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Cultivating Body Positivity & Food Neutrality at Home with Tracey Harper

body positivity diet culture eating disorders food neutrality intuitive eating mindful eating

“When you know better, you do better” could not be a more fitting adage for all of parenting, but it becomes especially relevant as we guide our kids in developing their own healthy relationship with food and their bodies. Making the shift away from diet culture is not quick or easy, so I welcomed Tracey Harper, a non-diet nutritionist and fitness coach to help us tackle this topic.


If keeping diet culture out of your home is a priority, the best place to start is always evaluating your own relationship with food. It starts with being intentional about speaking kindly about our own bodies and normalizing the fact that bodies come in many shapes and sizes. It also means letting go of the idea of “healthy” or “unhealthy” foods and working to help our families build balanced plates. 

An obvious piece of the conversation was the role of media and social media. Tracey offers some helpful questions to engage our kids in the process of reflecting on how their feed makes them feel. When they become aware of this impact, auditing their feed can be empowering. Likewise, challenging them to take media breaks and get outside can be a huge boost to their mental health. 

One trap that parents often fall into is believing that if we control what our kids eat, (especially when it comes to sugar intake) we are protecting them. In reality, we just inadvertently contribute to the reinforcement of diet culture’s principles. Our energy is much better spent on creating a language of self-care and appreciation for the bodies we have.

As we concluded our conversation, Tracey left us with some powerful encouragement. If you’ve allowed diet culture to creep into your home, it’s never too late to make a switch. We don’t have to worry about getting it “right” all the time. If we stay in conversations with our kids and stay committed to admitting when we do make mistakes, our kids will easily grow and adapt with us.

To learn more about Tracey and the work she does, check out her website at, and and follow her on IG at @harperhealthandwellness.


Jenn Salib Huber: 0:00

Hi and welcome to the Midlife Feast, the podcast for women who are hungry for more in this season of life. I'm your host, dr Jenn Salib Huber. I'm an intuitive eating dietitian and naturopathic doctor, and I help women manage menopause with oat dieting and food rules. Come to my table, listen and learn from me trusted guest experts in women's health and interviews with women just like you. Each episode brings to the table juicy conversations designed to help you feast on midlife. And if you're looking for more information about menopause, nutrition and intuitive eating, check out the Midlife Feast community, my monthly membership that combines my no-nonsense approach that you all love to nutrition with community, so that you can learn from me and others who can relate to the cheers and challenges of midlife. 

Hey everyone, welcome to this week's episode of the Midlife Feast, and so my guest today is a fellow non-diet nutritionist and fitness coach, tracy Harper, who's from Ontario in Canada, and Tracy has a lot of work working with teens a lot of experience working with teens and families who are maybe trying to navigate this whole diet culture, intuitive eating, eating disorder, conversation as a family, and so one of the things that I really love about Tracy is she's very, I guess, astute with her language in terms of how she describes what needs to change, how we need to change it, but it's done in such a compassionate and sensitive way that I think any parent who is maybe feeling like something needs to change maybe they themselves need to change, but they know that they need to support their kid, their teen will really take a lot of comfort from this conversation 

Because we kind of cover the gamut. We cover our own parenting experiences, being deep into diet culture, how we repaired some of that with ourselves and our kids but she gives us some really practical tools for anybody who might be starting to think like, hmm, I think we need to maybe work on this as a family instead of just trying to maybe kind of work on their help one person. So have a listen and I know that you'll enjoy this conversation. Welcome Tracey to the Midlife Feast.

Tracey Harper: 2:17

Thank you, jen. So much for having me Excited to be here.

Jenn Salib Huber: 2:21

I'm excited that you're here too. You're in the growing list of my internet friends, as I call it, people that I feel like I have really gotten to know and I know that we would be friends and I sometimes have to remind myself that we haven't actually met. We've had so many different interactions over the years, but you are a nutritionist who works in the non-diet health at every size space, but why don't you tell us a little bit more about, maybe just kind of how you work and how you get into this work?

