In his book Possible Side Effects, Augusten Burroughs shares childhood memories of avoiding all of his mother’s efforts to feed him a healthy diet. Children can be cunning little people, as he proves in the essay called “The Wonder Boy.” Burroughs writes,
She’d slip a carton of fresh beans or a head of broccoli into the cart, and the moment she turned her back to grab a bunch of organic scallions, I shoved the offending vegetables onto the nearest shelf and then tucked a tub of Betty Crocker vanilla frosting deep into the cart…
Burroughs is, of course, famous for surviving an intensely dysfunctional family, so it comes as no surprise that the parent/child dynamic allowed for poor nutrition. It was the least of their problems. We sincerely hope that most families are not so chaotic, and most parents are better equipped to exert some control.
Obesity-fighting chef Jamie Oliver says we must be firm:
Two things happen when shopping with kids. You either give in and buy everything they want, or if you’re a strong parent you make certain choices… But it’s almost as if parents here have stopped saying no. It’s as if the kids rule the roost.
It would be great if all children were teachable at all times. In one family, a parent might be able to use the grocery store trip as a teaching experience, explaining why it’s smart to choose one item rather than another. Or, depending on the kids’ temperaments and the availability of childcare, it might be better not to take them along at all.
In Overweight: What Kids Say, Dr. Pretlow included successful strategies used by kids to avoid childhood obesity:
They stock the house with fruits and veggies for snacks. They stay away from fast food restaurants. They go shopping with their parents and buy low-fat, sugar-free foods for comfort and healthy foods like fruits for snacks. They have fun with it…
Speaking of fun, we recently suggested a couple of ideas for making all of this less of an ordeal, and there are many more great resources available to parents. Yes, it comes back to us again. One of the things kids write to the Weigh2Rock website about is the refusal of some parents to cooperate with their offsprings’ efforts to eat more sensibly.
Others write about how their parents help. Dr. Pretlow reports that some kids have asked their parents not to bring home tempting foods full of non-nutrients. Or they might ask their parents to hide the junk food, so the sight of it will not be a constant reminder. The goal is to be one of those helpful, understanding parents.
Here are some appreciative words from the lucky kids, quoted in Overweight, What Kids Say:
From Ashley, Age 14
My mom helped by keeping candy and sugars out of the house. And I really cut back on the soda too. Just next time when you go to the grocery store ask your parents if they can stop buying certain foods for you. It helps out a lot when you have others around you that are willing to help you.
From renee, Age 13
i weighed 207 now I am 189. … my mom quit buying junk food and that has helped the most because if it were here i would eat it… i think the biggest thing is support from people who care about you!
From Sammy, Age 12
I talked to my mom, and when she buys junk food, she hides it in a place I don’t know or wouldn’t look when reaching for a snack. This has also helped because I forget very easily that we even have junk food in the house…
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Possible Side Effects,” Bookreporter.com
Source: “Jamie Oliver takes on America’s fast-food culture,” The Independent, 10/28/09
Source: “Overweight: What Kids Say,” Amazon.com
Image by epSos.de, used under its Creative Commons license.