December 17, 2009

Parents: Beware Of Holiday Weight Talk

The holidays are filled with delicious treats and snacks, and that often leads to conversations about overeating and gaining weight. According to an expert at Baylor College of Medicine, adults should be careful about their weight concerns and what impact it might have on young children.

"Parents should model healthy living and healthy behaviors, and use caution when using words such as 'fat' and 'overweight' around children," said Dr. Leng Bang, assistant professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at BCM.

Because children model what parents do, they may end up feeling guilt and shame in relation to food, said Bang.
Focus on positive

Bang advised being cautious before making comments about your own weight or others' weight, as well as noticing how these comments might be affecting your child.

"If adults are making comments about other people, kids pick up on it and may incorporate it in their view of the world," said Bang.

The most important thing to do is focus on the positive rather than the negative, and beware of your influence on a child.
Watch for signs

"If you are consumed with your weight during the holiday season, you may be missing out on what your child is going through," said Bang.

Bang suggests looking out for signs that a child may have a negative image of themselves due to their weight. Children may have a change in behavior and avoid school or social events because they worry about what people will think about them. They may feel anxiety or depression and use food to cope.

Bang suggests consulting a nutritionist or mental health professional if these signs are present.

"Food can be one of the central themes during the holidays, so it's important not to associate it with negativity," said Bang. "Children's experience with food and the holidays should be a positive one."


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