Tracey Harper: 2:51

Sure, yes, you definitely are one of my internet friends. That I. One of the good things about Instagram, right, yes, is our meeting, so thank you for having me my work. So I, as you said, I'm a nutritionist. I also have a background in fitness. I did fitness coach or I worked at a gym for many, many years as a fitness instructor. So my work, like you said, is from a non-diet perspective. A lot of my work in the past year has been with teens and families, helping them with either eating disorders or disordered eating and their relationships with food and their bodies. So that's really been a shift in my work in the last year because I joined another practice as well and working alongside therapists as the nutritionists there.

Jenn Salib Huber: 3:42

So you have a lot of experience, like with the athletic side, of working with teens as well. Am I remembering that correctly, you've coached, you are.

Tracey Harper: 3:51

Yes, yeah, yeah, oh, good memory, wow, wow. Yeah, I'm not doing that anymore, but yeah, I worked with a local figure skating club and I loved it and I did their fitness piece, mostly Like they're required to do off ice training, as well as the on ice. I actually don't even know how to skate, which they thought was quite hilarious, but yeah, I did the off ice and loved it because it also gave me a chance to work with kids and also give them some other little nuggets other than just fitness. Right, because we ended up talking a lot about bodies, talking a lot about food, things like that, as you can well imagine in a sport like figure skating. Right.

Jenn Salib Huber: 4:37

Yes, oh, my goodness, yes, so that kind of is a good segue into what we're going to be talking about today, which is here trying to support families and teens, and especially families, kind of with kids, I guess, who might be in their own messy middle of maybe having a teen who is struggling I guess, you know, for lack of a better word with either food or bought the image or some combination of both. I know I hear from a lot of parents that they're worried about their kids. You know, even if they they don't have a you know, quote unquote eating disorder. Yes, they definitely see things that they recognize as maybe not on that spectrum of of healthy behaviors and thoughts that we want for our kids. But one of the things that we were talking about just before we hit record was that, you know, often it brings up that this is actually more of like a family circumstance that might be happening, not intentional, you know, not something that parents ever tried to instill in their kids, but just come as we're all realizing that our culture is everywhere, so it's really hard to keep it out of your house, even if you try, right. So what are some of the things that you see in your work around teens and families and body image? Let's start with that.

The Biggest Needs in Supporting Teen and Families with Body Image

Tracy Harper: 6:05

Okay. So I think an interesting point you brought up first that I want to talk a little bit more about, and that is the piece of how can you keep it out of the house for your children. Right, it's impossible to keep all of diet culture out, you know that, right, once they leave our children, leave our houses, it's everywhere. But I think one of the first and please, I'm a parent. I said a lot of these things in the past. I did a lot of, you know, not using neutral language when it came to food and bodies. I hope that I know better and I'm trying to do better. 

So in no way am I blaming or, you know, wanting people to feel like, feel badly if they say these things. I'm just trying to help. Parenting is hard, right, parenting is really hard, and so, in terms of the work that I do, I try to help parents possibly work on their own relationship a little bit first before attacking not attacking, but before dealing with what some of the issues they might see in their children. 

Starting With Our Habits as Parents

So let's say your example, that they see some behaviors in their children that they think are, you know, maybe a little bit disordered. Maybe they see they're, you know, really concerned with their food, really concerned with their exercise, not wanting to eat with a family, any kind of little red flags. And I'll help them. I will get a sense of what the household is like. So how do you talk about bodies in your household? How do you talk about food? Do you place certain foods you know on a higher level, like is broccoli better than cookies? Or do you speak neutrally about food? So I try to get a real sense of what's happening in the house, because then maybe changing that messaging can help the child as well. 

Right, it depends on where the child is with these behaviors, but I think I really think it's important to get an understanding of like you know what's your eating situation like. Do you eat together a lot? Do people talk about different sizes of bodies positively or negatively? Do people talk about food positively or negatively? So it's really getting the full picture helps me understand what these children are growing up with and what's the messages they're hearing, because once they leave the house they're going to hear all the diet culture messages and all the difficult things that we can't protect them from.

