Recently I saw a young girl, possibly only 5 years old who I would consider to be overweight. Now of course I’m not aware of any illnesses this child may have so for the purpose of this, I’ll just use the suggestion that her weight is as a result of her diet. Her Mother was also overweight and yes, she may be content in herself so I am not judging by any means. But this situation got me wondering…
Do parents with overweight children ever see them as being overweight?
If they do, do they care?
Perhaps they think they will lose it when they reach puberty?
Do they feed their child the type of diet they do because it’s all they will eat so it’s for peace of mind for themselves?
Could we consider this latter example to be selfish?
Or, if they themselves are overweight do they just not realise?
I’m not a parent so I can’t comment on how I would perceive my child but I do think one thing we will all agree on is that it is totally wrong to expect any 5 year old to be put on a weight loss diet!
There are many factors that we need to consider here though.
Do you as a parent lead by example in both your food intake and activity levels? If all your child sees is you sat in front of the TV each night with a box of chocolates then they will perceive this to be the norm!
Do you reward your children with sweets? Offer them a biscuit when they’ve fallen down? Give in to them when they throw themselves on the floor in a screaming tantrum because they want a Mc takeaway? Do you take the time out to cook a meal or simply throw a pizza in the oven because you haven’t time to “chop things up” as your soap is on in 30 minutes?
I’ve heard people relate to parents as being abusive when their child is overweight…..I’m not sure I’d agree with that as a term but it certainly is the responsibility of the adult in the relationship to enlighten that child with healthy habits in terms of food and activity. Could it be considered “neglect” if they don’t?
Some people seem to think it’s the responsibility of the teachers…..certainly nothing wrong in having nutritional education (home economics as it was when I was at school) and physical education to encourage a liking for activity but that has to be tailored to what each child enjoys…I hated netball and hockey, but once I got older and discovered weight training, I’d found my “sport”. There will be an activity each child will enjoy, it may be dancing, gymnastics, swimming, martial arts, running, a team sport etc. There is so much to choose from.
What happens to us in childhood can stay with us into adulthood and path out our own way of thinking. I have memories of my own parents forever “dieting” only to put it all back on again and then lose it for the next holiday. This told me that it was ok to yoyo diet and that being in shape was only for an end purpose such as a holiday or a wedding. But, what about being fit and healthy all year round, surely that would be better than having to restrict yourself for a length of time each time you have a special date coming up?
My parents would also comment if I didn’t want to eat all the food on my plate “Think of all those starving children in Africa”. As an adult, I would then start to have guilty feelings about leaving anything on my plate. I’d been encouraged to “overeat” as I may have been fully satisfied as a child wanting to leave food on my plate but this certainly didn’t seem to be considered. I now make sure I portion control so I don’t get that guilty feeling or I rebel as an adult if I do need to leave some food!!
“If you don’t eat all that you won’t get your supper”. Rewarding me with more food for eating food I perhaps didn’t need!!
I was also taught to “get your next forkful ready whilst your chewing that mouthful”. That makes one eat much more quickly. There is a time lapse from the stomach to the brain to signal a satisfied feeling so slowing down the eating can actually help you reduce calories by simply allowing time for that signal to reach the brain before you finish that meal or indulge in a dessert.
I’m sure if you set your own mind to it you can think of similar examples. Put yourself as an adult in that situation and learn to take control of your feelings.
I am led to believe that over the years schools have dropped the typical home economics type education where basic cooking skills and basic nutritional information was taught. This has certainly led to many adults leaving school without a clue how to cook or balance a meal especially if they themselves didn’t get one at home for whatever the reason may have been. Many parents have careers or jobs that mean they work long hours and it’s just so easy these days to throw a ready made meal into the oven. They don’t take the time to learn how to cook a healthy meal which certainly does not need to take a lot of preparation nor a long time to cook. The cycle then continues!
When I started my personal training, I coached one couple into eating better. They would shop at weekend for frozen meals for the whole week. I helped them write out a shopping list for the ingredients to cook the same meals from scratch and showed them where to find the recipes. They switched to getting their food delivered and the time they would normally spend shopping they spent cooking for the whole week, therefore it didn't take any extra time out of their schedule. Not only did this give them some quality time together developing a new skill but they soon discovered the love of cooking and the better flavours they could achieve this way than that from the frozen variety. In one week alone, she lost 7lbs and he lost 9lbs!! No change of diet, just a new way of preparing!
I am by no means intending to judge or insult any parents. I know it can be a difficult task to get children to eat “good” food but if that difficulty lies in not knowing about food yourselves then please seek help. Help your children live a long and healthy life by giving them the nourishment they deserve.
I’d be interested to hear from some parents on how they have coped or difficulties they have got or maybe their own experiences from childhood so please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me privately.