KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No matter how much you try to shelter your children, they will see millions of images on television and the internet at a very young age.
In this digital exclusive for FOX4’s #RealMeKC series, Abby Eden spoke with an expert from Children’s Mercy Hospital, who warns against talking about dieting in front of children.
“In terms of diet culture, it’s harmful. Diets don’t work, they themselves are harmful,” Dr. Amy Beck said.
“We know from research and clinical experience that kids and usually often adults who diet tend to have a greater risk for obesity and weight gain, as well as disordered eating.”
Instead, Dr. Beck encourages parents to foster an attitude of lifelong wellness in your home for all members of the family.
“Whereas what is healthy and what works is this focus on lifelong health, so you’re really trying to improve your health over the course of life. And so that’s a focus on nourishing your body with fruits and vegetables and proteins and grains as well as treating your body to exercise,” she said.
“So, moving your body in a way that feels good that you’re able to sustain over time.”
She also stresses the importance of practicing these habits together.
“And doing this as a family as much as possible, because all ages benefit and kids learn from what they see us doing. So, doing it as a family not only doesn’t single out and benefits everyone, it teaches kids how to be healthy in a way that is far better than anything that could be verbalized to them,” Dr. Beck said.
“It’s modeling. It’s showing them how you want them to live.”
Dr. Beck also says obesity-shaming children or others can be extremely harmful.
“Obesity is an incredibly complex disease that is not well understood by a lot of people. And so from that, the focus tends to be on individual shame and blame and discrimination, truthfully,” she said.
“And so, it’s from that where the harm comes and where the risks to mental health as well as also physical health”
Judging someone for how much they weigh also takes a toll on their mental health.
“We know that weight-based discrimination and bias tends to not only worsen mental health. You know we see depression, and anxiety and suicidality and a stress response. We also see that negatively impacting the obesity itself by increases in disordered eating and hesitance to exercise, and by creating an unhealthy experience inside the body and inside the mind,” she said.
And she reminds parents to instill in their children an acceptance of all bodies; ones that look like their own and ones that don’t.
“This idea that people who are different from us should be shunned or stereotyped or discriminated against, it’s harmful in truly palpable ways for adults and children,” Dr. Beck said.
“Normalizing all bodies, colors, shapes, sizes and recognizing that representation matters. Making it normal for people, who have a wide range of diversity, in the media, on TV, in print, including people who have obesity, and pictures of them doing healthy, normal things.”
You can also find some healthy eating tips on a budget and a tight schedule from registered dietician Jennifer Anderson, an expert we talked to at kids.eat.in.color on Instagram.