I write this in response to the wonderful comments I received on my Frosted Flakes For Healthy Kids post (http://bit.ly/j0kwS1). And in honor of all the mothers who blame themselves for their children’s weight and eating issues, whether compulsive overeaters or anorexics, or simply obese without the components to label it a disorder. It is, after all, Mother’s Day this Sunday!
|"Grandma the clown" in the Big Apple Circus|
On behalf of the mothers reading this, let me confess, we don’t always do or say the right things. We, too, are works in progress. We may not have had the best role models for parenting. Or we may be working on juggling too much—working at a job, parenting, running a household, and lastly attempting to meet our own needs (although that one rarely seems to take much of our time!) Or we may not know what’s the best way to parent, or feed our children, or ourselves. We sometimes know all the right things to say, and inadvertently say the stupidest things. (Yes, I’ll be the first to admit it, boys!)
I’d like to highlight a few points that may have gotten buried in the last post:
I believe in balance.
Yes, there's a place for low nutritional value foods, but in a balanced diet. What is a balanced diet? One that contains a variety of foods and nutrients. It contains generous amounts of fruits and vegetables, as well as dairy sources (or milk alternatives for the vegetarians among you). And yes, it could even be chocolate milk and sweetened yogurts. That, too, is balance.
It includes grains and starches of all types. Sure, higher fiber and whole grain choices have great merit. But white pasta or rice and low-fiber French bread has not caused any health risk as part of the Mediterranean diet. And it includes protein sources from animals or plants as well.
I believe that how we eat matters perhaps more than what we eat, when it comes to weight management.
Eating mindfully, at the table, without distraction truly makes a difference. Yes, I know you and your kids are talented at multitasking, but it just has no place when we are eating. Eating mindfully allows you to acknowledge what you are eating. That may be why my anorexic patients struggle with this task; they often prefer not to know what they eating, not to acknowledge it. Limiting eating to the kitchen or dining room also helps us contain things, to give some order to our eating behaviors. It also elevates our eating, to something special.
Parents are responsible for setting appropriate limits with their kids.
This is as true about eating as all other activities. You can say, “you can buy school lunch, but only once per week”. That is your right. And you can say “instead of Lunchables, I’ll make you Lunchable style meals that you’ll enjoy, while limiting the number of highly processed, high sodium and saturated fat items in this convenience boxed lunch.
We need to educate our children and ourselves that immediate gratification in the name of fullness, comfortable fullness, is a fantasy.
We generally do not observe fullness in the 10-15 minutes it takes us to finish our meal. Rather, there may be stomach fullness, the first stage of fullness around that time, which is more volume dependent and can mislead us. For instance, have a bottle of Diet soda with no calories and you’ll feel full. But that fullness won’t last—and it certainly won’t fuel your body! It can take an hour or so for the our brains to sense fullness. The exceptions to this occur in those with slowed gastric emptying from chronic eating disorder behavior, or with gastroparesis, a delay in stomach emptying from conditions such as diabetes and neurological changes.
Acknowledge that it’s normal to feel hungry immediately after their short meal. But reassure them that they can eat again later (in perhaps an hour) when their body really can tell if it needs more. Then honor it! Allow them to eat again, regardless of the time of night!
|Isn't this great? Taken at Chateau Chevernay in the Loire, France|
Use your resources!
These days, if you don't know how or what to cook or serve your family, there are plenty of resources to assist you. See an RD for individualized guidance or check out mypyramid.org to learn balance and portions. Explore the wealth of cook books, websites, and cooking classes in stores, schools and towns.
Physical activity is key.
Well actually, balance of intake and activity is what’s essential to consider. If you are restricting your intake, I do not support exercise (unless you can fuel it with enough food!). There have been plenty of studies correlating BMI with the numbers of hours of what is now termed “screen time”.
Preventing “now or never” thinking is critical.
Now or never thoughts about foods can happen because you set restrictions on what foods are acceptable to keep around see Jane’s story in last post). But it can also happen, as Quincy Carole pointed out in her comment on that post, when shopping is limited to one day a week. Knowledge that “when it’s gone, it’s gone” may drive us to overeat around the shopping days. The solution, be sure to reassure that there will always be more. If you can, keep additional packages of favorite snacks, so kids realize that they don’t have to get it all in today!
Thanks you readers for inspiring this post with your honest and most valuable comments!
Happy Mother’s Day!