Posts Tagged ‘Weight Management’

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.


  • 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


  • 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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I am not  a fan of diets.  They don’t work.  Especially with kids.

Many adults argue that a calorie-restricted diet is just the nudge they need to launch their new eating habits and the resulting weight loss they desire. But for kids, restrictive approaches to weight management just don’t seem to work well. Maybe it’s the aspect of hunger, or the emotional responses that erupt, the growth influence, or just human nature that complicates weight loss for kids.  I suspect many adults would agree that some of these obstacles exist for them when using restriction as a diet attitude.  Maybe that’s why ‘diets’ aren’t working in a lasting way for adults.

We know that there are significant risks associated with dieting in teens, such as increased eating disorders and disordered eating, continued weight gain despite efforts at weight loss, and lowered self-esteem.  Diets dish up a mind-set of  “I can’t have this…”.  Human nature shows us that when we cannot have something we want, we want it even more…in the case of dieting and children, you can see where this path leads to: overeating. Having worked with many children and teens who need and begin the path to a healthier weight, I know first-hand how difficult and frustrating the process can be. And how much time it can take.

But I am here to tell you, be patient, healthy weight loss takes time. Especially for kids.

As we all get ready to begin the year 2011, I have compiled an analogy to describe the process and patience required for you and your child as you better your eating habits and your lifestyle.  It’s the Garden-Planting Analogy. I won’t get into the details of foods, portions, exercise, TV/screen time here, because you can find that in my Why Weight? blog series from last year, and the Family Pocket Guide that resulted from the blog.

Real change takes time. Whether it’s starting a new exercise routine, trying to be a better mom or dad, or getting to church regularly, making real change in your life requires a commitment to practice new behaviors every day. This is true for new health behaviors as well.  So how is planting a garden similar to waiting for weight loss? Let’s take a look, step by step:

The Garden-Planting Analogy

STEP 1: Prepare the soil Just like you prepare the ground to plant your crops, your child’s body must prepare for weight loss. This means getting rid of excess nutrients (like calories, sugar, and fat) and including nutrients that are missing from their diet.  Start a movement program that your child (and family) can stick with.

STEP 2: Plant the seeds Seeds are the nuggets of information from which change can root and thrive. Educate your child with credible nutrition advice that includes what to eat, hunger management, and fun, healthy activity. Educate yourself with how to feed your child, using positive attitudes and actions that include role modeling, daily movement, and meal routines that support healthy eating.

STEP 3: Water regularly Crops die without regular water and nutrients.  So will your efforts at weight loss if you don’t pay attention to your healthy behaviors every day. Practice good nutrition, adequate sleep and physical activity daily.

STEP 4: Wait for the roots to take hold Herein lies the frustration.  We want to plant the seeds and see an immediate garden.  But you and I know, an abundant garden requires daily care.  This same nurturing and care-taking is needed for child weight loss too.  It takes time for nutrition education and daily health practices to synchronize and internalize. Practice your health management techniques everyday, and wait.

STEP 5: Watch the plants bloom and grow Before you know it, a plant sprouts and takes hold.  The same will happen with your family efforts for better health. Soon, kids will be sleeping better, be more active, and eat healthier. And the scale will begin to move (or stay the same, depending on the weight goals for your child).  But even better than that, your family will have practiced and adopted skills and health behaviors that can last a lifetime!

A cup of  “Good things come to those who wait” blended with a pound of  “Practice makes perfect” and you’ll have a recipe with the right attitude, level of commitment, and patience to see your child (and your whole family) succeed with weight loss.

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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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The right state of mind is important in making better dining decisions.  Try teaching your kids the techniques below to help them develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime.  And adopting them yourself will make you an even better role model for better living.

Become a Food Group Guru.  Learning the foods that your children should be eating each day, and their appropriate portion sizes, will help them make healthier choices at any meal, anywhere, anytime.  Arm them with nutrition knowledge!

Moderation, Not Deprivation.  It is okay for kids to have their favorite tasty treats every now and then.  Order small portions of the most indulgent foods and larger portions of healthy ones to provide balance to their meals.  Shoot for 90% healthy foods and 10% “fun” foods.

Break Bad Habits.  Ask your children if they are really hungry for their usual after-dinner chocolate or mid-afternoon soda, or if they’re just used to having those foods at that time every day.  If not, then encourage them to pass on the treat, or suggest replacing it with healthier habits. 

Think Ahead.  Many restaurants have menus available on-line, often with nutrition information.  Identifying the better options at your family’s favorite restaurants will give them flexibility with healthy limits. 

Slow and Steady Wins the Race.  Help your children start actively listening to their instinctual hunger and fullness cues to avoid overeating.  An intuitive eating approach can help your child self-regulate their eating.

The Power of Positive Thinking.  Focusing on the healthy foods that your family enjoys is much more productive than dwelling on the ones that you think you can’t have.  A “glass half full” mentality will make a healthy lifestyle easier to maintain long-term.  Also try to avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, as this can distort your child’s view of them.

