Monday, June 1, 2015

Taking dieting too far

I believe that people in the United States need to eat healthier.  I believe that a lot of our country's health problems are directly related to the rising rate of obesity.  However, I also believe that you can take trying to be healthy too far.

I feel like I'm surrounded with people who take it too far.  Many of my friends are obsessed with taking supplements and working out, and to be perfectly honest I can't see that it does any of them any good.  But most disturbing to me are the people who push their dieting habits onto their kids.

That's why this article caught my eye:

I freaked out when my 10-year-old told me she had a salad for lunch. Here’s why.

I don't usually read anything that uses clickbait statements like this to get you to read, by causing you to have to know what was the funniest or most heartbreaking thing the person had ever seen.  This one, however, is well worth the read, despite the (in my opinion) tactless title.

The mother who is writing this story has struggled with eating disorders, and that's why she didn't want her daughter ordering a salad... unless of course the salad had other things on it to provide her with the calories a growing kid needs.  The fact is that kids still need plenty of calories from carbs, protein, and fat to provide them with enough energy to run, play, and grow.  They also need plenty of activity to help them grow up healthy and active and to prevent those calories from making them overweight, but that's another issue entirely.  Teaching your kids to view food as the enemy is not the answer.

There are two ways that I think parents can sabotage their kids' healthy attitudes toward food.  One is by setting a bad example.  If you're always dieting, always obsessing over the latest fad diets or the foods that you currently view as the enemy, that's going to make a huge impression on your kids, especially on your daughters.

Some parents take it even further, and force their diet habits on their kids.  Limiting sugar and junk food is a good idea, but be careful, because it's easy to be entirely too restrictive.  And when you are, you are not only setting a bad example for your kids, you're teaching them to be super self-conscious all the time about what they eat.  Kids and young teens especially have no business obsessing over what they eat -- you're creating habits that are going to haunt them for the rest of their lives, especially during the teen years, when girls are becoming self-conscious about their bodies for the first time anyway.

There's a fine balance there.  You don't want to let your kids develop bad habits of overeating, snacking indiscriminately, and not being active enough, especially since that's a lifestyle that can lead to type 2 diabetes later in life.  But you also don't want to teach them habits that will lead to eating disorders and poor self-esteem.

Do you have kids?  Do you think you've found this balance?  I'd like to know how you've done it, especially as I've seen so many families that have trended to one extreme or the other.

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