Everyone is looking for someone to blame in the “war against childhood obesity” and yet no one seems to really understand that situation enough to see – or want to see – the truth. There are many to “blame” in this situation but blame isn’t going to fix the problem.
As a recovering dieter, I can very clearly see the different situations that occur that help to create an obese child.
1 – We’ve left breastfeeding – at the breast – behind. Precious little ones come into the world and very few get to experience normal feeding. We are ALL born intuitive eaters. That is to say that we all come into this world KNOWING that we are to eat when we are hungry and we are to stop eating when we are satisfied. ALL breastfeeding mothers will testify to you that babies let go of the breast when they are completely satisfied. Breastfeeding isn’t just about nourishing the body. It’s also about nourishing the soul. When left alone, babies will suckle at mom’s breast and release with such a beautiful state of satisfaction that one can see it in their facial expression. They are truly satisfied and ready to spend some time away from the breast. How much time depends upon the child and whether or not they feel fully accepted and nurtured by mom.
Unfortunately, our society has created a situation where moms believe they should only allow their baby to be at the breast for 10-20 minutes and that any moment longer than that means there’s something wrong. THERE’S NOTHING WRONG.
We also live in a society where moms, in far too many cases, have to work outside the home in order to help ends meet. This forces her to make the choice of either pumping her milk or using formula. Either way puts the baby’s food into a bottle. Now it can be seen and the baby will be prompted – in most cases – to finish the bottle. This begins the process of teaching the child to “clean their plate” regardless of whether or not they are still wanting to eat. Some of this “finish what’s in the bottle” mentality comes from the fact that we can see the bottle is not empty and therefore we assume the baby isn’t “full” OR we know that anything left in the bottle means throwing it out, which equates to wasting money. So we sacrifice the intuitive eater within the child because we don’t want to waste money. It’s a hard reality to face but it is the reality.
People before things. We must return to this thinking sooner rather than later because we are sacrificing the next generation and our future for a few pennies here in the present. I completely understand the challenging economic times that so many are experiencing. That’s why a return to breastfeeding and mom at home is, in my opinion, one step we can all take to turn the tide of childhood obesity. It won’t completely solve the problem….
2 – We’ve been led to believe that our children are to be spoon fed solid foods sooner rather than later. When babies are at the breast for longer than 10-20 minutes mothers are told that there milk isn’t enough. Mothers are not taught that breastfeeding is about more than food. That their baby simply wants more time with mom. Instead they are encouraged to start spoon feeding their little one when the little one’s gut simply is not ready for solid foods. Now we have a mom putting her child into a high chair that forces the baby to sit in a position their body is not ready for to consume a food their gut is not ready for and mom is once again feeling the financial pressure to waste not so she forces the child to finish it all. We know that approximately 70% of breastfed babies will never experience weight issues in later life. Spoon feeding is one reason that 30% of breastfed babies WILL experience weight issues in later life.
When babies are left at the breast until they are ready to release and when babies are seen as little human beings we can better understand why we, as adults, need to watch for their signs and cues of readiness. A baby who must be placed into a reclined highchair for mealtime because they cannot yet sit on their own is a baby who is not ready for solid foods. We also know that babies will grab for food and voluntarily eat them when THEY are ready for them. So what’s a mom to do? WAIT. Your baby WILL let you know they are ready for more advanced foods.
When we, instead, wait until the baby can sit upright on their own and place them in a highchair at the dinner table with the rest of the family. If your baby reaches for your plate, share some of your food. In the beginning your baby will mostly take food in and then spit it back out but when your baby is ready, your baby will begin to feed himself. THIS is how we keep our children as intuitive eaters.
