You must read this interview with the one and only, Dr. Linda Bacon!

Health at Every Size and Body Respect—a Discussion with Dr. Linda Bacon
By Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CDN, CEDRD
Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian
Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

 

Photo Credit: Michael Newton via Compfight cc

With the ever-present discussion of the “childhood obesity epidemic,” I asked Dr. Linda Bacon[i], an internationally recognized authority on topics related to nutrition, weight, and health metabolism, to describe exactly how best to approach weight concerns among parents and practitioners alike. Dr. Bacon proposes a major paradigm shift from conventional weight management practices to what is now referred to as “Health at Every Size.”

 

Body Respect

According to Dr. Bacon, the Health at Every Size message starts from respect.

She summarized it by saying, “This respect is for our own personal lived experiences as well as those of our children, as there is no objective truth to what we are ‘supposed’ to eat or ‘how’ to eat it. What is going to work best for our bodies can be learned by developing a critical awareness of our own bodily sensations [emphasis added].”

She offered the following examples of this concept: “‘Eat your fruits and vegetables because they are ‘good for you,’ and stay away from junk foods’ is a parenting message that takes the child’s inner body trust and awareness away from him/her. Instead, allow your child to discover the positive benefits of added fiber (from fruits and veggies) such as easier digestion.”

 

Another common example of body respect that she discussed with me is insisting that your child or teen eat breakfast. “With body respect,” Bacon says, “we allow our children to discover on their own what the consequences of missed breakfasts are. They may notice difficulty concentrating in school and have low energy. Rather than nagging, we can allow our children to keep checking in with their bodies and connect eating with improved energy.”

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What Does “Healthy Weight” Actually Mean?

“‘Healthy weight’ means different things to different people,” according to Bacon. “There is natural weight diversity across the spectrum.” According to Dr. Bacon’s most recent book, Body Respect, research shows that trying to control or manage weight (through caloric restriction or dieting), may work in the short term but more often results in rebound weight gain. Our bodies can undermine efforts at weight control because the body is enormously successful at regulating its weight. It’s not something we need to “work at”—in fact, this “control” approach ends up being counterproductive.

She explained that diets affect self-esteem as we eventually blame ourselves for not being able to maintain a restrictive diet or not losing weight. Her “Health at Every Size” philosophy is based on the idea that a better way to reach a good state of health is to manage behaviors that favor health, for example, good self-care, meaning learning to eat according to hunger and fullness cues, as well as satisfaction, choosing physical activities that are pleasurable, managing our levels of stress, and getting enough sleep. With better self-care, our bodies are more likely to stabilize at their own natural healthy weight. Bacon stated, “often the parents with the best of intentions blame themselves when things go wrong. This helps no one.  Recognize that you can’t control your kids—you can only practice and model good self-care for yourself, so you can in turn support your child.”

 

Help for Big Kids

When asked how best to help bigger kids, Dr. Bacon explained that “weight tells us little about kids’ health or health habits, but it does tell us a lot about how that kid will get treated in the world. The best way to help kids is provide support: let them know that the problem is in society, not their bodies. The perpetual stereotyping of fatness affects children of all sizes with fat children as the direct targets. When fatter kids are bullied, and many of them are, there may be nobody in their lives telling them that the bully is wrong and that everyone everywhere is loveable just as they are. It takes a strong sense of self-worth to feel safe in your skin in a world where some bodies are dubbed ‘good and acceptable’ and others are dubbed ‘bad and unacceptable’.”

 

She summarized her overall philosophy: “We need to make this a world where all bodies are good bodies, where children can feel good about themselves in their own unique and precious bodies in all of their glorious diversity. We have the opportunity to stop this self/body hatred and to help kids learn to respect and celebrate body diversity.”

 


[i] Dr. Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight and Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, or Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, is changing lives through her teaching, research, writing, public speaking, and the transformative “Passing the Message On” multi-day Health at Every Size® (HAES) workshops. Dr. Bacon combines academic expertise and compassionate clinical experience to bring together scientific research and practical application. She shifts the focus from weight to well-being, giving doctors, dietitians, therapists, and people of all shapes the tools for achieving better fitness, health, and even happiness—all without dieting.

Self Care For Your Teen and Tween

6 Strategies To Prevent Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse in Youth
By Laura Cipullo RD CDE CEDRD CDN and Mom

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Start the New Year, with self care! Moms and Dads, here are 6 tips to help your tweens and teens create a healthy self-care regimen that will decrease the likelihood of developing eating disorders and substance abuse.

