Is the Fight Against Obesity Causing an Eating Disorder in Your Child?
In America's fight to reduce the percentage of childhood obesity, push has come to shove. Sadly, the shove might have been too hard . . . and in the wrong direction.
A recent report from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health shows that 30 percent of parents have reported at least one worrisome behavior in their children that could lead to the development of eating disorders. Additionally, there could be a strong link between the intensity of school-based childhood obesity prevention programs and an increase in eating disorders developing in young children and adolescents.
Details of the Study
To arrive at the results, the Nation Poll asked parents various questions regarding their children's schools’ obesity prevention programs and food-related behaviors or actions that seem unlike their children. Of the parents polled, 82 percent had children attending a school that had implemented some sort of rigorous obesity prevention program. They discovered that at least seven percent of all parents have children who have been picked on or harassed at school because of how much they were eating, or how much they were not eating.
When questioned about their child's eating habits, parents reported that their kids, who were aged 6-14, were showing early signs of eating disorders. The children's unusual behavior included inappropriate dieting for their age, excessive worrying about the fat content in the foods they ate, obsessing over the nutritional labels, refusing to participate in large family meals, and engaging in too much physical activity.
So if we are struggling to combat childhood obesity, how can we succeed without teaching “wrong” information? Or prevent our children from developing eating disorders during a crucial period of growth? One of the co-authors to the study, David Rosen, M.D., Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan Medical School, believes there are three simple steps to follow:
- Pay attention to your child's eating habits so you can immediately pick up on changes to their habits that might spell trouble later on.
- Learn what your child's school is doing to prevent childhood obesity, and become familiar with their prevention programs and the methods involved.
- Communicate with your children on a regular basis and ask if they are being teased at school about their weight or food choices.
Childhood obesity prevention programs have been steadily implemented into many schools. The programs serve to limit a child's exposure and intake of sweets and junk food by replacing soda machines and snack bars with healthy alternatives, and replacing the school lunches with healthier options as well. Some more aggressive programs take regular height and weight measurements, and offer incentives for physical activity.
While these are all effective ways to combat the growing obesity epidemic, without proper guidance these programs could easily overly influence a child into becoming obsessive with health . . . to the point where it becomes, ironically, unhealthy.