Fit vs. Fiction's Blog


Body image concerns: Advice for Grandma and Grandpa

A woman approached me at the grocery store the other day because she had read an article about me in the newspaper where I talked about (what else?) body image and kids. She explained that she was a grandmother and was worried that she was putting a little too much pressure on her grandkids when it came to food choices. While she didn’t want to make them self-conscious about what they were eating, she also didn’t want them to feel free to eat whatever they wanted and risk becoming overweight.

Not too long after that, I heard from another grandma who was very concerned that her daughter-in-law’s own body image issues were setting her grandkids up for their own issues and was unsure how to handle the situation.

What so many people don’t realize is that body image issues and eating disorders don’t just affect the people who are struggling with them, but also impact the lives of those who love them. Watching someone you care about obsess over their weight/ food/ appearance can be beyond frustrating and heartbreaking since it’s really difficult for them to know what they should say or do.

It’s easy to overlook the stress put on friends and family of eating disorder sufferers, which is a huge oversight since having a strong and stable support system can make all the difference when it comes to recovering from such an insidious disorder.

For my next few posts, I’m going to talk about the people around the people who are suffering (grandparents, parents, siblings, friends) and offer some tips on how to feel a little less powerless.

1. Compare notes.
Grandparents don’t usually see their grandkids on a daily basis and it may be easier for them to spot the subtle changes that may be happening than parents who can be too close to a situation to have a clear view. If you are concerned about something you’re seeing, whether it be physical or behavioral changes, don’t be afraid to bring these concerns up with the parents. Find out if they’ve noticed anything concerning and make sure there is an open line of communication so you can work together to make sure the kids are safe.

2. If you suspect that something’s not quite right with your grandkids,Talk to them directly but make sure your conversations are non confrontational and your questions don’t come across as accusatory. Instead of asking, “What’s wrong with you lately?” Or, “I know something’s going on, what is it?” Try instead to ask about things like school and their friends while you’re out for lunch or just hanging out together. For a lot of people, opening up about body image anxieties can be tough, but talking about other kinds of stress can be much easier. Just chatting about what’s going on their lives can give you a great perspective of where added anxieties can be coming from.

3. It’s time to give up the cute nicknames that may not be so “cute” anymore.
We all do it. We all have cute terms of affection we come up with for our kids and grandkids and they come from a place of pure love. Sometimes, however, it’s time to let those nicknames go. Calling your granddaughter/son “Chubby cheeks” or “Chunky Monkey” may be cute for an infant, but not nearly as sweet for an older child.

4. Cancel your membership with the “Clean your plate club”. There are still a lot of parents and grandparents who guilt their kids into finishing every last morsel of food off their plate at mealtime and this is a really bad habit to get into. It is so important for kids to learn how to listen to the messages their OWN bodies are sending them. They need to know when they’re hungry and when they’re full. If they are taught to just keep eating until the food is gone, they will end up eating for all kinds of reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with hunger. Kids need to work with their own bodies and not have them micromanaged by anybody else.

5. Love them unconditionally.
Sadly, the world can be a very judgemental place and kids need to believe that they have a support system that will always have their backs. A woman once shared with me that while spending the weekend with her grandparents when she was a child, she overheard them talking about the fact that she gained a little weight and how worried they were about her getting fat. She’s a grown woman now, and that memory still haunts her.

My #1 advice is to let your kids/grandkids know that if there is ever anyhing they need to talk about, you will be there for them and they will have your full attention. Even if they have no interest in opening up right away, just knowing that you’re there will give them huge sense of comfort.

#self-worth shouldn’t be measured in pounds

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