A recent study published by the University of Missouri’s Center for Body Image Research and Policy suggests that there may be a link between positive body image and frequency of children eating breakfast with their parents. The research found that eating breakfast more often throughout the week was associated with positive body image. The study also showed that kids were more likely to have a positive body image if they regularly ate breakfast with a parent.
What does eating breakfast with your kids have to do with their body-image? More research needs to be conducted to better answer that question, but I think there are clues as to why this association is present in recent research.
Taking time to sit down for a meal may seem like a lost art in our country. Considering the increase of households with two working parents on top of the full schedule of children who are not only engaged in the classroom, but in homework, sports, and other extracurricular opportunities as well, time runs short. Is this shift in time allotment worth skipping family meals? Research indicates that family dinners improve academic performance, self-esteem, resilience as well as decreases the likelihood of teen pregnancy, substance abuse, obesity, depression, and eating disorders. Gathering around the table for food and conversation has been a human tradition for thousands of years. When humans take time to prepare food, sit still, enjoy a meal, and share it with others, we participate in something that is holistically beneficial.
It’s okay to eat. When parents prioritize eating breakfast, they model for their kids that eating is normal and a good thing to build into one’s day. Parents that complain about their appearance and regularly participate in dieting behavior set a tone for the way their children learn how to consider personal appearance and relationship with food. When parents take time to sit down with their children to fuel their bodies for the day ahead, they are not only teaching their kids the value of slowing down and mindfully consuming food, but they are also setting an example of how to care for the body in little ways. Research indicates that eating disorders develop through a complex compilation of factors and that parents are not to blame. Nonetheless, parents can play an important role in creating a home environment that helps prevent eating disorder onset by helping their children foster positive self-esteem, eating competence, healthy coping skills, and healthy messages about the role of food in wellness.
Maybe gathering around the table for breakfast or dinner is not realistic every day for your family, but steps could help you and your family shift towards more meal times together? It is okay to start small and think big. The things that we give most priority to in life will further fill our schedules. Sitting down to a bowl of cereal in the morning might make a bigger impact on families than we realized.