Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Obesity Panic Triggers Disordered Eating in Kids

By now we've all heard about the big, bad childhood obesity epidemic. In fact, we've heard so much about it that our collective fear of fat is probably hurting kids more than it's helping them.

Experts are now pointing out how school-based obesity programs can backfire when kids decide that they want to be the best in the class at not being fat, and then go on to lose too much weight. Dr. Leora Pinhas, a child psychiatrist and psychiatric director of the eating disorders program at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, has already seen many cases like this. "It seems like whenever we decide there is an epidemic, people run around helter-skelter trying to solve the problem without really thinking about it in an organized fashion,"she says.

Of course it's not just schools where kids absorb this thin-at-all-costs message. Parents might think they are passing healthy, weight-conscious habits on to their children when in fact what they're often handing down are unhealthy weight obsessions. And for kids who are overweight, shaming and dieting just leads to more weight gain and sometimes eating disorders. A recent study shows that more than one-third of overweight girls engaged in what the researchers called “extreme weight control behaviors,” like vomiting or taking diet pills or laxatives in an attempt to lose weight.

Kids need to learn how to have healthy eating habits and a healthy self-esteem that's not wrapped up in how thin their bodies are. Unfortunately, a lot of adults have yet to figure those two out for themselves. So let's start there before we tackle the "epidemic" with programs and approaches that don't work.

"Fat Phobia Feeds Kids' Eating Disorders"

"Overweight Teens Have Extreme Dieting Habits"

1 comment:

CynthiaC said...

I think the issue is that parents are finding a quick way to feed the kids, and this quick way means processed foods (kids in Europe eat fattening foods too, but they also eat more fresh foods.) We're also eating fewer meals together as a family (I haven't really figured how this makes kids less big though.) Portions in this part of the world are also bigger.