Raising an Intuitive Eater | FairfieldMoms

Ellen Coghlan, MS, RDN. 

Navigating life in today’s world, especially as a parent, can be incredibly challenging. Overnight, your child’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being becomes your top priority. While nutrition is crucial, it can also be overwhelming. Balancing the mental and emotional aspects of eating adds yet another layer of complexity to an already impossible job.


That’s where I come in. As a registered dietitian who has overcome disordered eating, I’m here to support the Fairfield community in reimagining health and wellness. I work with women, girls, and boys to help them break free from disordered behaviors and adopt a healthier, well-rounded approach to nutrition and health. In this blog post, I’ll explain how you can encourage intuitive eating in your children, or even in yourself if you’re looking to break free from diet culture. 


Facts About Dieting and Weight Loss:


In a world filled with ever-evolving expectations and the constant pressure to fit in, we often project these judgments onto ourselves and our children. The fear of not measuring up to societal norms, compounded by the relentless influence of social media, can have a significant impact on our daily habits, including how we eat and view our bodies. Society’s rigid body standards can lead us to fall into the trap of diets, restrictions, and the pursuit of weight loss, even at a young age, when our identities are still taking shape.

You’ve probably heard that diets often don’t work, with success rates hovering at a dismal 5-20%. The truth is, it’s not a lack of discipline on our part; diets set us up for failure right from the start:


  • Dieting and intentional weight loss typically result in weight regain and negative health consequences.
  • Even if a diet “works,” it often leads to disordered eating habits to maintain the desired weight.
  • Dieting is a significant predictor of disordered eating and the development of eating disorders.


This is important to know because as a parent, we may not realize the risks of recommending diets or diet-like rules onto our children. We also want to keep our eyes peeled for our children’s habits and their potential interest in dieting. 


What Is Intuitive Eating (IE) and How Can We Foster IE in Children?


Intuitive eating is an approach to eating and health that consists of ten principles. It guides individuals out of the disordered diet culture cycle and into a way of eating that prioritizes healthy habits over body appearance. Here’s how you can support your child in adopting intuitive behaviors:


  1. Avoid Labeling Foods as “Good” or “Bad”: Encourage your child to understand the nutritional value of foods and how they make them feel, rather than imposing restrictions.

  2. Lead by Example: Be a positive role model by not enforcing strict rules about meal timing and responding to your own hunger cues with nourishing meals and snacks.

  3. Refrain from Body Comments: Avoid making comments about your body, a friend’s body, or your child’s body, even if meant as compliments.

  4. Practice Mindful Movement: Engage in movement and rest intuitively and involve your child in these activities to help them develop a holistic understanding of intuition.

  5. Prioritize How They Feel: Encourage your child to focus on how food makes them feel before and after meals, helping them build their intuitive understanding of which foods suit them best.


What to Look Out For in Your Children:


Social Comparison: Be wary of excessive time spent on social media, as it can lead to unhealthy body comparisons. Provide structure and expose them to diverse body types and health messages.


Changed Eating Habits: While kids naturally have varying eating patterns, monitor significant changes and approach them with curiosity.


Isolation: If your child isolates themselves during mealtimes, avoids social activities, or exhibits anxiety around food and body image, take notice.


Coping with Food: Watch for signs of emotional eating or labeling food as a reward. Encourage alternative coping and celebration strategies to prevent food from becoming the sole source of comfort.


About Ellen Coghlan, MS, RD, CDN:


Ellen Coghlan is a registered dietitian who specializes in disordered eating and body image. She prioritizes mental and physical health in her approach to nutrition. She owns Ellen Scot Nutrition, offering nutrition counseling and speaking engagements. Through her HealthyHer platform, she empowers women and girls to break free from societal constraints and embrace additive, fulfilling lives where health and eating are positive aspects. Ellen started her journey in Cleveland, Ohio, pursued a business degree at Miami University, and transitioned to her true calling in New York City. Now, based in Fairfield County, she is dedicated to integrating into her community and making a positive impact.


Instagram: @Healthyherdietitian 

Website: ellenscotnutrition.com 

Email: [email protected] 

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