You may have seen recently that WW (weight watchers) have launched an app marketed for children to “track health goals and food.” This is obscene. It’s marketed for ages as young as 8. They’ll say it’s to help tackle the “childhood obesity crisis” in the country but I can tell you it’s to eventually make more money by destroying a child’s relationship with food and spreading more disordered eating problems. This will lead to more adult obesity.
Firstly, one of the main causes of obesity in the UK, especially in children, is poverty. It’s an indisputable fact. So many times I’ve been told an apple is cheaper than a packet of crisps. That’s fine, that’s one apple. But a bag of apples is more expensive than a multipack of crisps. Cheap, processed food is often on special offer and therefore it’s easier to get hold of, lasts longer, the kids will absolutely eat it. It’s simply more than how much something costs.
We have over a million families relying on food banks to help feed their children. This isn’t because these people are lazy. Often their working families but their wage doesn’t meet the lifestyle expectations. We do so much for our kids but with growing technological advances and our desire to naturally fit in with our peers parents are trying to give their kids what appears to be a middle class lifestyle that they can’t afford. We have so many more priority bills. So much more we have to pay out for. Poverty is no joke but anyone that’s never been in poverty doesn’t understand what its like to live on the breadline.
Here are things you can do to encourage healthy lifestyle habits for your children.
- Don’t weigh yourself or talk about being fat. You are beautiful and you are so much more than a weight or fat to your kids. They adore you, they love you and the last thing you want them to do is thing fat is the worse thing you can be as a person.
- Listen to your kids natural hunger/full up. We all know most of the time they’re “full up” because they don’t like it but we need to come away from this idea of punishing our kids for not finishing their plates. It’s such an unhealthy behaviour. Instead of saying they have to eat all their food when they say they’re finished, listen to them. Take the plate away and pop it in the microwave, if they say they’re hungry later, offer it to them.
- We know kids like to test the boundaries before bed. If they want anything always offer a banana. They’re apprently great for a good night sleep. I would also say a bunch of bananas are one of the most affordable pieces of fruit.
- Encourage children to sip water throughout the day to stay hydrated. So many of our crappy feelings can come from not drinking enough water. Drink water yourself so you’re leading by example.
- Get outside. It’s not about being active or going for a run, it’s simple about letting your kids move their bodies, outside, in the fresh air. This is particularly important, if like me, you don’t have access to a garden. It’s something I need to do more of. My anxiety stops me doing a lot and I have a dislike on going for walks but I know my kids need that space to move.
- Move together. It’s not about getting exercise, it’s about showing your kids that you like to move your body too. It’s about popping the music on and dancing whilst you all do the housework. It’s about creating a living room disco. It’s about walking together to and from school if that’s feasible for you. It’s trips to the park and getting involved if you can with your kids, or it’s letting them play while you have a breather.
- Don’t label food good or bad. I am trying to steer my daughter away from good or bad food labels but I am the only parent doing that. My family aren’t and that gives her a bit of conflicting information, but I’m trying. I don’t want her to feel like things are restricted because of poverty or choice as that leads hugely to eating disorders as an adult.
- Get kids involved in the food shop and preparing meals. Kids like to “help” and in my experience they’re more likely to eat things if there is a lot of colour and they’ve helped make it. Some days this is going to be a chicken nugget and chips day, other days it might be colourful pasta and vegetables. Sometimes it’s going to be whatever experiment you can come up with and kids really do find that fun.
- Know there is nothing wrong with taking pleasure from a nice meal.
- If you can find the time and space have your meals together, make them a slow and social occassion with no phones or TV. This is a luxury for some – we, for example, don’t have the space for a dining table, but eating together and talking together focusing on the meal helps with the pleasure of food.
- Anything you can make yourself and cook from scratch, do. This is hard, because individual ingredients are expensive but if it’s something you can afford to do, then go for it. It’s hard to avoid processed stuff all the time but if you can it is going to be better for you. However, again, if you’re facing poverty and processed stuff is all you have to feed your kids then that’s what you have. Do not feel guilty or shameful for feeding your kids whatever you can access. And if you are poor, do not feel guilty about the occassional takeaway for some enjoyment just try to balance whatever you can.
- Encourage your children to listen to their bodies when they’re feeling full up. Encourage them to eat slowly, chew properly and try each food and flavour. It’s hard but a slow way of eating gives our stomachs time to feel full and send those signals to the brain to say that we have eaten enough.