  • Focus on overall self care, not weight.
    • Ask your children: “How does your food choice make your body feel? Energized or tired? stable or shaky?”
  • De-emphasize dieting.
    • Health is achieving mental and physical wellness through lifestyle changes.
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  • Encourage expressing negative feelings via words, art, and music.
    • Gift journals or crafts for your teen to use to express their feelings when upset.
  • Help your child expect and accept body changes during adolescence.
    • Educate them on hormones, body changes and social changes in a neutral tone. Honor each individual’s body shape and help buy clothes to suit their individual shape.
  • Educate your children on feelings and coping skills during puberty.
    • Encourage your children to sit with feelings even if they are uncomfortable doing so – this helps to teach resilience.
  • Involve the family.
    • Allow family members to lend a listening ear or give a hug when needed. Parents do not need to have all of the answers.

“Fat Talk,” Body Image and Eating Disorders

“Fat Talk,” Body Image and Eating Disorders
By Julie Holland Faylor, MHS, CEDS

 

After consuming a high-calorie food, have you ever said “I need to hit the gym now!” or “I know that went straight to my thighs!”

Do you call your comfortable jeans “fat pants”?

When asked how you’re doing, have you ever responded with a quip like, “I’d be better if I didn’t have to squeeze into a bathing suit this weekend!”?

 

At one time or another, we have all been guilty of using disparaging self-talk related to weight, size, or shape. This tendency is so commonplace in today’s culture that there is actually a term for negative body commentary, used by the general public and clinical circles alike: “Fat talk.”

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Whether we say these comments aloud or just in our heads, “fat talk” can have a significant impact on the way we feel about our bodies and ourselves. For most people, disparaging self-talk just makes us feel inadequate or depressed. However, negative body image plays a significant role in the development and maintenance of eating disorders. For individuals that are predisposed to developing an eating disorder (in other words, if eating disorders run in their families), seemingly harmless comments about themselves—or unsolicited comments from others—can contribute to the development of anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, or trigger a relapse for those in recovery from these serious illnesses.

 

Because “fat talk” is pervasive in our society and has the potential to impact our—and our young loved ones’—body image and self-worth, it is important that parents understand this phenomenon. Below are five considerations to help combat “fat talk” and cultivate positive body image in our lives and homes:

Be aware. “Fat talk” is everywhere; if you pay attention, you will find that fat jokes and “fat talk” are speckled throughout movies, sitcoms and books, even those geared towards adolescents and young adults. It is the fodder of seemingly every comedian in the world, and it underscores countless ad campaigns touting products and services promising to make us thinner, prettier and more desirable. For women and girls in particular, “fat talk” has become a bonding ritual of sorts—we often connect with others over mutual dissatisfaction with our weight, shape and size. Awareness is the first step in any meaningful behavioral change, so consciously try to identify the ways you and those around you use “fat talk” in your daily lives.

Be kind—to yourself, and to others. Our body weight and shape have nothing to do with who we are as individuals, mothers, daughters, friends, and employees. When you feel the urge to insult yourself related to your body size, shape or weight, instead think about the value you bring to your family, friendships, workplace or community. Also, avoid drawing attention to others’ body and weight insecurities. Our comments may come from a good place—we may think we’re supporting or motivating others with these messages—but we can never know the true impact of our words on others. Err on the side of kindness and make it a practice to not talk about others’ bodies.

Model healthy attitudes and behaviors. The most important thing parents can do to help their children develop a healthy body image is model healthy attitudes and behaviors toward body weight, size and shape. Kids are behavioral sponges—they watch what their parents do, they listen to what they say and they develop their worldview accordingly. Rather than toning down the “fat talk” around your children, try to remove it from your vocabulary altogether. Adults in your life may benefit from this change as well—family members and friends may notice the absence of “fat talk” from your conversations and follow your lead.

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Normalize eating in your home. Our thoughts and behaviors around food and eating are often closely linked to how we feel about our bodies. With that in mind, don’t allow or encourage dieting in your home. Don’t stigmatize foods as “good” or “bad”—all foods are okay in moderation, and the goal should be to consume a diverse, balanced diet with as much real, unprocessed, natural foods as possible. Do help to cultivate the social aspect of meals by turning off the television, putting down cell phones and making conversation with loved ones at the table. Additionally, talk to your children about their meals outside the home—who did they eat with, what did they eat, what did they talk about—to help them think critically about their patterns.

