Be a Role Model Every Day

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that fact is both one of the most destructive and one of the most redemptive features of human nature. So we need to take the advice of Julia Olech, who wrote,

Be a role model: Children often mimic adults, so show them you also choose healthy options. When you make good food choices and limit your junk food intake, they’re more likely to do the same.

Parenting is difficult, so hard sometimes that parents conveniently forget the basic “home truths.” One of those inconvenient verities is that our children watch our every move. Not only that, but all too often, they imitate what we do. How else are they supposed to learn to be human? From the media? Really? Don’t we believe that we present a better example than some of the nonsense that appears on TV and in video games?

To be fair, a lot of parents do a pretty good job of keeping their kids separated from random violence, irresponsibility, stupidity, and other undesirable traits. If you are one of those conscientious citizens, congratulations. There is, however, another very important principle involved. In addition to protecting kids from bad influences, you — yes you, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, older sibling, etc. — need to provide the counterbalancing good influences.

Who is that in the mirror?

A now-defunct website called once published a piece claiming that 75% of parents ignore the problem of overweight in their children. Doubtless, other authors would find research claiming different percentages. At any rate, that writer made the argument that 50 years ago, there were bakeries and fast-food outlets and television, but the childhood obesity rate was less than one-third of today’s, so how can we blame “society” for making our kids fat?

That argument of course is not sturdy, because a lot of things are here now that were not present then, like antibiotics in the water and plastic in the food. At any rate, the point the author mainly intended to make was that no matter how much we would like to blame “society” for everything that goes wrong, eventually, we have to ‘fess up and acknowledge that society is us. We are a society, especially at home. After all, who do our kids see the most, especially in the early years? Their caregiving relatives, aka role models.

What ought we to demonstrate?

Corny as it sounds, a daily workout of some kind is something it wouldn’t hurt for children to witness their parents doing. Carolyn Williams, Ph.D., R.D., says, for example,

Moderate-intensity exercise actually decreases appetite by increasing the hormone that suppresses appetite and decreasing the hormone that triggers hunger… A strenuous workout frames the next 24 to 36 hours in a positive health perspective, meaning you’re more likely to make good food choices, monitor portions, and resist temptations.

But it doesn’t have to be all noisy and sweaty, it can be as gentle as a regular session of chair yoga — as long as the young’uns catch some kind of a notion. The subliminal messages are,

— You are valuable, and the physical machine that you live inside of deserves good care.
— Your routine does not need to be strenuous or lengthy.
— Just do this nice thing for yourself every day.

An area worth putting some effort into

What really needs to be nipped in the bud is the whole picky-eater scene. Dr. Suanne Kowal-Connelly told The New York Times,

Children look up to us, they model our behavior and notice what we enjoy. Parents should serve children the same foods they eat, though in smaller portions, and not offer something else saying, for example, “There are chicken nuggets in the freezer if you don’t like the broccoli I made.”

Parents can talk about the beautiful colors of various foods and why they’re good for us — make it a learning game. A new food may have to be introduced many times — 12 or 13 — just to get children to try it.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Junk Food Marketing Study: What Are Kids Being Fed?,”, 02/13/24
Source: “To End Childhood Obesity, Parents Need To Learn To Say ‘No’,”, 01/04/12
Source: “9 Things That Make You Eat More,”, 05/05/16
Source: “Using Shelter-in-Place Time to Foster Better Family Food Habits,”, 04/06/20
Image by It’s No Game/CC BY 2.0 DEED

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources