I recently read one of those studies about overweight children that appear from time to time and warn people that the population of many western countries is getting more and more obese – starting with the youngest. While the study revealed no dramatic new information about this problem, it made me think again how much we got used to such news, articles and studies. When parents however get used to it and don’t see it as a real issue but as the normal state of things, we really have a problem.
We need to take responsibility. Children and also teenagers have not developed fully and whatever they learn, they learn from their surroundings. We show them everything and as parents, we need to give them a discipline, also when it comes to the questions what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. We give them guidelines in many areas of life and we should also do this when it comes to their eating habits.
Eating habits is an interesting combination of words anyway. Often eating just becomes a habit. When children are very young, you need to feed them more often, that is true and of course you cannot cut back on that. They need to develop and grow and they should not be hungry. At some point however, this eating becomes a kind of entertainment. They start eating, not when they are hungry but when they are bored. To pass time and to entertain themselves they look for something to put into their mouths. And this is how it becomes a habit to eat a little bit here and a little bit there throughout the day.
Another problem is that children have hunger in their thoughts and eyes. They think of something to eat, get appetite and believe they are hungry. They see something to eat and they immediately think that they have to eat this right here and now. Their hunger is not in their stomach but in their eyes. If adults do the same, you would call it childish but still many people do exactly this. If you only ate when you were hungry, you would never have a problem with obesity. Adults and also children get hungry naturally. Don’t eat and don’t let them eat for their entertainment, from boredom or from hunger in their thoughts and eyes.
Teach your children to feel their hunger and make a discipline of when it is food time and when it is not. Of course, you are a mother or father, you want your child to be happy and you want to fulfill their wishes. If they only wish to eat, you may feel that it makes them happy, so why not allow it. Remain strict and keep the discipline. They are children and don’t see the long-term consequences in the way that you do! If you are concerned about their weight, they might be a little bit, too, but you know what can happen through this and they don’t. They may have heard of heart disease and diabetes but they have not enough experience to grasp what this means.
You have the control of how often they eat until a certain degree. Of course, in their teenage you won’t be able anymore to make sure they don’t eat in between meals. You can keep up some rules for meals together, though, and make sure they eat properly then. And from the very beginning teach them how important it is to take care of their body. They have to learn themselves to take care of when they eat and also what.
If you start teaching them in their childhood how a healthy and balanced nutrition looks like, how much is good to eat in one day and what you should eat, chances are they don’t need to face problems of overweight. The childhood is an important time and you lay the foundation for your child’s future.