Dieting Damage – Brief Article
Weight-conscious mothers beware: Counting your young daughter’s calories–and your own–may lead her to develop unhealthful eating habits.
In a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 5-year-old girls whose mothers restricted them from eating sweet, savory, energy-dense foods on a daily basis consumed about 50% more of these foods when presented with them—even on a full stomach–than girls who were allowed to include these foods in their everyday diet.
“Heavier girls get more restrictions, but restriction leads to greater intake,” explains study author Leann Birch, Ph.D., head of Pennsylvania State University’s human development department. “It’s a case of the chicken and the egg, and we don’t know which came first.” Birch asked 192 girls what they knew about dieting, and was surprised to learn that roughly half recognized its link to weight. And all of the girls who knew about dieting had a mother who was watching her own weight.
Birch hopes to monitor the girls over the next 10 years to learn how and when other concerns about weight and dieting emerge. She believes that instead of restricting children from eating certain foods, parents should regularly present their kids with healthy snacks, but still allow occasional treats. “Restriction focuses kids on food, so they learn to eat in its presence instead of paying attention to internal cues,” Birch said.
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