Jenn Salib Huber: 8:27

Yeah, and something that you said about. You know how the language that we use, even with adults and I work almost exclusively with adults, but even with adults who are well on their way to, on their intuitive eating journey, so they're like, not new to this concept are still shocked to discover the layers of diet, culture, language, you know that reflects to say that's good, that's healthy, you know, and to feel like that's neutral, like a lot of people are surprised, you know, when I say like actually healthy isn't a neutral word, because can we apply the definition of healthy to every single human on the planet? And you know, to describe one way of eating, we can't Right. Healthy is always going to be relative. I love your example, oh, sorry, go ahead.

Why The Definition of Healthy Will Always Be Relative

Tracey Harper: 9:22

You just did an example of your nephew, I think, the other day about the healthy and not healthy. Yeah, so I love that. I love that the way you approached it. Right, because he did he not say popcorn's not healthy or something like that. Was that the example?

Jenn Salib Huber: 9:35

So the funny thing and I'll give a little bit more backstory because I think I shared that in my newsletter but my husband is a popcorn fiend, so he makes popcorn every night. He's on his like third worldly pop, like he loves popcorn, it's just his thing. And we almost always have a bowl of half eaten popcorn on our coach, left over from like the night before. It's kind of just this funny thing. And so, right, if he's come over, they're always like there's always a bowl of popcorn in your house, why? 

So, as we're walking through Costco, I'm super excited because I haven't been in a Costco in like four years, even though it was in France. It had, you know, some things from home as a whole yeah, boom, chicka-pop, which we love. It's delicious, yeah. And then, you know, max says but it's not healthy to eat popcorn every day, right. And so I gave him the answer that like, well, you know, actually, you know, corn has is the plant, it has lots of fiber, it's really satisfying and, like you know, we're trying to get more plants on our plate, or you know something like that. 

Right, and so hilarious to see him whip his head around and say, mom, mom, johnson, popcorn is healthy and we can eat it every day. And then the funnier thing, which is even funnier if my sister actually listens to these, because she does now is she texted afterwards and she said I never said it wasn't healthy. Just for the record.

Tracey Harper: 10:57

And the interesting thing is you never said to him it's healthy. No, you said right. You said like, it contains fiber, it can be what it, right, right. So it's interesting that he turned that and was like, oh, but it's healthy, I could eat it, right. And then yeah, yeah.

Jenn Salib Huber: 11:12

So it's interesting that the word I know we're kind of getting off on this side, but I don't know what you hear, what you find when you have a discussion with people. But I Find it a hard one to sometimes really convey why the language is so important, because we've just been, you know, surrounded with Positive messaging about the word healthy and that healthy is always a good thing to be working towards. But there's a difference right between healthy and health promoting that's kind of how sure yeah, that's what I do too. Yeah, so let's get back to that. So, yeah, you work on the language. You kind of figure out how everyone talks to each other and about each other. What else? What else do you see?

Focusing on Health-Promoting Language and Behaviors

Tracey Harper: 11:57

so I also just about the health promoting behaviors. I do the same thing as you in terms of health. Health for you is very different than what health? My definition of health might be right and and I find it harder when I'm working with teens and kids on health promoting behaviors Right, I find probably the midlife group is a little bit just because of age and maturity. They're like oh, sleep is important, but try tell us 16 year old like sleep is important, or an 18 year old, right, it's very. 

It's more difficult conversation. But you know, when I'm talking to the family, I'm it may if it's with a parent and a child, like I have that conversation. If it's just with a child, you know I'm trying to explain to them the concept of like, how sleep makes you feel. So I ask a lot of questions about like, when you, when you don't get enough sleep, how do you feel? When you go to school without eating breakfast, how do you feel? And I feel like that's more concrete and they're able to answer like, oh well, I noticed when I was in my first and second period that I was losing concentration. 