The Satisfaction of Sharing.  Treats, such as decadent desserts, can be shared with the whole table so that everyone can indulge without overindulging.  Some restaurants even offer family-style dining, which is an optimal feeding method for raising healthy eaters.

Dear Diary.  Food journaling is a great way to put your child’s eating habits into perspective, for you and them.  It can also offer some accountability.  Write down their food intake, physical activity, and thoughts and moods throughout the day for some insight into the impact their lifestyle has on their wellbeing.

Enjoying food in a healthy way is all about finding a balance that works for your family.  Balancing immediate pleasure with long-term health.  Balancing healthy foods with the occasional treat.  Balancing calories eaten with calories burned.  Balancing food groups at each meal.  Balancing restaurant dining with home cooking.  Balance in any area is the key to maintaining your child’s happiness and wellness throughout life– body, mind, and soul. 

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark

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Why Weight?

If you have read this 12 part series, you are well aware that there are many things to think about in regards to children and their weight.  Activity level, food selection, hunger response and management, and feeding techniques are just some of the many considerations.   Childhood obesity isn’t simple–it is a layered, multi-faceted condition that involves what you eat, how you eat/feed it, how you feel about your body and self, whether you exercise, and a multitude of environmental influences including school, community, and economic status.  Wouldn’t it be easy to point the finger at one contributor?  Rarely in counseling  am I able to name one single issue as the culprit–there is usually a multitude.  Pinpointing the critical contributors can build awareness, and change.  Childhood obesity is a complex issue– treating it is far more difficult than preventing it.  Yet prevention hinges on knowledge and commitment, so building awareness, especially among parents, is critical.

Why Weight?

Excess weight gain in childhood is no party.  The psychosocial impact begins at a young age and may last a lifetime.  The physical impact may perpetuate the problem, challenging children in their efforts to be active.  The medical toll is well known, from the affiliated conditions of heart disease to diabetes, as well as the exhorbitant cost to our nation.  One thing we know for sure, we cannot wait to address this weight problem in children.

Treatment of childhood obesity is challenging.  It generally requires a lifestyle change that involves the entire family.  Success is dependent on motivation and commitment, and that is a large and variable factor among families.  Children hold little power and generally assume a “follower” position, relying on parents to lead the effort.  Parents make the food shopping decisions, the dining out rules,  and the TV allowances–children’s weight status is a by-product of many of these decisions.  As children grow older, they tend to mimic their family habits, adopting behaviors that may or may not support their health.   A positive parent leader is a key component to a child’s weight management treatment. 

Prevention is the key and it begins in the highchair.  Yes, the early decisions count.  Allowing little Sally a Dum-Dum sucker at the bank drive-through, or Baby Sam a soda in his bottle are the decisions that set the foundation for future tastebuds.  Research shows that feeding habits in the first 2 years of life set the precedence for future eating habits.  In other words, if you want your child to eat healthy and be at a healthy weight, you’ve got to pay attention early on.  Further, recent research suggests that infants as young as 6 months of age are showing signs of obesity.  As the age of 4-6 months is the time to transition to “real food”, this research is compelling and urges parents to pay more attention to what and how they feed their infants in the highchair.

We owe it to our own and our nation’ children to become educated about food and nutrition, be involved in teaching and modeling a healthy lifestyle, be more thoughtful about feeding and role-modeling, be committed to activity, and be committed to prevention, rather than await treatment.  As the parent, the gatekeeper, and the leader–it’s up to YOU.

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How can regular meals and snacks influence childhood obesity?  Believe it or not, the rhythm of meals and snacks is an important defense against childhood obesity.  Regular meals and snacks help children get the myriad requirement of nutrients in their diet on a daily basis and helps normalize the hunger cycle.  Very young children require three meals and up to three snacks per day to meet their nutritional needs for growth and development.  Older, school age children and teens need 3 meals and 1-2 snacks per day.  Requiring 40 nutrients daily, all children benefit from balanced and regular meals and snacks. 

What are balanced meals?  Meals that represent most food groups, and a variety of foods within each food group.  Translated:  offer most food groups at each meal and don’t offer the same foods over and over–mix it up so that your child gets exposed to a number of different nutrients throughout the day.  A general rule of thumb is to offer at least 3-4 food groups at meals, and at least 1-2 food groups at snack time.

What are rhythmic meals and snacks?  Meals and snacks that are provided in a structured, regular fashion.   It is good for children to have a structure to their day, and with meals and snacks, this holds true.  Whatever timing suits your family schedule will work for your child too.  What doesn’t work well with children, is unorganized chaos when it comes to food and eating.  Try to set a general schedule for when meals and snacks will happen in your home.  Breakfast in the morning, lunch at mid-day, an afterschool snack, and a dinner at a predictable time.   Generally, feeding intervals of 3-4 hours seem to be most effective in preventing too much hunger and overeating in children.  Also, the emotional response from a child who is unsure about when he/she will be eating can build over time into an insecurity about food and eating and a distrust of the parental provider.  This may be manifested in fast eating, preoccupation with food, frequent questioning about timing and content of meals, and “sneak eating” or overeating.

