ‘treats’. They’re not treats, they’re bad for us. Treats come in many other forms – a trip to the zoo, staying out with friends, watching a movie
  11. Don’t use food as a reward, for comfort or to make things better. Otherwise the association is there and this will carry on into adulthood
  12. Stop buying unhealthy foods. Sounds simple but so many people don’t do this. When food is in our line of sight we eat more so if you absolutely do have to buy the food then hide it away in the back of a cupboard where your child can’t see it
  13. If your child reaches for an unhealthy food check in with what’s going on for them emotionally i.e. what’s driving the behaviour and help them work through that instead
  14. Make exercise fun and don’t call it exercise as this just feels like hard work. If something feels like hard work getting motivation to do it is VERY challenging! Say “Let’s go out and have some fun” instead – much more exciting!
  15. Limit social media to lower feelings of inadequateness. We all know that a lot of things on social media aren’t real but children don’t so they try for the impossible and just end up feeling like they’re failed because they can’t attain it.