The only way to soothe a crying/irritated child is to buy him/her candies and potato wafers, at least for most of us. On a visit to the pediatrician for vaccination, pop comes out a candy; a few days before a stage performance and the child gets to choose/order his/her favorite snacks as a bribe to perform well; to study continuously and score good marks during aptitude tests or examinations yet again the kid is pampered with all sorts of junk foods and the list goes on forever.
Cuddle Up Buddy, Eat All You Want
Parents are committing a grave mistake by pacifying kids with their favorite foods during every such occasion. On one side we teach our children to eat healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables and on the other side we become sources of all the unwanted junk food in life only because we want to get things done from them.
As a society, we have unleashed gender-bias, at least to a certain extent, and evolved into a more liberal one where we see both parents working in most families, guys taking up household work and more. To accommodate this, children are put into daycares, caretakers are appointed at home or kids are left to stay by themselves at home, once they grow up to be 8 or 10 years. Mom and dad don’t spend quality time with their little ones and compensate for this by spoiling them with all materialistic things that the child wants along with all sorts of processed foods. For instance, mom comes an hour late from office and the child is upset. But, as soon as she unwraps a MacDonald’s burger, the child’s face blooms up instantly. When dad misses out on a school function, he either offers some extra cash as pocket money or orders for a chicken tub from KFC to brighten up his son/daughter. By doing such things apart from solving the problem at hand instantly, we are upbringing a generation of emotional eaters who start delving on food to satisfy emotional hunger rather than physical hunger.
A University College London (UCL)-based study has come to a strong conclusion that home environment played the primary role in triggering emotional eating in children. Parents abstain from unraveling positive strategies to regulate their children’s emotions and are re-creating unhealthy parenting norms by using food. Such practices threated a child’s health as it poses a major risk factor for the development of obesity. Also, such emotional over- or under-eating can prove to be important causes for the development of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or binge-eating disorder. Anorexia nervosa and binge-eating are becoming more prevalent worldwide due to peer pressure and societal influence to stay slim and look young forever. Read more about these eating problems and ways to deal with it from the website www.firsteatright.com.
The UCL study looked at 398 4-year-old British twins from the previous study, Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). Of the total, 50% twins belonged to obese parents and were at a higher risk of becoming obese themselves while the rest 50% belonged to parents with a healthy weight. Parents were questioned on their child’s eating behavior and asked when their child loved to eat more-when happy, sad or irritable. The researchers compared this data with data of non-identical twins and found meagre difference between the two sets showing that environment had a greater influence on emotional eating than genes.
Yet another set of studies discovered a set of eating behavior that was completely gene-influenced. This included speed of eating, how soon a person feels full after eating and the desire to eat simply for pleasure.
Yet another study some time back examined emotional feeding and eating in a group of 801 Norwegian 4-year-olds and probing into their habits yet again at the ages of 6, 8 and 10. Parents here too were asked to fill questionnaires asking about their children’s emotional eating and temperaments such as how easily their child got upset or how well they could curb their emotional distress. Results showed that kids of parents who were offered food for comfort at the ages of 4 and 6 were more prone to emotional eating at ages 8 and 10. Almost 65% children in the study group displayed emotional eating and were likelier to offer foods to soothe parents when they were comforted using emotional eating.
A Behavior of Generations
Although emotional eating is not inherited, the tendency to offer food as a token of appreciation or a as a gesture to soothe the child emotionally could be passed down from one generation to another, according to researchers. They recommend parents to avoid using food as a reward or comfort for their kids. There are much more positive options and strategies that can work wonders. It might be a small chat that you have with your child (maybe you can take her/him to a park or garden and the greenery around automatically calms your kid firstly), a tight hug that can immediately melt away all of your kid’s emotional burdens or taking him/her for a ride. At the same time, researchers feel that parents never own sole responsibility for their children’s eating issues as eating disorders are complex issues that don’t have a sole cause. Even a person’s genes can influence eating disorders and stress/emotional distress might act as a triggering factor.
Families often act as pillars of support for those suffering from eating disorders and should never be blamed for ruining a kid’s eating behavior. They need to be fed with the latest information on eating disorders and motivated constantly to support their loved ones. After all, families love it and cherish it when all family members live a healthy, happy and safe life.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.