Tracy Brown, RD, works with children, teens and adults to help them normalize their behavior around food. Much of her work revolves around educating people about body diversity.
“I teach families that it’s OK to have diversity,” says Tracy. “Kids can grow up to be happy, successful and loved at many different weights. They don’t have to be thin to achieve happiness.”
She says that many times when parents bring a child to her, they think there is something to fix about the body – that it is too heavy and needs to be reduced, but her goal is to reinforce the idea that the body is acceptable at any size.
“If you say that her body is not OK, your kid can’t separate that from her sense of self worth,” says Tracy. “Comments like that cause damage long-term, as they internalize the idea that they are not all right. Kids are often more comfortable with their natural weight than their parents are.”
“I can’t control where anybody’s weight will end up,” she says. “Nobody has the power to control where a healthy body needs to be. What I can do is help people heal their relationship with body image, food and eating so that they can live a life free of disordered eating.”
She says it is important to make all foods acceptable, and not label them “good” or “bad.”
“When we make food special and bad, we create an anxiety system around it that distracts her from the real issues she is facing inside of herself,” says Tracy. “Food can just be a way to distract from real needs, so we want to clear away the food so that we can attend to her emotional needs.”
Tracy struggled with her own eating disorder for years. “I went through recovery, and I learned Intuitive Eating, and that’s when I realized that there are only a few situations in which we should ever restrict anything,” she says. “I truly believe in my bones that people can trust their bodies. If it matters to you about how you feel, you will naturally regulate your eating patterns to achieve the weight at which your body needs to be.”
Tracy often finds that working with parents, moms especially, is critical when healing a child’s relationship with food. “I tell moms that I understand they feel a need to control what they eat – to achieve a certain weight for themselves,” says Tracy. “But when that restrictive lifestyle impacts their child’s health, it’s time to make a change. I often ask: ‘are you willing to be 5 or 10 lbs heavier to heal your child?’ and most often, the answer is ‘yes,’ and the moms realize that they can stop restricting their own bodies as they teach their children to trust their bodies. It truly is possible to free your whole family from the negative impacts of restrictive eating.”