Okay, first I would like to say that there is a big difference between dieting and eating healthy. I whole-heartedly believe that children should learn how to eat well at a young age, but that isn’t what this article is about. This is going to cover the importance of learning why it isn’t healthy for a child to diet, and to discuss why parents are doing this in the first place. Learn why no diet is the best diet, and a few tips to eat healthy, to understand the differences in these trends.
There are a lot of factors that go into what parents decide to feed their kids such as family history, socioeconomics, ethnicity, and more. I’ve worked with kids of all ages for many years and this is what I have learned:
They are kids. They are growing mentally and physically, and to teach them to not respect and love their bodies is really harmful to their development. This isn’t just about diets either, this goes for letting them eat sugary crap all day, too. Parents should learn to be firm, but loving; they should teach their child to eat healthy, not because that kid needs to lose weight, but because they should want to be treating his or her body right. When an adult undermines this, it can cause serious damage to the child’s self esteem, and can create issues later in life.
Parents nowadays put a lot pressure on their kids to be more successful and well rounded; stress levels of adolescents have grown exponentially over the past few years, and this burden has many negative effects on the body. I had family friends who would restrict what their children could eat, and when their sons would go over to a friend’s, they would smuggle bags of junk food out of their friend’s house and back into their own home. That’s literally so upsetting; these boys would pig out at their friends and have to steal treats and hope their parents wouldn’t find out. This goes to show that dieting children doesn’t even work, promotes rebellious behaviors, and alters the child’s mentality about food.
There are basically two outcomes from regulating your kid’s diet; they can say “screw you, I’m going to eat this anyway” and sneak even more snacks, or they could say “there must be something wrong with me to want this terrible food.” Either way, this isn’t a good situation for a child. This promotes unhealthy standards and leads to many more issues than being heavy.
Children are also super easily influenced. When they see their parents eating healthy foods, they will want to do the same. The environment that these kids are exposed to is really important to what type of development they will have. So, negative influences are not key; children need love, support, and someone to promote all around healthy habits instead of negative responses.
One time, I was at the pediatrician (I was about 14 years old), and this mother was yelling at my doctor to sign a Weight Watchers release form for her eight year old daughter. Eight years old, and her mother was already telling her to lose weight. She hasn’t gone through puberty, she hasn’t started any recreational sports, and she hasn’t even had a proper nutrition lesson. This is extremely toxic to the development of that little girl, and I will never forget the lesson that incident has taught me:
Screw what other people think; if you are healthy and happy, there should be no reason to alter your diet. Schools have been trying to cut back on fatty foods, and transition into healthier options in order to intertwine healthy eating habits into a student’s lifestyle. At such a young age, a child should not be held responsible for the lack of education and support from their parents. The diet trend isn’t aiding children become confident, understanding, and most importantly, healthy adults.