Frame exercise as fun and healthy. “Fat talk” often paints exercise as a punishment for eating too much or the wrong kinds of foods, or as a means to “fix” a perceived body flaw. Be sure to position regular physical activity as a fun and healthy habit for children and adults alike—in fact, it can be even more fun when families get active together. Exercise doesn’t have to involve a treadmill or weights—it can be walking the dog, building a snowman or playing softball with friends, family or colleagues.

 

Let me be clear—“fat talk” can adversely impact body image and self-esteem, which is a contributing factor in the development of eating disorders, but it doesn’t cause an eating disorder. Eating disorders result from a complex interplay of biological, psychological and sociocultural factors. However, it is important to understand the connection between “fat talk,” body image and eating disorders, particularly as it pertains to helping our children develop healthy body image and attitudes toward food, eating and exercise.

Embracing Our Daughters: Supporting Them as They Enter Adolescence

Embracing Our Daughters: Supporting them as they enter adolescence
By Christie Caggiani

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Truly some of the most humbling moments as a professional come from teachable moments as a mother.  I recently had a conversation with a mom, as our nearly teen daughters were getting together for the day.  She was clearly concerned about her child’s blossoming body, and shared that she had told her daughter she was going to buy her a gym membership. That alone gave me pause, however, when my daughter later recounted that they were encouraged to go for a walk to burn off some calories, it shifted me into anger. Fortunately, the girls said they went outside because it was a beautiful evening and they had a lot of fun walking, but I realized that no matter how much I try to teach body positive attitudes, the forces in this world are challenging those messages at every turn.

 

It is critical that as our adolescents’ bodies begin to change, we are a solid, reliable resource and support system for them.  This is a time when they are uncertain about their physical self, how to act, and how to feel, so we as parents are key in letting them know these changes are normal and that they are exactly where they should be in their development. Our role is to help them connect with, listen to, and respond consistently to their body’s signals, whether their body is asking for food, sleep, activity, or a good cry.  Our role is NOT to control how their bodies turn out or interfere with their changing process along the way.

 

One of my favorite books on this topic, Like Mother, Like Daughter by nutritionist Debra Waterhouse, is one I would highly recommend to any female.  Not only does it help us understand what is happening in our daughter’s body, it gives us greater insight into how we can better equip our young women to avoid the traps of weight and food preoccupation.  To quell your fears, and give you some direction, remember the following:


What Society Wants You to Do

What Your Daughter’s Body Naturally Wants to Do (and what we can reinforce)

Mold her body into an aesthetic ideal Find a comfortable weight that is biologically and genetically right for her
Encourage dieting Eat enough food to supply her body with nourishment and fuel
Condition her taste buds Stimulate all of her taste buds and enjoy the taste of sugar starting in infancy, salt starting in toddler years, and fat starting in adolescence.
Feed her low-fat foods Consume enough fat for brain development and physical growth
Feed her by the clock Eat when her body tells her it’s time to eat
Enforce three balanced meals a day Eat small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day
Provide a full-course dinner Eat as much as her body needs at dinner and have a snack at night if she’s hungry

 

Here are some other pointers that may be helpful as you assist your pre-teens and teens in their journey:

  • Just talk.  Share your memories of puberty, and use it as an opportunity to open dialogue.  Ask her if there’s anything she finds confusing, and encourage her to name her emotions.
  • Arm her with resilience to handle insensitive comments from classmates, well-meaning relatives, and friends.
  • Connect openly with other parents and ensure that they provide a similarly positive body attitude environment.
  • Avoid making comments that tell her she will be okay once she grows taller, loses some weight, or changes her body in some way.  She is exactly where she is supposed to be today.
  • Focus on the internal qualities that make up her person – her creativity, compassion, or strength of character.
  • Never, ever talk negatively about your own or anyone else’s body.  Period.
  • Enjoy food with your child.  Let her see you eat, savor, and enjoy meals and snacks.
  • Encourage movement as a way to connect with the body, unload some stress, and have some unstructured fun!  Never encourage exercise as a way to change the body, burn calories or lose weight.

