The government’s new campaign, Let’s Move, to “tackle the challenge of childhood obesity,
I’m not scared of what we’re being told we should be scared of: fat, fast food, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, red meat (whatever is the so-
Children are the victims. Their eating will be manipulated and restricted. Parents are the victims, too. They will be told they must control how much their kids eat. Everyone will end up feeling terrible. And family meals—the time that should be relaxing and enjoyable and the place where families have the opportunity to connect—will become the battlefield.
The campaign messages will mess with people’s bodies and minds. Many will suffer. Instead of “winning the war on obesity,
These campaigns will backfire. Here are just a couple of the reasons why:
- The wrong perspective: Negative vs. positive. Instead of focusing on health and coming from a place of nurturing and trust with feeding and eating, these campaigns focus on “unwanted” fat: fat bodies and food that supposedly makes us fat. Telling kids they’re fat (implying that “something is wrong with them”) is counterproductive and damaging. Let’s try trust and acceptance of children’s appetites, eating skills, and growth.
- An attempt to control. Trying to control a child’s eating takes away their autonomy which is crucial for growth and development. In a healthy parent/
child relationship with food, there is a Division of Responsibility. The parent is responsible for providing food on a dependable schedule in a positive environment; children have the right to choose what and how much they want to eat from what is provided and whether they want to eat at all.
In the words of Ellyn Satter, child feeding expert, “Children are entitled to be free from worry about eating, moving, and weight. Once they establish the critically important structure of meals and snacks, adults must trust children to learn to eat the food they eat, eat as much as they need, and grow in the way that is genetically appropriate for them.
The solution to a healthy relationship with food, feeding and eating is to ensure that parents-
Parent’s Feeding Jobs
- Choose and prepare food
- Provide regular meals and snacks
- Make eating pleasant (No pressure, bribing or other control tactics. This is time to connect with your family)
- Model what you want children to learn about food and behavior
- Do not let children graze for food or beverages (except water) between meals and snacks
- Let children grow up to have the body that is right for them (Unconditional acceptance of a child’s appetite and body is critical)
Child’s Eating Jobs
As long as parents stick to the “parent’s feeding jobs” and don’t pressure children to eat more or less, children will:
- Eat the amount they need
- Learn to eat the foods you eat
- Choose a variety of food over several days
- Grow predictably in the way that’s right for them
- Learn to behave at the table
Ellyn Satter wrote a letter to First Lady Michelle Obama to share her expertise and insight about child feeding and weight in regard to the Let’s Move campaign.
In addition, below is a link to letters others have sent.
To: First Lady Michelle Obama
Re: Child obesity: Help without harming
From: Ellyn Satter
As a Family Therapist and Registered Dietitian, in the 45 years I have been helping people with eating/
Don’t talk about child obesity.
Provide, don’t deprive.
Optimize feeding and parenting, and let children be children.