You know things like that. So getting them to really because that's the whole idea of the journey is to get them to, as they grow, to become, you know, know themselves and know their internal cues right, how their body feels, how they feel about hunger, how they feel when they don't have enough sleep, how they feel when they're full, all those kinds of things. So I do a lot of talking about those kinds of things to get them to be more intuitive in their, in their choices. 

So, yeah, I talk about health-requiring behaviors like sleep. I talked to them about you know who they hang out with, like what are the messages that they're hearing from friends? I talked to them about connecting with good people and how they feel about after they're with certain people. You know, do they feel uplifted and good or do they feel like their energy's been drained? I, I do talk about sleep. What else? Time outside, you know, are you getting away from your phone? Are you taking breaks from your phone and your computer? And are you, are you spending time outside and things like that. So I don't thought answers the question.

Jenn Salib Huber: 14:00

But yeah, so one of the things that you just touched on, to like media, media and social media, plays a big role in all of our lives. You know, I think I'm of the mind that it we can't Protect everyone from the harms of it, so we really need to work on awareness To boo, because it's here to stay like it was for to really completely remove ourselves from the society. It's hard to ask an adult, let alone a teen, not to use those tools. Like. As for communication, what are some of the things when you're talking to teens, especially? What do you talk to them about? Media and media literacy?

Engaging Conversations About Media Literacy with Teens

Tracey Harper: 14:41

So I always ask Older and younger clients. I asked them to do sort of a Look, a deep dive into their social media, right. And then I asked them to come back to me and tell me if there are accounts that they're following that don't make them feel great, or that they walk away and they're, or they feel like they're comparing, right. So maybe a little social media detox. Teens, it's harder. I. I find there's a lot of that, like Fitzpo Do you know what I mean when I say that? Like Fitzpo Messaging and for boys and girls, right. But I really asked them to take a look at their social media. So I would say, like, maybe in one of our appointments 

Okay, let's take it next week, come back to me and have a little bit of a list. And you know, have you gone through your social media, your tiktok, your Instagram, whatever it is you use, and Come up with a list of maybe ones that Aren't making you feel good about yourself but making you compare and feel less than? And why are they Right? Is it because the size of their body is different than yours? Is it because you think they're doing, you know, better things to look a certain way? Is it because of the food they're eating. You're comparing yourself. Whatever it is. Why are you walking away from that account and not feeling great? 

And then it, you know, give some summer time to reflect and Just encourage them to do that regularly and, like, really scrub your social media, right? So? And I talk a lot at ad nauseam about it not being real and it being so easy to change your appearance and Change the shape of your body and make your way smaller and all of those things that we know can be done so when you're comparing yourself to someone on social media, that might not be what the person actually really looks like, right yeah?

Jenn Salib Huber: 16:28

and it's so important too that I think people, when I'm talking about body image with adults, you know I show them kind of this, this three-part model of how we get to a place of body dissatisfaction, and it's the comparison and the messaging that we receive from family, from friends and from media. 

Right, we're not born feeling that way, we're not. And when we, I think, can recognize that, you know especially social media, which you know you can only see someone's good side forever and all of their good habits and all of the things that are working well. And it's very easy to think like, wow, they've got it all together, all together, yeah, and you know. So I love. I love some of the messaging, especially that turns it around, that says like, hey, you know what. You don't have to like completely eliminate social media from your life, but curate your feet. 

Yes, look, make diversify it, look for representation, look for bodies that look like your own, doing the things that you want to do. You don't just want to see the people at the top of that body hierarchy ladder. Yes, you want to see all bodies, all shapes, all sizes, all people doing things and being inspired by what they're doing, not what they look like.

Helping Young People Curate Their Feeds

Tracey Harper: 17:47

Exactly, yeah, and I would also encourage parents to have very open conversations about what accounts their kids are following and what is making them feel good and what you know and are there. Are their diverse bodies on there? Are there, you know, accounts that are looking at food just because of the pure joy of food, not because it's a diet or something like that? So I think parents are often hesitant or at least some of the ones I've talked to to ask their kids about their social media and what they're looking at, right, because they think they won't tell them or they think they're, you know, not going to tell them the truth. But I think it's like getting to know your kids' friends, right? So your kids' friends come into their house and you want to know a little bit about them. Who are they, you know? 