Recommended reading: 

200 Ways to Raise a Girl’s Self-Esteem, by Will Glennon

Embody: Learning to Love your Unique Body, by Connie Sobczak

Like Mother, Like Daughter, by Debra Waterhouse, RD

What Starts As Name Calling…

Squashing Name Calling before It Becomes Bullying
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN and Mom

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I am mortified to write this personal account, but I do feel socially obligated to share this experience, as it will help in raising awareness of size shaming/teasing/bullying and how it can easily and almost innocently start at a young age. What seems like petty pestering can lead to unfortunate circumstances. What surprised me was this was happening at such a young age and my own child was involved.

 

So what was it? Well, calling kids names but names regarding body sizes. With that, I went into my youngest son’s class to make candy apples for Halloween. Keep in mind, I am the dietitian making apples coated in sugar. My kids eat cookies or ice cream almost daily, and my husband and I do our best to focus on discussing health as self-care not weight. Well, I took a handful of the children (all boys) with me to the kitchen for a fun hour of cooking. Making candy apples was a first for me and quite messy but definitely easier to deal with than what was about to transpire. While heating the syrup in preparation to dip the apples, the boys became restless. I don’t know who initiated the teasing (Of course I would hope it wasn’t my son), but I heard it. I heard the boys making fun of one child for his size. They were calling him “fat.” Well, before anything else could happen, I immediately intervened. I let the boys know all body sizes and shapes are great whether one is tall, short, thin, fat, or anything. But they were convinced that fat is bad. The little boy had retaliated with “You are ugly.” My son eagerly reported this. I asked my son if he was ugly, and he said no. This was easy for my son, as ugly is a perception and my son is seemingly body confident (I think, in part, due to his ability to recognize that his body is strong as evidenced by his athleticism,) where as the descriptive word “fat” is slightly more “objective” – in the kids’ minds and in our society, it has more negative associations than the word ugly.

 

I was shocked and mortified by the above circumstance. The boys quickly forgot about it and moved on, but I wondered if the little boy that was identified as fat internalized the name-calling. I know his mother and let her know what had happened. I also let the class teacher know what had happened so she could handle the class environment. She also said that she would let the other parents of the students involved know. This teacher was sensitive to the issue and did address it with the class as a whole.

 

To help raise awareness of this issue with children, I recommend the following books in an effort to prevent and/or offer your child a corrective conception of such as situation. My son and I read about body acceptance, via the book called Shapesville, embracing our differences in Stellaluna, and bullying in Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully. Even though my son had read these books with me previously, it was helpful for him to connect the days’ name-calling experience with the books. The teacher and I agreed that the boys had no idea what this could domino into but that it is our job as parents and teachers to ensure it gets squashed beforehand.

 

As Stellaluna said, “I wish you could see in the dark, too.”

“We wish you could land on your feet,” Flitter replied. “How can we be so different and feel so much alike?”

“And how can we feel so different and be so much alike?” wondered Pip.

“Because we’re friends,” said Stellaluna, “and that’s a fact.”

-Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Postpartum Body Image

Postpartum Body Image
By Jennifer McGurk, RDN, CDN, CDE, CEDRD

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I had a very easy pregnancy and felt great almost the entire time.  What I didn’t expect was the shock and roller-coaster ride of emotions and body image after giving birth.  Not a lot of people tell you about the intense ups and downs during the postpartum period, especially when it comes to your body.  Everyone says, “Enjoy every minute!!” and “They are only this small once!!”  I remember feeling guilty thinking I wasn’t a fan of the newborn stage and felt so uncomfortable in this new body post-baby.  I would ask myself, “Why do I feel so ‘blah’?”  All I’m supposed to be doing is sitting on the couch and breastfeeding.  The only expectation is to bond with baby Connor, how hard can that be?”

Throughout my pregnancy I told myself I would get back to my normal self as soon as possible.  I didn’t care much about my weight but just wanted to feel good about my body.  I’m a very active person who loves yoga and exercise.  It felt amazing to participate in those activities while I was pregnant.  I also enjoyed gaining weight, knowing that the baby was growing and I was eating to support a healthy pregnancy.  I went back to the doctor a week after giving birth and had lost twenty pounds right away.  “Well that was pretty easy,” I thought to myself as I walked out the door… “I bet I’ll have my ‘normal’ body back in no time.”  So five more weeks pass by, and I walk in for my six-week postpartum checkup.  Those five weeks were probably the hardest weeks of my life, as the initial “high” of giving birth wore off, and life with a newborn started to actually sink in: no sleep, no activity, and increased anxiety.  I get on the scale at my six-week checkup, and the nurse weighs me and says, “Well, we don’t see that too often!  You actually went up!”  I kept on telling myself that weight wasn’t important to me, but in that moment all I could think about was the annoying negative body image voice winning over my healthy self.