Not unlike dancing, keep your meals and snacks flowing during the day to a beat…timed intervals of 3 to 4 hours.  Especially during the younger years, this rhythm will build predictability and security around food and eating, and help keep undesirable behaviors, such as overeating, at bay.

Whether you are two-steppin’ or four-squarin’, you can promote rhythm in your child’s eating experiences by staying on beat.  With feeding, this takes a little bit of planning, and  practice.   The results? A child with normalized eating behaviors and less fixation on food.  Yee-haw!  Doesn’t that sound worth it?!  Why Weight?

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Sugar baby.  Honey child.  Are these sweet-nothings turning into a bitter reality for your child? 

No doubt the presence and regularity of sugar in a child’s diet has an influence on their health and weight.  For Part 3 of the Why Weight? series, we take a closer look at total sugar, it’s impact on diet, and leave you with some tips to manage your sweet child.

“Added sugars” are sugars added to foods during food preparation (think baking cookies) or during food processing.  In contrast, natural sugars are inherent to a food,  such as in the case of milk, fruit, and vegetables.  The crux of the issue for children is this:  How often do foods with “added sugars” appear in a child’s diet and, do these foods crowd out more nutritious foods? 

We know that drinking soda can have a significant impact on a child’s weight, due to the amount of added sugar.  While soda may contribute up to 30% of total added sugar intake in a child’s diet, other sources of sugar are lurking in the grocery aisles.  Where are they?  It appears that the rest of the sugar in children’s diets are coming from obvious and hidden sources.  Obvious sources such as cookies, candy, soda, cakes, pies, and ice cream, otherwise known as confectionary sources, are considered high sugar products and contribute a significant amount of sugar to a child’s diet, and few nutrients.  These sweets are obvious, and most people recognize them as sugar-laden.  In addition to the sugar content, these foods can also be rich in fat and contribute to excess weight gain.

Hidden sugar sources, often advertised and appearing to be healthy, represent the remainder of  the sweets in a child’s diet.  These are sources of sugar that can be sneaky, and can leave parents unaware of their impact on total sugar and calorie intake.  Sugary cereals, yogurts, granola bars, energy bars, sports drinks, trail mixes, and fancy coffee drinks, are some items to be wary of, to name a few. 

In a recent study, researchers looked at total sugar intake in preschoolers.  On average, added sugar intake was 14 teaspoons per day for kids aged 2-3 and about 17 teaspoons per day for those aged 4-5. That’s a hefty punch for young ones, especially considering the World Health Organization’s recommendations of <10% calories from added sugar per day.  The main culprits?  High fat desserts, regular soda, and10% fruit juices accounted for half of “added sugar” sources.  Apparently, our young ones are getting off on the wrong tooth…the sweet one.  Equally concerning, this study also concluded that healthier foods such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and grains may be missing or lacking in diets that are rich in added sugar.

Not only should we be concerned with the overall sources of sugar in a child’s diet, we need to be aware of marketing.  In other words, advertisers aim to influence our chidlren with ads that promote sweeter foods.  Sugary foods that are most commonly advertised to children?  Sugar-enhanced and -coated cereals, sweetened dairy products, and the obvious sweets.

Guidelines for  getting a grip on the sweets in your child’s diet:

Sweets are a treat!  Reserve obvious sugary foods like cakes, cookies, ice cream, soda, and candy for special occasions.

Focus on natural sugars.  These nature-made sugars are readily available in the form of fruit, vegetables, milk and milk products–and the best part, natural sugars go hand-in-hand with other nutrients that benefit your child’s health, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Strike the balance.  If your child won’t eat yogurt unless it is sweetened, or drink milk unless it is chocolate, relax.  In these foods,  added sugars keep company with other beneficial nutrients such as calcium, Vitamin D, and protein, which are an important part of a healthy diet and for a child’s growth.  Focus your efforts on making sure your child gets a healthy dose of  natural sweets.

Be a “sugar-sleuth”.  Don’t let the “healthy” foods trick you–be a savvy consumer and seek out hidden sources of sugars — look on the ingredient list of food products for words like table sugar, fruit juice concentrate, cane sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and honey–these should send off a caution light in your head.  Other, more subtle, tricky words, such as dextrose, sucrose, maltose, and other words ending in “-ose” are red flags for the presence of sugar.  Compare products to find the lower sugar content, which can be determined by looking at the nutrient label for grams of sugar per serving, and by looking at the ingredient list for the type of sugar.  Pay attention to the order of the ingredients:  if the sugar source is near the top of the list, then it delivers a hefty dose of added sugar. 

Why Weight? to get a handle on the sugar in your child’s life?  YOU are the shopper–look for and recognize hidden sources of sugar in your usual purchases, pick up more foods that contain natural sugars, and limit sweet treats to special occasions.  Why Weight?

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