How did you meet? You know those kinds of things? What do you have in common? Same thing with social media, right? Like? So what are the accounts that you're following? What's lighting you up these days? What does your For you page look like, right? Is it full of you? Know mine? It was funny. The other day I was looking on my Instagram. I don't know if that's called For you on Instagram, but you know the page that, the Explore page. Explore page. Yeah, mine was full of puppies because my son and I we just send like dog videos back and forth to each other and I was like, oh my gosh, it's like all dogs.

Jenn Salib Huber: 19:00

I know my oldest daughter is the only one on Instagram and the other two can, but they've never asked, which is funny, oh that's a good thing. I mean I just turned 14. So, but anyway, with my oldest daughter and I we literally just send each other cat videos with the occasional plant we have thrown in Because she's big in the plants. But yeah, it is a nice way to kind of just have that line of connection into what they're seeing, even if, you know, especially with older kids like my oldest is almost 17. I can't realistically tell her what to follow, but I can continue to kind of insert the balance that she may not be getting.

Understanding the Value of Guidance Not Control of Teen Social Media

Tracey Harper: 19:41

Yes, or with the older ones, I would say even sharing accounts with them, like, oh, have you seen this account? I love this person's messaging. Or, you know, look at her approach to movement. It's so positive and it's not just about changing your body, it's about finding joyful movement. You know things like that and maybe they won't follow right away, but at least I always think like you're planting the seed or you're continuing to model, right. 

Someone said to me a long time ago when I was frustrated that my kids wouldn't eat like broccoli or something, which now I realize is just so ridiculous. But she said, like, just keep modeling, just keep modeling, right, you know variety and all those things. And now they're, like, you know, 21 and 19. And one of them doesn't like broccoli still, but you know, I just keep kept kept modeling and trying to show, you know, the approach to food, not just from a restrictive place, but from a place of abundance, and all those kinds of things that I know you talk about with with women in midlife as well. So I think it's the same message.

Jenn Salib Huber: 20:45

And let's go back to modeling, because that's kind of where we started, and I think that's really helpful, because modeling doesn't just mean at least the way that I view it but modeling isn't just modeling positive behaviors, it's also modeling how do you repair and, like that, repair reconciliation, if you feel like you've done something wrong or you feel like you've made a mistake, not something that's wrong, right, you know. I mean, you said at the beginning, like you know, there are lots of things that you said to your kids that you would go back and change I also have a long list of those you know and being able to say like hey, I was wrong, that's also right. Yes, yes, well, I just want to get it right. You don't have to get it right, but admit when you get it wrong, yes, and like show them, this is how you, you know, this is what you do. If you make a mistake, you learn from it. You try and do better. Like you said at the beginning, like you know, I try and do better. So what are some of the modeling behaviors?

Modeling Behaviors Around Food and Body Image For Your Kids

Tracey Harper: 21:42

I guess when you're talking to families, about food and healthy body image, I would say, you know, not talking about your own body in a negative way would be one of the big ones, right? I think a lot of people and I and again, I did these things, jen. So this is not this is no, in no way to make people feel guilty or shameful for things that they say. It's to just help us all do a little bit better and in helping our children have a more positive relationship with food and their bodies, right? 

So I think it would be taking a look at how you talk about your body and other people's bodies, so not just yours, but you know even little. It's so insidious. I mean, if you think about the little comments, right, like, oh my, you know my pants are so tight today I really need to stop eating cookies. Or oh, I hate the way my arms look, like we might think they're so innocent and we might think and I do get pushed back on this sometimes we might think they're just like sharing comments of how we're feeling that day. But for a child and I'm sure you can remember when you were younger and heard mess, if you heard messaging like this for a child to hear over and over their parent feeling unhappy with their body. And then what if their body is like their parents? Right? And then they start to feel, oh, is this normal behavior? 

