How can parents encourage their children to have a healthy and curious relationship with food? Can providing an explorative relationship with food, give them a better standing to trust their own bodies? What does the research say about pressuring or praising your child to eat a certain type of food? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks with Marci Evans about raising kids to have a healthy relationship with food and their own body.


Marci is a self-declared food and body image healer. She owns a group practice in Cambridge, MA where she helps clients develop a more peaceful relationship with food and their body and also provides training and supervision to fellow clinicians. She is also co-directing the Simmons eating disorders specific dietetic internship and getting ready to launch a multi-disciplinary eating disorders training program at Simmons. Visit her website and connect on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.


  • How to not pass on your issues with food to your child
  • Praise being a double-edged sword

How to not pass on your issues with food to your child

Most people have some issues with food and their bodies, and those who become parents recognize that they do not want to pass them on, either intentionally or not, to their kids. Marci Evans gives a few pointers to parents with concrete advice on how to approach this topic and encourage their kids to have a healthy, flourishing relationship with their bodies:
  • Have as many family meals together as you can: Trust that the time you share together matters more for your child’s health and wellbeing than what you are serving them. Even though all parents know that getting in the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals into their child’s food is important, it can create stress and negativity around those healthy foods if they are all the parent focusses on.
So, really focusing first on being together and enjoyment as the central and most important piece of feeding your children well. (Marci Evans)
  • Create opportunities with your kids where food is fun: Children really enjoy fun in the kitchen, and when they are given the chance to explore food without unnecessary pressure or praise, they can develop their own relationship with it that is not solely based on what is good or what is bad.
I really cannot overestimate how important it is to create non-pressured experiences with food. There is a mountain of research that demonstrates this very, very clearly that if we are pressuring a child to eat more of a certain food or a certain type of food that they are actually more likely to eat less of that food. (Marci Evans)
Similarly, if parents pressure their child to eat less of a certain type of food, the research predicts that they would end up eating more of that food.
  • Become aware of how you talk about your own body and bodies in general: Anytime we frame anything negative, in particular about our appearance, children absorb and internalize that and then use the same lexicon to think and talk about their own bodies.
Thinking less about appearance and more about the functionality of our bodies is a good place to start. This models to the child that the appearance of bodies is not the prime concern of the family, and instead demonstrating kindness to one another and curiosity about a wide variety of food is more important. These topics are not taboo, but that they are just not at the front and center of the family’s concerns.

Praise being a double-edged sword

When a parent takes their child to the pediatrician, they can set some boundaries in place with their doctor:
  • Ask the pediatrician that any weight-related comments must only be made between the doctor and the parent and not around the child. This goes for both criticisms or concerns as well as any praise because this can create unintended misinformation for the child about what is good and bad with regards to their body.
  • Familiarize yourself with research about your child’s body development. Most children gain weight around their middle section during puberty before they start growing taller and being aware of this pre-puberty growth spurt period can help you not to unnecessarily pressure your child to lose weight that is, in fact, not a serious issue.
  • Try to avoid thinking about teaching your child about losing or avoiding weight gain, and instead teach them patterns of wellbeing that is appropriate for their age.
The moment we step into the territory of trying to fix our child’s weight or trying to suppress or slow weight gain, we tend to create the very behaviors that actually predict future weight gain and eating problems down the line. (Marci Evans)
Read the article on: Forget WW! How to Protect Your Children from Food & Body Shame



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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