Life went on, but something shifted in me around the three-to-four-month mark. I went back to work and felt fulfilled in my career, Connor started sleeping more, and I started to introduce formula and wasn’t exclusively breastfeeding (which honestly took away a lot of stress).  I also asked for help with babysitting so I could get out of the house more often.  I started to not care as much about my postpartum weight loss and started to focus more on doing something each day for myself and self-care for a healthy body.  I felt myself change both mentally and physically as more self-care happened.  I am now feeling so blessed and happy, and my anxiety has decreased.  I am walking more with my mom friends and babies, going to weekly “Mommy and Me” yoga classes, and am training for a five-mile race on Thanksgiving Day.  I am also slowing down each day, cutting back on my “to-do lists,” and just taking it one day at a time with my son with no expectations.  My body feels strong as it has now fully recovered from childbirth, and I feel almost “back to normal.”  But guess what?  I weighed myself the other day out of pure curiosity and wouldn’t you know—my weight was the exact same number it was at my six-week postpartum checkup.  Thanks to a healthier attitude and lots of self-care, I feel incredible both physically and mentally.  I also feel blessed that I can teach my son what it means to love your body no matter what the scale says.

10 Tips to Taming and Transitioning The Type A Child

10 Tips to Taming and Transitioning The Type A Child
By Laura Cipullo RD CDE CEDRD CDN and Mom

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All things indirectly affect each other especially our children’s disposition and nutrition intake. Knowing this, I am sharing with you the advice of my son’s teacher. I asked the teacher, “What are some words of wisdom moms like myself can share with their Type A child when he/she transitions to a new school or grade next year?” Here are her answers:

 

Remind Your Child:

  1. “It’s okay if you are not the first one done with your work.”
  2. “It’s okay to make mistakes.”
  3. “It’s okay to come back to the teachers and ask for help after you have tried on your own.”
  4. “Take your time with your work.”
  5. “You do not need to be right.”
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Give Positive Reinforcement and Stress:

  1. “Are you proud of your work? Which part of the work are you proud of? This work is worthy of feeling pride in.”
  2. “Mistakes are just one way to learn. What did you learn? What would you do the same next time? What would you do differently?”
  3. “The fact that you took your time and tried is what is important.”
  4. “Sometimes slow and steady wins the race.”
  5. “Learning to acknowledge when you are not right makes you a more effective person.”

Is Your Tween Hiding Her Lunch?

REAL GRANDMOM ASKS: My 11 year old granddaughter is hiding her sandwiches and lunchables that are packed for her lunch in her room; sometimes before she even leaves for school. She takes a bite out of the sandwich or lunchable and puts in back in the container and seals it up, then hides it in her room. She doesn’t have an explanation for this and you can tell she is embarrassed when you talk to her about it. None of the food is new or disliked, that is why this is such a puzzle to us. My daughter is going bonkers over this and I simply don’t know how to advice her. Maddie has hidden evidence of “sneaked” food before when she was very young but this is a new behavior.What do you think? Thanks,Debbie A., a perplexed Grammy

 

REAL MOM LAURA ANSWERS:

Thank you Debbie for your heartfelt question.  I am sure many other grandparents and parents share in your sincere concern for both their daughters and their  granddaughters. There are a few things you can do without alarming your granddaughter. Be sure to keep this a confidential as possible. It is  a very sensitive subject and privacy will help to ensure your granddaughter’s privacy and thus minimize any shame or embarrassment. I will answer the question directed at a mom (or dad) since mom (or the primary caregiver) will need to do the follow through.

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In general when any tween is hiding food, consider checking in with the school nurse or guidance counselor (in private) to see if your tween is:

A)   Eating a different type of food at school?

B)   Eating any lunch at school?

C)   Attending lunch at school (some students hide during the lunch period to avoid social anxiety, bullying or to enable skipping the meal for restriction purposes)?

This will give you a better idea of what is happening for your daughter.  There are many things to consider such as is your child:

A)   Embarrassed to bring a home packed lunch?

B)   Perhaps your child doesn’t like the way their food smells?

C)   Perhaps your child is uncomfortable with their changing tween body?

