Are Parents Pushing Their Children Toward Obesity?

April 29, 2013


A fit and healthy child needs a healthy home environment, but a new study suggests parents may be pushing their kids toward obesity when trying to fight it.

Every parent wants the best for their children. They want their kids to excel in school, to have lots of encouraging and positive friends, and create the foundation that will help them build lives of enduring success. However, when it comes to their children’s weight and combating obesity, a new study is showing that very often their best intentions backfire. {1}

When parents notice a child gaining weight, their first instinct might be to engage in an immediate counter-attack — join a sports team or a dance class; eliminate sweets and fast food; begin daily weigh-ins.However, the constant focus on a young person’s appearance and eating habits may only serve to increase a child’s stress and willfulness, resulting in “sneak eating,” and ultimately resulting in a child’s weight gain, not loss.

In a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, parents were surveyed about their kids’ eating habits and their own actions with regard to their kids’ diet.The parents of overweight and obese children reported that they monitored their kids’ food intake closely and restricted their portion sizes.The researchers determined that the strict monitoring of the children’s diets resulted in the development of skewed perception by the children with regard to their own hunger.Kids were more likely to fail to recognize hunger signals and compensate for calorie restriction by sneaking sugary and fatty snack foods.

Making children self-conscious about their own eating habits also may contribute to body image issues later in life. Some parents are under the impression that ridiculing kids into healthy habits is an effective way of getting kids to adopt them, but, more often than not, children grow up with a corrupted sense of self, and wind up struggling with disordered eating. The technique of “bullying” kids into slimness by teasing or ridicule has been shown by an observational study, also published in Pediatrics, which found that nearly half of the 350 teenagers struggling with obesity surveyed had been mocked by their own parents for their weight.

No, kids shouldn’t eat junk food two or three meals a day, but neither should we. Yes, kids need to stay fit and active, and so should we. Slimness and fitness needs to be a happy byproduct of a family’s healthy lifestyle. If a child believes that he or she will only achieve parental love and respect if he or she is thin, then how will that child relate to the rest of the world?

{1} Sifferlin, Alexandria: Pushing Teens to Change Their Eating Habits Could Backfire Time Magazine 4/22/2013

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