When I was a kid, my brothers and I would sprint through the door after school and head straight to the kitchen. Starving, we’d run to the cupboard to choose our snacks. Doritos, Oreos, or our mother’s homemade chocolate chip cookies were almost always in plain view. My mother, who naturally has a healthy BMI, never lectured us on our eating habits. Instead, she taught us through her actions by cooking us healthy dinners.
Now that we’re adults, I wonder if we would have a different relationship with food if she had talked to us more directly when we were children. Although there is no conclusive research yet about how mothers should talk to their children about food, a new study does suggest that obese mothers speak more directly to their children. In addition, obese mothers were just as cognizant about their child’s junk food intake compared to mothers with a healthy BMI.
Further, their children did indeed listen to their mothers. It turns out, if you want your children to avoid the consumption of junk food, being more direct may be the way to go. The study was conducted by the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and was summarized by Science Daily. Two hundred and thirty-seven women were studied as they were placed in a room with their child. The room had various foods, including chocolate cupcakes. The mothers’ communication toward their children was studied and found that obese women spoke directly to their children. For example, they said things like, “Only eat one,” instead of a more indirect statement like, “You haven’t eaten dinner yet.” The children of the obese mothers tended to listen to their mothers fairly easily, too. Yet, expert opinion is still mixed on how parents should talk to their children regarding food intake. There is some conflicting advice on the best approach. “On one hand,” Megan Pesch, M.D. said, “overly restricting food could backfire and actually lead to overeating.
But parents also want to encourage healthy habits.” She went on to explain that direct communication is typically easier for children to understand and follow, but there’s always that sensitivity factor when it comes to eating and weight. The study also contested a nasty stereotype. There is often a bad perception of obese mothers and how they parent their children surrounding the topic of food. The stereotypical assumption is that they simply let their children eat whatever they want, whenever they want. The study, however, debunked this myth. Pesch said, “The mothers we observed were on it. They were attentive and actively trying to get their children to eat less junk food.” Judging a book by its cover in all areas of life, especially motherhood, should not be practiced. Regardless of the size of our bodies, we all want the best for our children and to see them choose a healthy lifestyle.
Whether you exercise direct or indirect communication toward your children and the food they eat, continue to have that open dialogue. Because a healthy life, without Doritos, will leave your children feeling satisfied.