My mom hates her arms, my dad hates his stomach. Like, is this just that? I and I have arms like my mom, so therefore my arms are bad. Right, it's that whole like that. You might think your messaging is innocent and you're just talking about your own body, but kids are sponges. They take in everything. They love you, they think you're the best, and then you're putting yourself down and then they are like, oh, I should feel the same way, right, and I see time after time after time, children grow up with messaging, and not just from parents, right From aunts or uncles, or maybe their grandparents have a huge influence on their life and the way, you know, food is viewed or talked about or bodies are talked about, right, it's that messaging. So helping parents understand that even the things that you think are such simple phrases or not a big deal, can be a big deal if kids hear them over and over and over again.

Jenn Salib Huber: 24:02

Yeah, it really is important to talk about the extended family too, because I know like in my family, my immediate family, there wasn't any like negative body talk. But you know, at certain family gatherings, even if we hadn't seen these people in like a year, the people who weren't there were talked about Right, yes, so or you know, and it didn't really register with me, how normalized that was and now it's like insane for me to think about being like literal dinner conversation, right, and you know that's it's hard to do this work and live in the world, oh yeah. Yeah, it's so hard. So my daughter is my oldest, is in IB, is doing IB and she's doing French and, having grown up in Northern New Brunswick, French is kind of one of my skill sets and I'm going through this with her and they're doing this section on like health and identity now and I'm telling you it like takes all of my willpower. Like we laugh about how ridiculous some of it is, so we can like call it a laugh at it, but I'm just like, oh, my goodness, it is so normalized. Like using this language is like in the curriculum.

Tracey Harper: 25:20

So it's interesting, though, because you can laugh about it, because your daughter hears the messaging from you, right? But all of those kids who don't have that messaging from their parents, I feel like are the ones that aren't safe, right? So is the messaging things like counting? What's the messaging she's hearing?

Jenn Salib Huber: 25:39

Just around, like the language of how people describe their diets and like like a lot of it is like role playing, right, because you're like role playing conversations and it's like I want to get smaller so I'm going to start a diet. Oh dear, oh dear. On the very top level, surface, fairly neutral language, yes, yes. I can't say that language is anything but harmful.

Tracey Harper: 26:05

Exactly, exactly.

Jenn Salib Huber: 26:06

That's why I said it's hard to do this work and unhear things, but it is everywhere, and I think it really is about being able to expose it, because I think that so much of it goes unnoticed right, that it's just there in the background. It's operating all the time. It's being reinforced at home, at school and health care, conversations with friends, and I always describe, you know, intuitive eating or kind of seeing the problems of diet culture, like those 3D images, those posters from the 90s, whatever they're called, where, like you stare at them for a long time and then this 3D image pops out and even if it takes you a long time to see it, once you see it you can't unsee it, unsee it and that is what diet culture is like. 

And as soon as you see how much of diet culture is everywhere, you can't unsee it. So you see it in every wearing circulums. But you know, getting kind of back to the language, and you mentioned that sometimes you get some pushback from parents. What are some of the ways that maybe? Like, do you find that parents pushback because they feel like they've done something wrong or is it that?

How A Fat-Phobic Society Impacts Our Ability to Parent Well

Tracey Harper: 27:19

yeah, I think sometimes it's a defense mechanism. They're worried that maybe they've done something wrong, particularly if they've come to us and said they're worried about some behaviors in their children. I think sometimes it's like oh no, was this me right? And there's so many reasons why children develop eating disorders or disordered eating. Right, it's not just your home environment that can be a part of it, but there's a lot of different reasons biological, social, psychological, social media, all those things. So I think sometimes that's the pushback. 

But I also think we live in a very fat phobic society and a lot of parents are fearful of their children's bodies changing and they wanna try and control that because they think that that's protecting them, whereas that's probably not protecting them. Right, their kids should be able to grow into the bodies they're meant to grow into. But for a lot of people that's very hard to watch, and so I think that's part of the pushback as well. Right Is thinking if I control their food and I control their movement and I make them eat certain things and I don't let them have certain things, then I'm doing them a service, right, and I get it. I get it.

