The Weighty Effects Of Childhood Obesity
(Page 4 of 6)
Rowell began studying under Ellyn Satter, a therapist and registered dietician in Madison, Wisconsin, creator of the Division of Responsibility theory of feeding. In it, parents choose when and what to serve and children choose how much to eat. This means that they can put fried chicken, mashed potatoes, a green salad, and carrot cake on the table and their son or daughter can choose to eat however they like. A plateful of chicken. Carrot cake before the salad. A little bit of everything—or nothing but cake. Satter’s theories are based on her own research into the literature of nutrition combined with observation and 40 years worth of work as a therapist and dietician.
When given access to a variety of foods, Rowell says, kids will make good choices—not at every meal, maybe, but if parents can nurture their children’s intuition, it will all even out in the end.
“Dieting—under-eating and over-exercising—that doesn’t work,” says Yoni Freedhoff, a family doctor and founder of Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute. ‘We try to provide [healthy lifestyle] support here and if the consequence is weight loss, good for them, but that’s not the focus of our office.
If that approach marks Freedhoff out among his weight-matters peers, so does his clientele: he is adamant about not treating children in his clinic.
“Weight management is hard for insightful adults,” Freedhoff says. “[Children have] developing frontal lobes, the pressures of adolescence. I have concerns about programs, especially those that target younger kids. Children don’t have a lot of personal choice about their lifestyles. That’s why I’d rather only exclusively treat the parents and teach them healthy lifestyle changes, which may or may not help them lose weight.”
When I think about the Division of Responsibility approach and feeding kids I am reminded of Erma Bombeck’s definition of a sweater: “Something you wear when your mother is cold.” Most of us feed our children when we are hungry or because the clock tells us to. We deny them seconds on spaghetti until they eat their broccoli. We fret about leftover Halloween candy and birthday excess. The Division of Responsibility frees us up from this. Theoretically, we can trust that our kids will put on sweaters when they are cold and put aside the fun size candy bars when they’ve had enough sugar but only if we let them make mistakes along the way. That means sometimes leaving their coats at home or letting them overeat birthday cake.
“The number one hallmark of a competent eater is that they feel good around food. There is no angst and anxiety,” Rowell says. But they can only feel good around food if we do. They can only eat without angst and anxiety if we’re not wringing our hands over them or trying to talk them into seeing food the way we want them to see it.
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