Helping our Children Build Body Trust

Helping our Children Build Body Trust

Children are born able to let us know when they are hungry and when they are satisfied. They are also able to adjust the amount and type of food they eat depending on what their body needs. If left to do its job, our bodies will keep being able to regulate our food intake as we grow. Unfortunately, lots of things can get in the way of this happening. Parents, peers, school and the media give children (often well-meaning) messages about food and the way bodies should look.

Here are four ways we can support a child to trust what their body is telling them.

1. Be a positive role model

Sit down and eat with your child whenever you can. Role model listening to your own body’s hunger and fullness cues. Show that you enjoy food and eating a variety of foods. Recognise that it is okay to leave food on your plate when you are full. Sometimes we eat more than what our body tells us and that is okay too.

2. Know your job when it comes to feeding your child, and stick to it

Many parents ask ‘how can I “get” my child to eat the food I want him to?’ The short answer is: this isn’t your role.

As parents, your job is: to decide what food to offer and when (i.e. what time the meal or snack will be).

Your child’s job is: to decide whether to eat and how much to eat.

By letting your child to do their job with eating, you’re showing you trust that your child knows their own body best. If you say things like ‘you can’t still be hungry’ or ‘you must eat something!’ think about how this may override your child’s body trust.

There are many reasons that we eat. Hunger and fullness are just two of them. There will be times when we eat more or less, than we are hungry for. Sometimes it's because the food is delicious, we are bored or just because it’s there. This is all normal and we all eat this way sometimes. Read more about How to Feed Children

3. Try to have regular sit-down mealtimes

Setting regular times for sit-down meals and snacks helps children feel secure around food. It also gives children the chance to get hungry (without getting ravenous). Let children know that feeling hungry before a mealtime is normal and is our body’s way of doing what it is meant to. If children are grazing on food or drinks like milk all day, it can make it harder for children to tune into their body’s cues. Try to sit down at a table if you can and avoid distractions like toys or screens. Read more about family mealtime.

4. Encourage your child to tune in

Gently encourage your child to notice how different foods feel in their body. If your child doesn’t want to eat anything or eat much at that moment, that’s OK. It’s their call. Remember it is completely normal for a child’s appetite, eating and food preferences to vary from day to day. If your child complains about being hungry shortly after they have rejected food, calmly explain when the next meal or snack time is. Offer them food then.

All of these things will help your child develop a positive relationship with food and grow into the body that’s right for them. Read more about being a positive role model for your child