Well, of course, there are plenty of researchers out there (who make money on childhood obesity) that do not want you to get too comfortable. They suggest perhaps the studies weren't well done or there isn't sufficient data.
Not once did they say, "well, that is good." Not once did they consider it could be true, that this could be the good news about kids health we'd like to hear. This culture loves to live on fear, and fear of fat is one of its favorites.
The problem with all of this fear mongering is it seems to make things worse. Since the diet and exercise industry has boomed, there have been more weight issues and more eating disorders. There has been a major impact on children's health. The so-called 'healthy eating' advice is just making people more dysfunctional with food.
One of the reasons the flood of information is a problem is that it is so often conflicting. It also distracts from the real issues people have with food. The majority of people who battle with weight struggle with non hunger (or emotional) eating.
Going on about which foods are good or bad just makes this struggle worse because it increases guilt feelings. Translate this to childhood weight issues. Parents are so afraid and misinformed, they begin restricting their child's food.
This creates major, lifelong issues with food. I treat so many clients who were on their first diets by elementary school. Very often this starts with a recommendation for weight control by some well-meaning pediatrician.
No one stops to think about why the child is overeating. It is not simply because food tastes good. It is not some lack of willpower. Children learn about eating for reasons other than hunger at an early age, and often this lesson comes from their parents.
I am not blaming parents, it just seems important for the whole family to look at what is going on here. Making the child into the designated diet scapegoat hurts everyone. The predominant feeling I hear from my clients is they felt unloveable if they were overweight. No parent wants their child to feel that way.
My hope is this: people will begin to look at some of this new research on child and teen health and ease up a bit. This hypervigilance regarding weight is simply making things worse. It is also completely missing the point. To find a solution, you must look at the real problem: why are we using food for reasons other than hunger?
Below is my heated response to this article from the LA Times on the 'tipping point' for weight gain in toddlers My overweight clients were ALL put on diets or 'healthy eating plans' when they were very young (usually 5 or 6). This is not the way to prevent lifelong weight struggles--it is the way to promote them. Children tend to grow non-linearly (fill out, then grow tall, etc.). If you catch them just prior to a growth spurt, you will mistakenly decide they are headed for lifelong obesity and slap a diet on them.
Children need to be taught ways to self soothe without food (parents may need to learn this first). Parents need to meet the emotional needs of their children--not make them more ashamed and depressed over parental food control and judgment. Childhood obesity is the same as adult obesity--still the use of food for emotional regulation (minus some genetic components, etc.). This is why diets don't work for either population.
It is very scary that this article is suggesting people start restricting infants to make their weight match a chart. Studies of eating in children show a 3 year old will stop when full and leave food behind. By 5 they are cleaning their plates.
Up until 3 it is unlikely for a child to 'overeat'. Parents may not want to ONLY soothe their children with food (ie. don't give Timmy a cookie because he's crying over a cut on his knee), but they should not police their eating. My children eat whatever they want, whenever they want--they listen to their hunger and fullness cues. This is instinct until taught otherwise. childhood obesity.
Contact us with any questions about eating and mental health issues. You or someone you know may be in need of outpatient eating disorder treatment.
Jennifer Pereira LPC, RD - Counselor & Dietitian
1. Do you worry that you have lost control over how much you eat?
2. Do you make yourself sick (or use laxatives/exercise) if you feel uncomfortably full?
3. Do you currently suffer with or suffered in the past with eating issues?
4. Do you ever eat in secret?
5. Does your weight affect how you feel about yourself?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, or if you are not satisfied with your current eating patterns, contact us for more information.