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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’


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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In a culture plagued with weight problems and thin idealism, it’s no wonder kids are asking their parents, “Do you think I’m fat?” In fact, according to a 2008 Canadian survey, 37% of ninth grade girls and 40% of tenth grade girls believed they were, in fact, too fat.

Many parents are blind-sided with this question and are left stumped into silence or heading to Google, the doctor, or a friend for advice. According to Laura Newton, a psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist in Nashville, TN, the timing of this question is an important factor in deciding how to respond. “If this is the first time this question has come up, tell them they look fantastic, and make sure to stay away from using words like ‘big’ or ‘small’, ‘thin’ or ‘heavy’,” states Newton. If this is not the first time this question has been asked, then this is a real concern that needs your time and attention. “Sit down with your child and have a conversation, beginning with, “you have asked me this question a couple of times—what’s this about?” advises Newton.

Newton states that kids get these questions from a variety of influences, including their own parents, peers, and the media. Coming up with a thoughtful and meaningful response depends upon the influence your child is concerned about.

The Parent: Without even knowing it, parents pass on their own body image and weight concerns to their children. “If you find yourself asking, “Do I look good?” or “Do I look fat in these jeans?” to your hubby or other family members, you may want to temper those questions in front of the kids,” says Newton.  Rather, Newton suggests parents consider using this mantra for themselves and their family, “Enjoy your own body, as if your body is more than a clothes hanger. Revel in the beauty of a functioning body, which is the vehicle that will take you where you want to go in life.”

The Peers: Children surround themselves with their friends and find themselves in situations where body comparisons come naturally, such as the gym and the locker room. And particularly during pre-adolescence, the child has a developmental urge to find out if they are normal. “Answering the question, “Am I normal?” is developmentally on target and relies, in part, on looking at others and comparing oneself with others,” states Newton.

The Media: The ‘thin is in’ ideal makes its mark on children, too. And when you combine media power with a general desire to fit in, it’s easy to see how questions about self-worth and inadequacy can surface.

So what can parents do?

Most importantly, your child needs to hear that you accept and love them regardless of what they look like. No matter what. Period.

Here are some other things Newton encourages parents to keep in mind:

Respect and Honor your own body, no matter what the size or shape it is—it is your body after all…and the body that produced your child, and takes you where you want to go.

Tolerate normal child growth.  Pre-pubescent girls and boys gain weight in preparation for the rapid growth of the teen years—this is a normal process.

Focus on your child’s inner qualities. Begin pointing out inner qualities as early as possible, to help build self-esteem and worthiness.

Limit media influences. Think twice about buying that fashion magazine for your 11 year old and be sure to scrutinize the TV shows your child is watching.

Attitude is everything! Everybody has value, no matter what it looks like.

When your child asks “Do you think I’m fat?”, she is asking you to discuss your values and ideals about body weight, shape and size. He is also giving you the option to debunk media messages, thin idealism, show your acceptance and assure love. Seems like a golden opportunity to me.

Have you had this question? If so, how did you respond?

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This is a post from a year ago…almost to the day. I am taking my healthy break, officially.  The office is closed for the holidays, and I have already started a cooking whirlwind.  I love to cook, particularly with The Food Network or The Cooking Channel joining me for inspiration.  But cooking is different when I am working and juggling 4 children and a home: it’s much harder and less enjoyable.  So for a little while I will enjoy the flexibility and unpredictability of my 2 week ‘non-routine’.  I will enjoy cooking.  Though I do not look like the photo of this nice lady, I certainly hope I will feel like her!  I hope you enjoy your break as well. Thanks for your readership and following.  I wish only the best in life and health for you and your family!

Healthy…hmmm.  Many may think I am going to write about how to eat healthy during the holidays, but I am not.  Fooled you!  There are other ways to be healthy during this holiday season.  Moving your body.  Resting.  Thinking.  Prioritizing and organizing.

The holidays offer a much needed respite for many.  Moms get to enjoy a change of pace with children who are home.  Children get to sleep in and not worry about the daily grind of homework and classes.  Dads get time off too, and always seem to enjoy the break from work demands and hassles.

Many folks don’t eat right during the holidays.  How can you resist the traditional foods and the desserts?!  The holidays offer special foods and traditions, and a break in the usual routine.  Schedules are looser, meals are either highly planned or on the fly due to shopping or travel.  It is really a time to enjoy, kick back, rest, and re-fuel.  Is it worth it in the end to resist those foods we really want?  Is it OK to take a break from the usual routine of exercise, menu planning, and cooking?  Of course.   Eat what you want, and be smart about how much.  Take a break from cooking and make smart choices. Change your exercise routine but keep moving.

The holiday break is short.  Enjoy it!  All of it.  Enjoy the time away from work and away from school.  Enjoy the yummy foods served during the holidays.  Enjoy your time with your family.  Enjoy the break in routine.

January will come knocking quickly.  And we can all look forward to eating right, moving more, and being healthier. Our usual routine in the New Year.

For me, I will enjoy the opportunity to cook without the pressure of working.  I will rest, enjoy my husband, children and friends, and enjoy planning my goals for the coming year.  I hope you find yourself enjoying a healthy break too.

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Parenting is no easy feat, especially when it comes to feeding your child.  Encouraging a positive attitude about food and eating, consuming nutritious foods, and cultivating a good body image are fundamental to your child’s health and well-being.  The attention you give to food selection and the process of feeding your child will lay the foundation for a future of health and body confidence.  Here are five key concepts to consider as you raise your healthy eater:

Enrich the Plate and the Palate

Children require over 40 nutrients each day.  Offering a wide variety of whole, natural foods that include low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains will help assure these nutrient needs are met.  Reduce consumption of processed foods and foods with artificial colorings, as these may be nutrient-poor and crowd out the necessary nutrients required by your growing child.

Focus on Family Meals

Sit down and eat together as often as you can.   Research indicates that five family meals per week may improve grades, reduce risk-taking behaviors, and prevent obesity and eating disorders.

Try family-style feeding—put  a variety of prepared food into serving dishes, pass them around the table and let everyone choose which foods they will eat and how much.  Be sure to include one or two food items that you know your child likes and is comfortable eating.  Family-style meals encourage your child to eat amounts that are right for him.

Provide, Don’t Deprive

Be a great provider!  Take care to keep your kitchen well-stocked with nutrient-rich foods.  Prepare good-tasting, healthy meals that appeal to your child.  Anticipate hunger between meals and serve healthy snacks that satisfy your child. 

Avoid being a depriver.  When it comes to your child’s appetite, be sure to respect his hunger.  Restricting or controlling how much your child eats may leave him hungry and promote overeating at other occasions.

Be Predictable and Consistent

Develop a rhythmic and timely pattern to meals and snacks, and be consistent.  Predictability and consistency helps your child keep hunger in check, be more relaxed about eating, and less fixated on food.

Watch what you say, heed what you do

Parents are the greatest influence, particularly in the first decade of life, on their child’s eating behaviors, food selections, and body image.  To raise healthy eaters, you have to be a healthy eater too!  Be a terrific role model for your child by enjoying nutritious, wholesome foods every day.  For more on role modeling, check out my expert blog post on http://www.littlestomaks.com.

Negative comments about your child’s food selections, how much or how little they eat, and how they look may hurt your child’s self esteem and body image.  At meal time, take the focus off of food and body size and enjoy a conversation about their school day or future activities on the family schedule.

Following these strategies will help you be a great feeder and raise a child who is a confident, healthy eater.

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