by Marci Warhaft-Nadler
As parents, it’s our responsibility to guide our children through life’s many obstacles. We encourage, instruct, advise and help them make, what we feel, are the “Right” decisions in day to day life. We want to give our kids the tools they need for success. However, I strongly believe that when it comes to their bodies and their health, we could actually learn more from them than the other way around.
These days, we hear constant messages about the fact that our kids are apparently eating too much and exercising too little. We’re told that there are more overweight kids than ever and “Junk Food” is killing them slowly. As a result, too many parents have started stressing over every bite of food their child takes and every minute of TV they watch. Interestingly, this type of stress is actually more dangerous than a few Oreos or video games.
Research shows that putting too much of an emphasis on food and weight will not encourage healthy eating but may initiate a preoccupation with body image. In fact, a journal published by the American Academy of pediatrics found that “Anti-Obesity campaigns, though positive in intention, may enable unhealthy dieting and compulsive exercise, while breaking down self-esteem by tying self-worth to weight”.
Believe it or not, this is an area where we could learn a lot from our kids. Our bodies are amazing machines that let us know when we’re hungry and when we’re full. Newborn babies, for example, will cry when hungry and stop when they’ve had enough. Sadly, at some point we start judging our bodies instead of listening to them and put ourselves on restrictive diets where we eat only as much as we think we “should” eat and only foods we think we “should” eat. This throws our systems completely off track and creates a relationship with food that is less than harmonious.
Kids are different. They haven’t been manipulated by years of diet propaganda and shouldn’t be thinking about calories or fat grams. Is there an insane amount of fast food and candy out there? Of course, but if we demonize certain foods, it creates emotion around them. These sinful foods either become terrifying or even more attractive. Food is food. Some of it nourishes us; some of it just tastes good. None of it needs to be BANNED completely. It’s about balance.
Eating should always be a positive experience. Feel free to introduce new foods to mealtimes, have your kids prepare meals with you; offer a wide variety of tastes and textures. Truth be told, exposing your kids to food in a healthy way will not make them overweight….but hiding it from them just might.
Marci Warhaft-Nadler is the mother of two very active tween boys and has spent the last few years bringing her Fit vs Fiction workshop to schools in an effort to change the way kids treat and feel about themselves.