Should you put your chubby child on a diet? Well, maybe. The truth: Not even experts have come up with the definitive answer to that tricky question. Now a social worker is speaking out and warning parents about what can happen if they take on the role of "food police" in the family.
Social worker Karen Kataline told the Huffington Post, "My mom was obsessed with my food intake for as long as I can remember." Restricted to a 500-calorie-a-day diet, Karen won the title of Little Miss Denver County when she was nine years old. She says that her mother "put me on the stage at the age of three and wanted to live out her dreams and disappointments through me ... She had unresolved issues about weight and appearance and she wasn't happy with her own body."
Karen's written about the experience in "Fatlash!: Food Police and the Fear of Thin--A Cautionary Tale" (click for details). She urges parents to be cautious about dieting when it comes to children and offers these tips:
- Don't take on the role of "food police" and overly restrict your child's food.
- Recognize that "We all have different body types and not every child will be shaped like their parents. Weight and body image issues are extremely complex and very individual to each person. Everyone's metabolism is unique."
- Help your child feel in charge. "Few things are as personal and primitive as what we choose to feed ourselves. It's a very personal issue and my theory is that people have lost touch with what they're craving."
- Encourage your children to eat healthy food and inform them about nutrition but "respect their choices to eat as they see fit."
And Karen contends that the focus on childhood obesity is actually "creating weight problems and eating disorders in kids (who) never would have had them because we're doing the exact opposite of what kids need." She urges parents to say "no" to what she terms "this obesity hysteria."
Instead, Karen says to "nurture boundaries." By following that guideline, "you will find your child has a much better chance of having a healthy relationship with food."