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Posts Tagged ‘healthy weight’


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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Recent studies indicate that up to 77% of freshman college students gain an average of 4-8# during their first year of college.  This is much less than the reputed “15#” that many new college students fear, yet the weight impact appears to be fairly global among males and females, according to a 2009 study published in Preventive Medicine. 

How prepared is your high school senior for the college food experience?  Heading off to college is a life-altering experience and is filled with new found freedoms.  No curfew, no parental forces to check in with, and no limits on what and how much one can eat and drink.  Food freedom is a welcomed relief for some freshmen, and many first year college students thrive with this independence.  However, some rising freshmen worry about this freedom, fearing weight gain, and clueless with the prospect of balancing food independence and  feeding themselves well. 

What feeding skills do emerging college students need? 

  • Knowledge of the types of food that promote health
  • Recognition of  fullness and satisfaction with eating, both physically and emotionally
  • Knowledge of portion sizes 
  • Ability to balance and select food groups so that key nutrients are present in the diet
  • Setting a meal and snack schedule so that extremes in hunger and fullness are avoided, and nutrient needs are met
  • Food preparation skills
  • Food safety basics

Your teen may not have these skills.  Why?  Nutrition education isn’t a stronghold in the educational system of our country yet.  Simply stated, children and teens aren’t receiving consistent messaging and knowledge about nutrition. Some of what they do know is gleaned from magazines, the media, and their peers, which may not be reliable resources.  Also, parents are often “in charge” of meal selection and preparation, leaving teens inexperienced in this area.  Many parents still “plate” their teenager’s meals; this controlled approach can lead to larger portions when teens become truly independent eaters in college.  Lastly, college schedules may be chaotic and unpredictable, causing erratic eating patterns.  All these factors can combine to create a food firestorm, encouraging disorganized patterns of hunger and fullness, inappropriate food choices, large portion sizes, excess caloric intake, and a cycle of dieting that may be ineffective.  The result?  Changes in weight — oftentimes in an undesirable direction.

Eating and self-feeding skills build over a child’s lifespan, and ideally, your child or teen has had a wonderful role model to reference–YOU!  If your teen does not appear to be prepared to navigate the food scene in college, help him or her become food-savvy, independent, healthy eaters, and prepared for food freedom.

  • consult with a registered dietitian (RD)–in person, online, or in the blogosphere–for basic nutrition education and cooking skill development
  • invest in or check out credible nutrition resources from the library–those written by RD’s are particularly helpful
  • seek out other reliable nutrition websites, such as the American Dietetic Association, and others on my blogroll
  • join your teen for a basic cooking class, or conduct one in your home–check out your local grocer or cooking school
  • allow your teen freedom to cook and experiment in the kitchen
  • teach your teen how to shop for food, how to read a nutrition label, and how to dine out in restaurants

Parents often assume that teens who are heading to college instinctively know this stuff…but they don’t!  Unless you have invested the time in preparing your child for independent eating at college (which ideally has been occuring throughout childhood), they may not have the skills required to maintain a stable weight and a healthy body.  The resulting situation can be upsetting for everyone.  Help your child feel confident and ready for the food freedom and independent eating that college undoubtedly provides.  Nutrition “Know-How” can be a wonderful graduation gift for your teen that can last a lifetime!

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The BMI (Body Mass Index) is a tool for understanding obesity and its use in children is growing.  If your pediatrician hasn’t used it at your child’s annual check-up, you may see it in the school setting soon.  

The BMI is an assessment tool that calculates the combination of  weight and height to determine the appropriateness of  a person’s body weight for their current height.  Results of the BMI calculation may include:  underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese.

The BMI is a screening tool developed for populations to determine public health risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.  Its use in children over the age of two has increased due to the rising incidence of childhood obesity.  Most pediatricians are routinely assessing BMI at your child’s annual check-up.  However, less common is the use of BMI as a screening tool in schools.  The BMI as a screening tool for school-age children is gaining momentum–thirteen states are currently using BMI screening methods to help pinpoint, prevent, and reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity.  Will this be effective? 

One of the key elements to the reversal of any trend  is awareness.  BMI data can help build awareness in families, IF it is presented in a responsible way.  Cultural sensitivity to parents’ perceptions of their child’s weight is important.  Evidence shows that some parents perceive overweight as healthier and better for their child.  Linking weight status to health risk is key to building awareness in these groups.  Also, many families have no idea that their child may be gaining too much weight –because when they look around at other children, their own child doesn’t look dissimilar. 

Education about the BMI measurement and its limitations is crucial.  The BMI measurement provides a total body index and does not differentiate body frame size and muscle mass from fat stores.  In other words, you may have a large-framed child that is muscular who may be classified as overweight or obese.  Looking at the child as an individual…what they eat, how they eat, how physically active they are, parents’ frame size, etc. can aid in keeping the right perspective when it comes to your child’s weight and interpreting his BMI result.

Communication of the BMI data results require sensitive wording and resources for parents who want to seek further help for their child.  Presenting this data without resources can be confusing and concerning to a parent.  BMI result information should include local programs and providers who can assist with healthier eating and lifestyle enhancement.

And if you are told your child’s BMI is too high?  Consult with your pediatrician, registered dietitian, or other health care provider to gather information and education that is tailored to your child, family, and lifestyle.  An elevated BMI and the associated risks for chronic disease can be normalized and/or reversed with healthy eating, physical activity, and lifestyle changes.  For a BMI calculator tool, go to http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/.

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