After watching Sandra Aamodt‘s Ted Talk on the neuroscience of diet the other day, I realized that my twin teenage daughters have never gone on a diet or even uttered the words: “I need to lose weight”. By the time I was their age, diet was not only part of my vocabulary, but it was the constant partner of my then fragile self-esteem. Looking at pictures of myself as a teen, it’s obvious I did not need to lose weight. My girls are comfortable with their image and identity. They embrace not only their strengths, but their flaws as well. This mindset affects everything they do, including how they view and treat their bodies.
How Your Environment Affects Your Mindset
We are very much influenced by our environment and the society around us. My daughters grew up in a family that views food and eating positively. We cook because we love good food, and we eat because we enjoy the experience. Sharing a meal as a family enhances our lives and makes everything taste better. Eating has become a ritual of sorts. Over the years, we have formed rules around it. We all wait for each other to be seated to start eating. We all take turns cooking and cleaning up. We talk about food, the same way we speak about our days, health or science. Eating together has become the major centerpiece of our family dynamic. Meals should foster a healthy relationship with food and people, especially because they are a time to reconnect, to share, and to enjoy the offerings of the day.
Respect is Part of the Solution
Sandra Aamodt mentioned in her talk that teasing kids about their weight or eating is detrimental. Having grown up in a family that did a lot of that, I would agree. My relationship with food growing up was draped in a cloth of shame. The cycle stopped there. My kids are growing up in a very different environment. I might mention that eating too many carbs or too much sugar is not good for your health because of X, Y, and Z, but the emphasis is always on facts, not the person. It’s an approach based on respect. Knowledge, not criticism, allows for healthy decision making.
Goals vs. Mindset
I have no intention of making health-based new year’s resolutions for 2015. I will not promise to lose weight, to exercise X many hours per day, or to cut all sugar from my diet. More importantly, I will not encourage my kids to make resolutions either. It’s not that I don’t believe in having goals, because I do. It’s simply more effective to tie our goals to a mindset rather than a particular outcome. I will therefore only commit to doing what we have done for years: learn new information, share it with each other, and strive each day to work on myself and how my actions affect the lives of others. I will commit to respecting who I am and the individuality of each person in my family. Mostly, I will mindfully show my gratitude to everyone I love each day, because together we are stronger, healthier and more beautiful.