I am tired of watching so many commercials about junk food disguised as good for us and our families. Here is my latest rant: 10 ways to prevent your child from growing up to be an overweight compulsive overeater or bulimic.
1. Don’t teach your child that food makes unhappy feelings go away. The six most destructive words in the English language are: Don’t cry honey. Have a cookie! When you teach children to use sweets as a drug you are setting them up for serious difficulties as adults.
2. Don’t enroll your child in the Clean Plate Club! When you force your child to eat everything on his plate, you are teaching him to ignore the signals coming from his body telling him that he has had enough. “Normal eaters” often leave food on their plates because they heed the signal. Compulsive eaters don’t stop until the box of cookies is empty or they are stuffed to discomfort. They no longer hear the signal that says “enough.”
3. Don’t force a child to eat what he hates. How would you feel if someone more powerful than you forced you to keep eating something that makes you want to gag? There are so many wonderful foods available today to choose from that you can substitute for the ones that your child despises.
4. Choose reasonably sized portions. Let your child choose his or her own portions. Teach them to estimate how much they think they can eat through trial and error. When a child is very small a good rule of thumb is to choose a portion the size of the toddler’s fist.
5. Teach your child the names of the types of food: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat. You may have to do some research in order to explain what nutrients each of these categories provide. Create a list of which foods fit into each group. Even small children can help you choose what protein or carb to make for dinner.
6. Stop using dessert or treats as a reward or punishment. Dessert is just another food, not something special. Compulsive eaters often reward themselves or comfort themselves with “special” foods, often the desserts that were used this way.
7. Recognize how stress triggers cravings. If you are a compulsive overeater begin to notice how you use food as a tranquilizer when you are very upset, to dull anger, or to distract you from problems. If your child is stressed discuss the problem and help her find a solution that doesn’t involve food.
8. Bite your tongue! Abuse often takes place at the dinner table when a parent criticizes a child or threatens a child that wants to leave food on his plate. One form of abuse is making your child sit at the table until he has eaten that food. Punishments concerning food are still punishments!
9. Resist making remarks about your child’s weight or body. A child is not the one who purchases or cooks the food. You are the one in charge of what is in your pantry and what kinds of foods or “fast foods” you and your children eat. If you think that your child is developing an eating disorder see your doctor or a therapist that specializes in treating children.
10. Look at yourself! Parents are the child’s role models. Beware of giving your child the message through your words or deeds: “Do as I say, not as I do.” Do you hate your body? What are your children learning from your attitudes about what the “right” kind of body should look like? Are you always on a diet, trying to diet, or bemoaning how you went off your diet? Children are like sponges. They soak up your words and the meaning behind them.
I am sure that you want your children to grow up to be healthy, happy and productive adults. Following these suggestions will help you give them a good start.