An article published in the International Journal of Obesity lends more weight to the idea that we lead by example, and are being mirrored by the younger generation in more ways than we may realize (or want to be). Recent results from a study conducted at Duke University suggest that the underlying cause of the global rise in childhood obesity isn’t aggressive childhood marketing campaigns or the junk food industry after all — it seems that, as usual, the problem is parents.
The researchers studied information collected from 190 children aged two to five years-old. All of their mothers were considered either overweight or obese. They looked at the children’s food intake – how much junk food verses healthy food that was consumed – and measured physical activity and inactive time. The research team also took the children’s environment, family policies, physical fitness routines, and healthy eating habits into consideration. The study took a close look at whether the children had a healthy eating model or a healthy exercise model in their house.
Once the data was compiled and analyzed, the researchers discovered a strong link between environmental factors and healthy eating, as well as physical activity. They found that in order to promote a healthy lifestyle, a healthy role model was required.
In a home where junk food was limited, and mothers supported healthy meals, the children seemed to have healthy eating habits. The study reminds us that our children watch and learn from the way their parents behave. It stands to reason that if we don’t have a healthy lifestyle, our children are likely to follow in our footsteps.
The authors of the study note that while this may be common sense, there is now evidence to support the theory.
A few years ago, researchers published a study in The Journal of Family Psychology where they set up a grocery store simulation to test theories about children’s food choices. The team of experts asked preschoolers to pick out food items in the store for their family. The preschoolers who were overweight consistently selected food high in calories and seemed to choose larger quantities of food than the kids who were not overweight. This suggested to researchers that the children are likely modeling after their parents’ food selections.
It is no secret that many diseases are associated with obesity, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease to name a few. Keeping our weight under control and healthy not only wards off these health problems but it helps our whole body functioning better as well as increases our overall energy levels.
Today, there is a growing health concern regarding childhood eating habits, as one in three American kids is overweight or obese. Eating habits can be very difficult to adjust once established, especially as an adult. That’s why establishing healthy eating in children means a lesser battle with food later on. If you’re not sure if you are influencing your kids in a negative or positive way, ask yourself the following questions:
Answering yes to more than two of these questions might mean that you are sending unhealthy messages to your kids about eating. Experts say the biggest mistake parents make is trying to tell their kids how to eat instead of showing them by modeling healthy eating habits.