Jenn Salib Huber: 28:44

Yeah, and especially anybody who's come from their own background of disorder eating. I tried to control my kids' sugar intake within an inch of all of our lives because I thought well, just don't develop a taste for it. They won't want it. And I've shared before the Fruit Loop story with one of my kids where she had Fruit Loops. Have you heard this one before? I think so yeah, and it was like primary or grade one and they were doing a craft in the classroom with Fruit Loops and a friend of mine was volunteering as a parent in the classroom and she was texting me these pictures and saying, oh, my goodness, it's so cute. Your daughter keeps running off with these bowls of Fruit Loops and eating them in the corner and giggling.

Tracey Harper: 29:30

And you're like it's not cute, it's.

Jenn Salib Huber: 29:33

That was actually in hindsight. It was one of my first moments of like this may not be working the way I thought it was working.

Tracey Harper: 29:41

Yes, isn't that interesting. That's exactly what I was saying. Right, we think that we're protecting them, and I had a similar moment with my kids where we used, to the last day of school we always went for I always took them for ice cream. It became a thing till they finished high school and at one point they asked me why I never had ice cream with them and I always made up an excuse. 

It was like oh, I'm full, I don't feel like it, right? And that was a huge moment for me. Like, how do I explain this disordered behavior to them? Cause I wasn't eating it, cause I was on my quote unquote bad list, right? So same kind of thing as you. We think we're protecting them by teaching them that certain foods aren't as good as others or it's just gonna backfire in the end. Right, it's more about that neutral language.

Why We Have to Factor in the Role of Genetics in Body Image 

Jenn Salib Huber: 30:37

It's just, you know, all parents are doing, most parents this is coming from a good place, yes, 100%, and we're just doing the best that we can with the information that we have at the time. Like, I really believe that of most parents Me too, and two of the things that I share I'm sure you do the same that I think takes a lot of the burden off of parents to try and fix everything is that genetics are the largest determinant of what we look like and it's too late to change that.

Tracey Harper: 31:08

Exactly. They're here to stay. Can't go back and pick a new pile of genetics.

Jenn Salib Huber: 31:15

You know, and one of the things that I see in my family's genetics is, we're built like Scots. Right, we work in brickshed houses.

Tracey Harper: 31:27

My dad's Scottish, so I'm laughing. Yes, so is he, I'm gonna eat it, yeah.

Jenn Salib Huber: 31:33

Hips and thighs and you know like we are not small people, that's okay.

Tracey Harper: 31:40

That's fine. Yeah, that's okay, but that's hard for a lot of people to accept the genetic piece very hard.

Jenn Salib Huber: 31:46

And it's not like I accepted that for 47 years. I've accepted that for about 10. 37 were not accepting of that. But knowing that right and just being able to look around in genetics aren't a perfect predictor. It's not like all families have the same mix. You're always gonna get some unique mixes. But if you look at like bigger, extended family, you can see patterns of what people is, whether it's height, whether it's hips, whether it's round cheeks or a lot like. You can see these patterns and there's only so much you can do to influence what that looks like right, yeah, and I do talk about that a lot too. The second thing that I find really helpful is reminding parents, especially of like tween girls, that their body fat percentage has to almost double in order for them to start menstruating, to start having. Yeah, exactly Right. And so if I knew that? I did not know that it had to double yeah it almost had to double and actually it's in the like, lead up the like, the year leading up to the first.

Tracey Harper: 33:00


Jenn Salib Huber: 33:00

If you think about that, that's nine, 10, 11. That is the peak of when we start to talk about girls' bodies changing. It's often when people will say that's the first time that somebody commented on my body was when I was 10, 11, and the age at which we you know girls start dieting is 12. Yeah, Right, that's average age. So I think, just you know, when we give parents information that reassures them, it gives them confidence to just be like hey, we're doing okay, yeah, we're doing okay. Whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen and we don't have to like, intervene and fix this. This is just the thing that's happening.

