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How Do You Talk to Kids About Their Eating Habits?

sideofsneakers-3252Possibly by avoiding one subject: weight.

Weight is a touchy subject no matter how you approach it. So maybe we just shouldn’t, at least when it comes to our kids. A study in JAMA Pediatrics recently demonstrated that not talking about weight could be the best way to protect our kids from obesity and the myriad of potential health and emotional difficulties that may come with it. That’s not to say you shouldn’t talk to your kids about being healthy, it just means calling them fat or telling them they need to diet isn’t the best way to do it. The researchers suggest that instead, parents might want to talk to their children about  nutrition, healthy eating habits, and fitness. Being a role model for these things is even better. Practice what you preach, right?

This study revealed that parents who talked to their kids referencing size or weight were more likely to have kids that engaged in dangerous methods of weight loss like binging and purging, pills, and extreme diets. The study looked at 2,300 kids with an average age of 14.4. They found that 60% of the parents of overweight teens had talked to them about the need to lose weight, but only 15% of those parents had done so without mentioning weight.

Choosing what words you use for such a discussion may seem like a minor issue, but with a third of US children falling into the obesity category, it matters. As with many parenting issues, finding balance is key. Giving kids a goal that helps them want to be healthy can help, like improving performance on a sports team or going rock climbing with friends. Making it about something fun takes away from the potential negativity.

If you find it tough to walk the walk when it comes to healthy eating, you might appreciate this author’s letter to her mom. It speaks volumes about how important it is that we model healthy behaviors and pay attention to how we should talk about ourselves. Kids are always watching and they soak things up like high absorbancy sponges.

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