Are Diets for Kids Appropriate?

I saw this on the news this morning and it immediately caught my attention.

“Mom puts 7-year-old daughter on a diet… outrage ensues.”

I listened to the story and first realized this… “I don’t know the entire story.  I don’t know anything about this mom or daughter… only what she wrote in the article… which could be truth, but could also be stretched to make a good story… I. Don’t. Know.”
From the sound of it (and again, I don’t know), it seems like the mom had some eating issues herself which could be why it was all played out on the daughter. So really, my thoughts aren’t necessarily about this mom, or her daughter.  
But it is about the epidemic of childhood obesity.  What are we to do about it??  Children are gaining weight by the second.  Whose fault is it?  The “industry’s” fault? The parents? The schools? The president? The neighbors?

Can we teach children at 5, 6, 7 years old about what foods will make us strong and healthy and what foods won’t? SHOULD we be teaching those things?? Or should “kids just be kids”?  They’ll figure it out as they grow up, right?

I think back to when I was in middle school and high school.  You know, the years where image really starts to play a role in your school life and friends. I went one summer in high school, trying to “lose weight” by eating jelly sandwiches on white bread (half a sandwich, of course), packaged instant oatmeal and some of what mom cooked for dinner.  I counted calories… in high school.  I thought calories were the be all, end all and that 800 sounded like an appropriate number.  After all, if the “fitness” magazines were saying that 1300 calories was the amount to lose weight, then surely 800 would be even better.


I lost weight. In fact, upon returning to school that fall I had several comments like “Wow, Julia, you look great!” So I can assume that my nutritional plan worked, right??


So wrong.

If only I knew then what I know now.  That’s it not about calories, but about fueling your body with the right foods.  Foods that fuel performance and properly functioning organs.  Foods that fight off sickness and disease.

Why can’t we teach our kids those things?  Sure, they learn about fruits and vegetables and how those are “healthy” choices.  But they still want to choose the Twinkie… why?  Well, what kid wouldn’t pick the Twinkie!  But what if I showed them the actual amount of sugar in a Twinkie? Or told them that some of the ingredients aren’t real ingredients at all, but chemicals that will hurt their bodies?  What if we educated kids on the fact that things like Twinkies are a treat… and that a treat is a “sometimes” food.

My kids don’t eat perfect.  In fact, we walk to the local bakery every couple weeks and they get to pick out a cookie.  But they know it’s a treat and they know that other foods come first.  We’ve cut more junk food from our home in the past 12 months.  And because they’ve been eating better, they ask  for strawberries, and almonds, and brussel sprouts.  Brussel sprouts??? Yes. Because it’s the norm for us.


Whatever this Vogue writer did to gain attention, it worked.  Whether you believe she was right or wrong doesn’t matter (to a degree, because what’s done is done and it was the mother’s decision).  But we can learn from this.  “Dieting” assumes that you change what you eat in order to get a desired “temporary” result (weight loss, muscle gain, etc).  So is it “dieting” for my kids if eating healthy is the norm???  If it’s an every day part of a kid’s life to eat the foods that we should be eating?  Is that “dieting”??

Food for thought………. chew on it awhile.

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One Response to “Are Diets for Kids Appropriate?”

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  1. Quality is more important than _quantity_ in food (and probably in exercise and sleep too) — good points, Julie!

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