D)   Has anyone said anything to your tween to make them feel shameful of their body?

E)   Is your child restricting their intake in effort to gain a false sense of control due to changes in friends, family, school…?

F)    Is your tween newly aware of her body and thus restricting her intake to prevent it from maturation?

Next and most importantly, sit down with this wonderful child and let them know you are there to listen. Let them know you promise not to be angry (if you truly do) and can help to support them. Validation is the most important piece. Moms don’t need to solve every problem rather we just need to listen.  Tell your tween you love them and are there for them when they feel ready to share. Giving your tween an unbiased outlet and a few hugs may get them to be honest with you.

If your tween is not ready to confide, you can also offer to take the tween food shopping to see if that helps to resolve the issue. This may give you a better sense of what is going on if your tween actually takes you on the offer.

If the issue continues, it is best to have your tween see a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (therapist specializing in eating disorders) or a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (RD specializing in eating disorders). This accreditation is only given to experts trained in the  prevention and treatment of eating disorders by the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (www.iaedp.com).

Kids Eat Right

On Teaching Healthy Lifestyle Habits to Families
Erica Leon, MS, RDN, CEDRD, CDN
Certified Eating Disorders Registered Dietitian
Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor

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Hardly a day goes by without a headline warning of the dire consequences of our kids’ increasing weights and BMIs (body mass indices). Yes, we know that obesity leads to many chronic health conditions, from diabetes and heart disease to joint and breathing problems. All too often, however, I have seen the negative consequences of focusing exclusively on a child or adolescent’s weight and body mass index. I am seeing an increase in the number of kids and teens on diets, and I am also seeing an increase in eating disorders and disordered eating as a result. I believe there must be a middle ground—and a different way of reacting to expanding waistlines.

 

I believe this middle ground is a philosophy called Health at Every Size (HAES) and a way of eating called “Intuitive Eating.” Simply put, we change the focus from the number on the scale to healthy behaviors from the inside out. We must educate families to take an active role in preventing weight issues in kids. Embracing a healthy lifestyle means honoring and respecting our genetic body types, fueling them with health-promoting, satisfying foods, learning to distinguish between physical and emotional hunger, and moving our bodies because it just feels good!

 

Having taught weight management programs for overweight children in the past, I have seen the stress levels caused by frequent weight checks on a scale. I am excited to implement a wonderful program called Healthy Habits, written by Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, into my practice to teach families how to eat in this healthy, balanced way using a system of “everyday” and “sometimes” foods. This eight-week curriculum is grounded in the health at every size philosophy, teaches parents and kids how to make healthy but non-depriving food choices, and promotes movement and exercise for pleasure. There are no good foods or bad foods. Parents learn limit-setting skills while kids learn portion control, honoring hunger and fullness and coping with challenging situations around food. I believe our best hope at preventing health problems associated with overweight and obesity is involving and educating the entire family about a healthy lifestyle.

 

I would like to share part of an essay that my nineteen-year-old daughter, Rebecca Leon, wrote:

I have what my family calls the “round genes,” which basically means that due to good old-fashioned genetics, I’m destined to have curvier hips and a slightly fuller figure than most. Throughout my 19 years, I’ve struggled with accepting this fact and have fallen in and out of love with my body more times than Justin Bieber has gotten into trouble with the law! Although I’ve never had an eating disorder myself, admittedly, I’ve grappled with some dangerous dieting habits. Last year I auditioned for very competitive musical theater college programs where looks are as important as skill.

“My solution was to eat less (way less) and exercise a lot more, even though I was already dancing 3 hours a day. I won’t go into any more detail, but to make a long story short, for a few months, I wasn’t eating nearly enough food for the amount of calories I was burning. Although happy with my looks and feedback I was getting, to put it mildly, I felt like crap. I felt cranky all the time, had no energy, wasn’t satisfied with the way I was performing, and I would freak out at any sign of bloating. Luckily I have a supportive, nutritionist mother who has been teaching me about healthy eating since the day I was born. The truth is, your body needs fuel in order to perform at its best. I soon realized that by depriving my body of its needs, I was, in turn, putting myself at a disadvantage. When it came time for my auditions, I went back to eating more regularly. Thankfully, I was accepted into many programs, which would have been impossible had I not given my body the energy it needed to perform well.