There also continues to be misinformation given to mothers about the nutritional value of human milk. Mothers continue to be told that the nutritional value of their milk drastically lessens at 6 months postpartum. This simply is not true. To learn more than you ever imagined about human milk, visit www.LLLI.org, spend time at your local La Leche League meeting and/or read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
3 – The next situation that arises where a child’s intuitive eater may get buried is in the misunderstanding of how children grow. Human beings grow in a very specific way and most of us have no idea what I’m talking about. Growth spurts happen in two parts. First, the child’s appetite increases and we watch as our child begins to gain weight. The body is storing fuel for the actual growth part of the process. Second, the body grows taller and in doing so the child thins back out. This is the normal cycle. I know a number of parents who see this occur during the preschool years and panic. They are afraid that their child is heading toward obesity and they decide to place their young child on a diet. Their intentions are good. They only want what’s best for their child but their ignorance is creating the very situation they are fighting.
DIETS DON’T WORK for any of us, especially children. If you’d like to have a child with an eating disorder, place them on a diet. If you’d like your child to become obese, place them on a diet. If you’d like to ensure that your child has a sweet tooth, restrict sweets. Diets are the fastest way to bury the intuitive eater. They instill in the dieter all the wrong programming and wrong information. If mom and/or dad are dieting, they are setting the wrong example. Learn the truth about the body, undo the damage of dieting, heal the entire family by unburying the intuitive eater within each family member.
4 – If, by some chance, a child is able to retain connection with their intuitive eater through the 3 aforementioned situations the risk of burying their intuitive eater is not lessened. As peer pressure comes into their lives and they become more aware of others and media their mind will be constantly bombarded with dieting messages as well as body image messages that will tell them over and over again they are no good unless their body weight is perfect. Get them involved in sports of any kind and they will be weighed and measured and be told they must meet certain body parameters or they are no good. The psychological damage that can be done to the human being just over body weight is absolutely INSANE!
5 – Perhaps the child will be as blessed as I was and won’t experience weight issues until adulthood. I wasn’t breastfed. It’s an absolute miracle that I wasn’t an obese child. I was bottle fed sweetened condensed milk with banana flavoring. I was then spoon fed far too early BUT when I was able to feed myself, I did so as an intuitive eater. I experienced a life of being lean, strong and healthy until after the birth of my first child. If I could go back and use what I know now I’d happily do so.
You see, after that precious little boy came into my world I wasn’t losing all the pregnancy weight. I had a pesky 15 pounds that wouldn’t go away – out of 50. That’s right! I gained 50 pounds in that pregnancy and I had lost all but 15. I look at it now and I can’t believe that I couldn’t see the positive in that. I went to see my doctor. After all we’re all told to consult with our medical doctor before starting a diet or exercise program despite the fact that medical training includes only about 1 hour of nutritional training.
Instead of telling me about the needs of the postpartum and lactating body, my doctor told me to use Slim Fast. So I did. It didn’t work. Now I know that it didn’t work because it doesn’t work. Drinking two meals and then eating one isn’t going to work. I was hungry all the time. Why? Because my body was making human milk and it needed more fuel than what the Slim Fast “program” allows. I was ignoring my body. I no longer ignore my body.
The weight loss industry is doing a great job of feeding into other industries. They feed into therapist offices, life coaching sessions, wellness companies and hospitals. Sending people in for services that are not going to last for the long run because they – for the most part – are not able to give the people the information they really need.
There is nothing natural about weighing or measuring food or weighing and measuring yourself daily. There’s also nothing natural about counting calories or anything else. Why do we need to know how many meals to eat in a day? WE DON’T! Honestly, we don’t. All we need to know is how to listen to the body. When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re satisfied, stop eating. It really is that simple.
A few years ago I decided to give up on the dieting rules. They kept putting me in a state of panic. I got to a point where I wasn’t eating much of anything. I was headed toward an eating disorder and then I realized that dieting IS an eating disorder. The only way to save me, to help me, to help my children was to stop dieting and heal. I had to fix my relationship with food and with myself. I’m so glad I started this journey. It’s brought me back to me. The first step to healing is refusing diets. Refuse the rules that are not based in the truth of how the body works but, rather, the assumptions of what we think we know about how the body works.
REJECT THE DIETING MENTALITY!