With the release of an app designed for weight loss in children and teens, I wanted to call out diet culture a bit. Without calling out any one fad or other “diet program” in particular, I will point out that the common problem they all share is a focus on weight loss. Many of these plans restrict entire food groups, again promising a kickstart to weight loss and a flat tummy. They promise the same result to every individual, no matter their age, gender, height, weight, race, ethnicity… how could all bodies, uniquely different, benefit from the same plan? A program that focuses on weight makes the assumption that health is directly correlated to weight, or that every person who wants to make healthy changes to their diet desires weight loss as a long-term goal. Plenty of people would benefit from changes to their usual dietary habits but carry a very thin appearance. Health is not equivalent to a thin body size, and a number on a scale is not equivalent to good health.
Overweight and obesity are epidemics for both adults and children in our country. Overweight and obesity are risk factors for developing chronic disease. Weight loss certainly is desirable in the setting of preventing or managing chronic disease and improving quality of life in various ways. Weight loss should not be attained, however, through restrictive eating behaviors. When we label foods as “good” or “bad”, whether that be by allotting them a certain number of points, calling them red, yellow, or green, or “stop” and “go” foods, we are restricting. When we count calories, we are restricting. When you choose what to eat for any other reason than it is what your body desires, you are restricting. These habits have a higher chance of leading to long-term disordered eating behaviors, like binge-eating or severe restriction.
Now, imagine your child having access to an app that allows him or her to engage in these exact behaviors. Companies are targeting a vulnerable audience that can have detrimental long-term effects.
Here are some more points to consider on the topic:
Using an app on your own can be dangerous, especially for kids and teens because their goals may be to look like the skinny model they follow on Instagram, rather than a healthy and realistic goal. In general, how are we determining what is a “healthy weight” for us? Often, what we are seeking is an ideal image of a thin body, what we perceive as being more attractive to society. With so much access to social media these days, we are all subject to messages from Instagram “health gurus” telling us if we do this, we will look like that. These are messages children and teens are being exposed to more and more. Throw an app in there that encourages them to track everything they eat and uses before and after pictures as a measure of success for making themselves look better and we’ve fueled a fire for negative behaviors around food.
Your body needs carbohydrates, fat, and protein to survive and thrive. These are essential food groups, macronutrients, meaning our bodies need them in large quantities. It is not in your body’s best interest to eliminate food groups because you are seeking weight loss.
All foods fit into any healthy lifestyle and variety is essential to getting all of the necessary micronutrients into our bodies. Choosing foods because it won’t make you go over on your calories or points for that day is restrictive behavior. You are restricting yourself from the food that you want to eat for something that fits your diet plan, and you are left feeling unsatisfied. Dissatisfaction will often lead to snacking or binge eating. Unless for medical necessity, foods should not be restricted in a response to trying to lose weight.
We are born with intuitive eating skills – our body naturally regulates hunger and fullness sensations and a healthy relationship with food begins with fostering your relationship with your body and honoring the messages it sends to you. This is the type of behavior we want to encourage in children to foster a healthy relationship with food from a young age. It is important, of course, for them to learn which foods provide us with greater nutritional benefit and the importance of variety in the diet, but we must also send the message that all foods fit.
A child should never be measuring his or her weight on a scale and then make decisions based upon that number. Leave that to the Pediatrician visit. A child, and especially adolescents, may carry extra weight for years as they go through puberty due to hormonal changes. They may feel self-conscious if they are heavier than their peers, but intentional weight loss may not be desirable for their current growth period.
More than anything, a child relies on his or her parents/guardians for guidance. Children mimic parental behavior and pick up on cues even more strongly than adults do. A child will sense if their parent is restricting foods in their own diet; they will notice at the family dinner table if a parent is not touching the bread or only eating a plate full of greens. They should not be left to their own devices, literally, with an app on their phone.
My signature package is family-oriented. It focuses on nourishing a healthy relationship with food for the whole family by getting everyone involved in the meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation. The goals of this package are to simplify the home-cooked dinner for busy parents, to expose children to healthful eating habits and expand their palates at a young age, to teach children basic cooking skills, and to create a fulfilling family experience. Most importantly, it is personalized to your family and teaches sustainable habits and behaviors around food to avoid the diet cycle.
Click the learn more button to schedule a free call with me to see if my family-oriented package is a good fit for you and your family.