Tracey Harper: 33:48

Right, and that's where the problems, I think, can come up. Exactly what you said is trying to intervene and fix it, right, yeah, and then kids feel that control their parent, trying to control their food and their body. And then you know you see examples like kids hiding food and feeling shameful for eating certain foods, right, and leading to those kinds of behaviors. 

So, yeah, the more I mean it's hard, like you said, it's hard to be a parent. It's hard to you know, you think you're doing the best and you think you're protecting and you think all of these things. And I'm not saying that you know you're not doing your best. It's just being very mindful of the language you use. And if you're not sure, then ask someone, right, ask for help, yeah.

Jenn Salib Huber: 34:32

Yeah. So, as we wrap up, because I feel like we could talk, yeah, but I could, what would you? What kind of parting advice would you give to a parent who might be listening to this and think like, oh, I recognize myself in all of those pieces, because I feel like everything we talked about isn't unique to you and I no, you know, we, we it's our personal lived experience, but we obviously hear really similar stories and there's so much guilt that comes out Like when that when that veil gets lifted, when they're like 3D image pops out and they're like, oh, oh, there's so much guilt, there's so much fear, there's so much like urgency to like what can I do to fix this. So can you maybe share some, some advice for any parents who might be listening to this now.

The Need for Grace and Admitting Where We Had It Wrong About Food and Body Image

Tracey Harper: 35:21

Good question. First off, I would say give yourself some grace and give yourself some compassion, right? I think the message through this chat has been that parenting is hard and there are so many layers to it and we're really just trying to do the best we can. So show yourself some compassion and you said this before. If and then. This is what happened with me and I think probably happened with you If you were stuck in that diet culture, messaging it's okay to say to your children I've shifted my thoughts. This is what I noticed I was doing. This is what I noticed Maybe I was putting on you and to be honest and vulnerable and open with your children, right, and you know it's going to take. It's going to be when they're probably a little bit older that you're having that conversation with them. 

But I certainly went back to my kids. I now have nieces who live very close by and I'm constantly trying to give them that message. You know that bodies are diverse, food is neutral, all the food is awesome, all those things. So I think my advice would be you know, treat yourself with some kindness. It's okay to admit if you made some mistakes and it's okay to try a new approach towards food and bodies in our house, and here's how I think we should go about it, and then give them some examples of how you're going to do that.

Jenn Salib Huber: 36:37

Yeah, I love that. That's really great advice, thanks. Thank you so much for this conversation and lovely. We will put the links to the places where you can be found here in Ontario right In Canada. That's correct. Yes, yep, so I'll put those links in, but I am eager to hear what do you think is the missing ingredient in midlife?

The Missing Ingredient in Midlife According to Tracey

Tracey Harper: 36:59

I knew you were going to ask me this, so I thought about it. So I would have said before I met people like you, I would have said education, because I approached my midlife not knowing what the hell was going on, to be quite honest. But now thank goodness for people like you are educating us and I would say, like connection and community. Right, I felt very alone as I approached perimenopause and didn't have a clue what was going on. 

And, yeah, and now I've connected with you, with a lot of other people and just my friends, and we all talk about it and I think I hope people have that support right, I hope people have that connection to be vulnerable about how they're feeling and how difficult it can be. Not that it's difficult for everybody, but it's difficult for a lot of women. Midlife can be a really, really hard time of life.

Jenn Salib Huber: 37:56

Spending time with people where you can feel a scene.

Tracey Harper: 37:59

Oh, it's so important. Yeah, I love it, thank you so much Tracy. Thanks for having me, Jen. I hope one day we meet in person.

Jenn Salib Huber: 38:10

We too.

Tracey Harper: 38:10

Thanks for listening to one.

Jenn Salib Huber: 38:15

Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of the Midlife Feast and if you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, please consider leaving a review or subscribing, because it helps other women just like you find us and feel supported in midlife.

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