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At a recent picnic with my extended family, my 8-year-old child and a 12-year-old nephew
were discussing the calorie content of a certain food. My mother commented to me that she
didn’t even know what a calorie was when she was their age let alone be worried about it.
And as a parent, my mother certainly didn’t worry about whether I was getting the right
number of minutes of physical activity each day.
Times have changed. Obesity and
eating disorders are on the rise
among children under the age of
12. One might lay the blame on any
or a combination of the following:
technology, safety, shifts in parents
working more or outside the home, or
food choices.
Rather than playing the blame game,
however, perhaps we need to step back
and reflect on our reaction to weight
and childhood obesity.
In our well-intended fight against
obesity, have we yelled too loudly,
sending the wrong messages to
children? Put too much emphasis on
weight rather than health? Created
feelings of anxiety and regret around
food and numbers on a scale?
How do you talk to kids about food,
health, exercise and weight?
Here are few suggestions:
Be a role model.
Actions speak
louder than words. Let your children
see you enjoying all food — in
reasonable portions and in the context
of a nutritious diet.
Get up and play.
Be active inside
and outside. Dance, hop, jump, skip.
Visit a park. Don’t just sit on the bench.
Be happy in your own skin.
Negative talk about your weight puts
the focus unnecessarily on appearance
rather than health and a positive body
Don’t treat food as a reward.
Remember food is first and foremost
nourishment. This one gets complex
as food is ingrained in our culture,
making it difficult to separate food
from emotions. But try to focus on the
occasion (for example, a birthday) and
not the food (cake).
Stay connected.
Plan, cook and eat
meals together. You can see firsthand
how your child chooses foods and
portion sizes. Gently guide his or her
choices. Watch for red flags of a possible
eating disorder, such as eliminating
foods or entire food groups, and strange
behaviors with food or at meal times.
Talk about cues.
Educate kids
about listening to their body’s hunger
cues rather than eating in response to
external cues such as “it looks good” or
“I’m watching TV so I need a snack.”
As kids grow and mature, their body
image and self-esteem evolve. If you have
concerns that your child has issues related
to weight or food, talk to your health care
provider, sooner rather than later.
July/Aug 2014