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Posts Tagged ‘disordered eating’


Children mimic your behaviors!

Contrary to popular belief, children hear what you say and see what you do.  Your behaviors and comments can leave a lasting impression.  Even your body image or weight concerns can be passed on to your kids.  Evidence shows that stressing thinness and weight control promotes eating disorders, low self-esteem, decreased body image, and weight bias in children.  Furthermore, eating behaviors linked to a higher risk for obesity are known to develop very early in life.  A 2001 study showed family food environments and attitudes around food and eating affect even preschool-aged kids’ eating behaviors.  You may think youngsters don’t pick up on your drastic dieting or negative comments you make about your body like older children, but they do!

Several studies show that restrictive feeding can impair a child’s ability to regulate their intake, resulting in overeating and weight gain.  Worrying about your own weight can influence your feeding style.  For example, forbidding high calorie foods or sweets in your home can result in your child sneaking food or feeling deprived and overeating when given the opportunity.  Overly controlling or eliminating fun foods simply doesn’t work with kids – balance is key.

Have you ever found yourself saying out loud:

“I have got to lose weight, I am getting so fat”

“I am going to be good and skip lunch today”

“No more desserts for me, I don’t deserve it”

If so, you may want to censor your comments and think before you speak.   Remember, your words could promote your child’s weight gain!

As a parent, you can model  “good for you” behaviors without fixating on weight.  There’s nothing wrong with guiding your child towards adopting healthy habits that will benefit him or her – that’s part of your role!

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to promote a healthy weight for yourself while empowering your child.

DO:

  • Be physically active and limit your own sedentary activities
  • Aim to eat when feeling physically hungry
  • Have a neutral view about all foods
  • Stock a range of nutritious foods in your home and choose these options more often
  • Offer balanced family meals as much as you can
  • Choose to talk about yourself and others with respect and appreciation

DON’T:

  • Get caught up in the latest fad diet or encourage your child to diet
  • Skip meals
  • Eliminate all sweets or high calorie foods from your home
  • Use food for rewards or punishments for yourself or for others
  • Eat while standing up or distracted (may lead to eating mindlessly)
  • Emphasize effects of unhealthy eating
  • Focus on anyone’s weight, especially yours or your child’s

Bottom line:  You are your child’s biggest role model – do you want your child viewing and treating their body the way you do?

Contributing Author:  Katherine Fowler, MS, RD, LDN

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This is the last installment of our eating disorder series by guest blogger, Katherine Fowler, and we are ending with prevention.  Next week we will feature a post on the question many parents get asked, but don’t know how to answer.  Join us for an expert perspective on how to handle the tough question–Do You Think I’m Fat?  For now, read on for what you can do to keep your child in a healthy state of mind and body.

Part 2 of this series discussed the warning signs of eating disorders and what to do if you witness them.  This segment will focus on primary prevention, or what you as a parent can do to stop the occurrence of eating disorders before they begin.

Studies have shown that eating disorders do run in families.  Even if you do everything you can to control your child’s environment, he or she still has a chance of developing an eating disorder. So what is a parent to do? It’s impossible to control all the influences outside of your door, but your actions can have an impact.

DO:

  • Encourage positive body image.  Be a model of healthy self-esteem.
  • Become a critical viewer of the media.
  • Choose to talk about yourself with respect and appreciation.
  • Choose to tell your child you love him/her for what is inside, not because of how he/she looks.
  • Have a neutral view about all foods.
  • Allow your child to determine when he/she is full.
  • Emphasize positive aspects of healthy eating rather than effects of unhealthy eating.

DON’T:

  • Make negative comments about your own or others’ weight.
  • Label foods as “good” and “bad”.
  • Use food for rewards or punishments.
  • Follow fad diets or encourage your child to diet.
  • Focus on the calorie content and grams of fat or sugar in foods.
  • Restrict sweets and high calorie foods from your child.
  • Make your child clean their plate if they are full.

There are 3 major things you need to remember:

  1. What you say sticks. You definitely don’t want your comments about food, eating, body weight, shape, or size to affect your child’s self-esteem.
  2. Your feeding style is important.  An authoritative feeding/parenting style is associated with preventing childhood obesity and eating disorders and has a “love with limits” approach.  What type of feeder are you, and is it having a positive or negative impact on your child?
  3. Family meals matter.  Regular family meals are associated with preventing disordered eating and promote healthier body weight, less behavioral problems, and better grades in school.

To reap the benefits of family meals:

  • Make mealtime peaceful. Save arguments, TV, and phone calls for another time.
  • Make mealtime fun! Involve kids in planning meals, shopping, and cooking.
  • Offer balanced meals. To create balance, serve nutrient dense foods like lean meat, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in larger quantities and serve less nutrient dense foods like high fat dairy and processed grains in smaller amounts. Offer fried foods and sweets less often.

