Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Parenting Healthy Kids

Actress Drew Barrymore was quoted in February's New York magazine: "I wasn't a rebellious kid. Actually, I rebelled with junk food, because my mother was so psychotically healthy that I was like, I'm going to hide Doritos under my bed."

Barrymore's experience isn't unique. A recent article in the New York Times discussed how restricting children's access to foods can backfire, making these forbidden food even more desirable to kids.

And yet, that's what parents continue to do.

In an online parenting community I frequent, one mother expressed concern about her young daughter's eating and burgeoning weight. She noted this daughter ate more than her siblings and was in the 95th percentile for weight.

One responder, who identified as a parent educator, recommended the whole family go on a diet, either Paelo or GAPS, both of which restrict grains/carbs. She noted that her son went from "chunky" to lean on the diet she chose. Other parents applauded this mom's approach.

And of course, I had something to say in response:
Parents' attempts to restrict food can backfire and lead to overeating (same happens when we self-restrict as adults). It's important, as parents, that we focus on health, not weight. Choose foods that are nutritious and get kids moving (not exercising) in a joyful way. Labeling foods as "good" or "bad" can also backfire, as the "bad" foods become more coveted and sought out. Here's a good summary of some positive parenting/eating principles. 
Bodies are naturally diverse, as are our biologies. The attitudes we have about weight in our culture are incredibly damaging and can be transmitted to our kids even without our awareness. True, we don't want our kids bullied for their weight, but it's important that we're building them up at home. If they are eating beyond fullness or they're sedentary, that's important to address. Are they using food to cope or soothe? But if they're eating intuitively and are active, then at some point, we need to accept that bodies come in different shapes and sizes.
Stay tuned for an article version of this post, which will be published soon on a health and wellness site.

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