 “The best way to feel good is to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Living in this manner is the key to honoring and accepting your body. Let’s face it…human beings are lazy. Most of the time we look for shortcuts and the easy way out. Well, unfortunately there is no shortcut or easy way out when it comes to health. Depriving your body of food may seem like the quickest way to lose weight, but in reality, it’s not at all worth the emotional or physical stress, not to mention putting yourself in danger. Even though maintaining a healthy lifestyle is difficult, the hard work pays off. Personally, I feel the happiest when I have a daily exercise routine planned out and stick to a balanced, healthy diet that allows me to indulge in a yummy dessert every other night.”

 

August is “Kids Eat Right Month,” an initiative from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to educate and empower our children towards a healthier lifestyle. I believe Healthy Habits enables families to do just that.

 

For more information on Healthy Habits, click here.

For additional free resources on “Kids Eat Right,” click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does your child need a Speech Language Pathologist or an Occupational Therapist?

Behind their Bite: When your child needs more than mom?
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD, CDN and Mom

 

Is your kid a picky eater, or is something else going on?  Read on to learn if your child needs an evaluation by a speech and language pathologist or occupational therapist.

 

The logic behind why a child does or doesn’t eat something is difficult to understand. There is no clear and easy direction to point when determining the preferences of one taste or texture to another. In fact, there can actually be a variety of factors at play.

 

If your child is showing signs of picky eating alongside a series of additional symptoms, he/she may need more than mom. Symptoms would include hypersensitivity to textures, tags in clothing, delays in daily activities such as dressing, brushing teeth, sitting and standing, slow developmental skills in the classroom and with crafts, delayed or slurred speech, excessive drooling while eating, coughing while swallowing, and/or difficulty chewing and swallowing.

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Ideally it is best to work with a team of health care professionals, who can help you assess if your child’s aversion to certain foods is more than picky eating. A team would consist of a pediatrician, a psychologist, a speech and language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a registered dietitian and of course, the parents. In the perfect situation the team would do the following:

Sample case: Greg, age 4, makes a horrible face each time he sees and tries broccoli. He will not swallow it and spits it out. Claims it hurts his stomach.

  • A doctor will test to make sure there isn’t an allergy or sensitivity causing the stomach pain.
  • A psychologist, if required, will consult with the doctor to see if there is any pattern of disordered eating or need for therapy.
  • A speech and language pathologist will assess his ability to swallow, chew, and move the food through his mouth and esophagus to make sure there are no issues with feeding and swallowing.
  • An occupational therapist, in this particular situation, will assess anything that ranges from the plate to the motion of putting food into the mouth and the various factors that may affect this.
  • Using all of this information, and barring any allergies/sensitivities, a dietitian will help to integrate this food into the child’s diet or help find an alternative nutrient and/or food sources to replace this food in his diet.
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Realistically parents do not always have access to this kind of multidisciplinary team. Remember it that it takes roughly 10-15 tries before a child acclimates to a new food. If your parent’s intuition leads you to believe something else is getting in the way, use the tips below to determine who should evaluate your child’s eating.

  • Get Evaluated by a Speech and Language Pathologist if:
    • Coughing or choking upon swallowing
    • Gaging
    • Poor tongue motion or movement
    • Inability to close lips while chewing and swallowing
    • Non-food behaviors (that could indicate challenges in overall sensory integration or motor planning affecting eating):
      • Hypersensitive to textures (e.g. Avoids “messy” crafts or toys such as painting, glue, play dough, sand box)
      • Hypersensitive to tags in clothing
      • Delays in other daily living activities (dressing, brushing teeth, climbing in and out of chair, manipulating toys, writing, cutting with scissors)
      • Late talkers
      • Excess drooling
      • Articulation errors (unclear speech)

 

  • Get Evaluated by a Occupational Therapist if:
    • Hypersensitivity to taste, texture, or tags
    • Refusal or inability to lift silverware
    • Refusal or inability to eat
    • Spiting food out
    • Throwing food
    • Any mechanical or behavioral interruption of feeding before consumption of food
    • Delays in development
      • Dressing
      • Brushing teeth
      • Climbing in and out of chair
      • Manipulating toys
      • Writing
      • Cutting with scissors, crafts

 

Look out for clues that suggest there may be a swallowing disorder or an inhibition restricting your child to self-feed outside of just being a picky eater. And remember, sometimes people just don’t like certain flavors or textures—and maybe that is what’s behind their bite.

 

Is your child a picky eater? What signs do they show that they dislike food, taste, or texture?