You have a number of chances to interact with your child each day.  Each is an opportunity for you to promote a confident eater that has a healthy relationship with food.  You can make a difference!

Contributing Author: Katherine Fowler, MS, RD, LDN

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The teen years are a time of heightened growth and development, a time when optimal nutrition is critical, and a time when our children’s bodies become adult-like.  Nutrient needs are high and caloric requirements are peaking, all in an effort to prepare the body for its last phase of growth. A teen’s diet and eating habits can be a set-up for hunger, tiredness, lack of focus, weight gain, and disordered eating. 

Turn these common unhealthy practices into a healthy advantage!

The breakfast balk 

Breakfast is “the most important meal of the day”.  Breakfast gives a jump start to your teen’s metabolism, wakes up the brain for learning, and sets the tone for hunger management throughout the day.  Some teens don’t have the time to eat breakfast before they head out the door for school.  Opt for a “grab-n-go” breakfast such as a mixture of dry cereal, raisins, and nuts or a piece of fruit with a wedge of cheese.  Teens can drink their breakfast too, with options such as fruit smoothies or  milk-based breakfast drinks, both of which provide vitamins and minerals in addition to calories and protein.

Bring, buy, or skip?  

Lunch provides the nutrients your teen requires to continue processing and learning at school and also helps keep hunger under control at the end of the day.  When buying or packing a lunch, encourage your teen to select a variety of items from at least 3 food groups.  Food groups include dairy, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat or protein.  Checking out the lunch menu and planning ahead can be a useful strategy to help your teen make healthy choices and avoid the “surprise” lunch.  And remember, brown bagging doesn’t have to mean a sandwich!  Try microwaving a potato, sending a chef salad, or assembling whole grain crackers with lean deli meat and cheese at the lunch table.  Round these entrees out with a piece of fresh fruit and a container of low-fat milk or yogurt and your teen will have a healthy lunch.  And chances are, your teen won’t come home over-hungry and clean out your refrigerator and pantry!

The tired teen 

Tiredness is a symptom of inadequate sleep, but can also represent dehydration.  Be sure your teen is drinking about 2 liters of fluid per day and even more if he/she is playing a sport.  A good rule of thumb:  if your teen feels thirsty, he is behind on drinking fluids.  Help your teen recognize thirst as dehydration and look for times during his day that fluid intake can be increased.  Excellent fluid sources are water, milk, or 100% fruit juices.

A jump start with breakfast, refueling at lunch, and adequate fluid intake can keep your teen healthy, energetic, and getting the nutrients he needs to grow into a healthy adult.

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Feeding children is one of the greatest responsibilities a parent has…and the most repetetive, challenging, and sometimes mundane chore.  As our society’s obsession to be fit and trim is increasingly imposed upon our children, we, as parents, are faced with confusing and conflicting messages about proper feeding, healthful foods, and optimal levels of nutrition.  How do parents respond to this evolving and unattainable standard of perfect nutrition?   Often times, with restrictive feeding.  With good intention, of course–to give our kids just the right foods, in the right amounts, so that they get every nutrient they could possibly need, in the right amounts, so that they are just the right size and shape.  Sound familiar? 

What is restrictive feeding?  In a nutshell, controlling every little bite that goes into your much-loved child.  Controlling portions (think pre-portioned plates), purchasing diet, low-calorie, or fat-free manufactured foods, and limiting second helpings at the dinner table–these are all signs of restrictive feeding.   This practice, on a regular basis, can lead to a backlash of overeating, often away from the watchful eye of mom and dad.  Why?  Because kids may feel deprived when they don’t have the freedom to control what and how much they eat–and they may be hungrier than you think. 

Research indicates that restrictive feeding is NOT working for our children and may be promoting an environment of overeating.  Most interestingly, not only do these studies link restrictive feeding practices to weight gain, they also link parents’ perceptions of their child’s weight to restrictive feeding behaviors, not unlike those mentioned above.  In other words, if you think your child is “big” or gaining too much weight, you are more likely to control every little bite they eat.  And like adults, kids want what they can’t or don’t have–it’s human nature–but unlike adults, kids have less control over their biological drive to eat.  This situation can be a set-up for “overeating on the sly”, ultimately derailing a child’s sense of honesty with themselves and their parents,  eroding their self-esteem, and potentially promoting a culture of disordered eating.

Choosing WHAT we feed our children will always be important to their ultimate health.  WHAT we feed really matters. 

But, perhaps we need to begin paying more attention to HOW we feed our young’uns.  Remember, providing an abundant table of healthy food is both satisfying to the eye and to the tummy.  Feeling hungry and being able to satisfy that hunger is more than a full belly–it’s emotional fullness too.  And maybe feeling emotionally and physically full is what it takes to stop a backlash of overeating in our children.

Which leads to my next post…WHAT you feed matters!

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