Friday, October 22, 2010

Diet at Age 2? What's Going On Here?

One of the cardinal rules to follow if you want your child to potentially develop an eating disorder and have lifelong food 'issues' is to put them on a restricted diet at a young age. Yes, childhood obesity is on the rise, but in order to help prevent this in your children, it's important to feed them healthy food when they are hungry and encourage physical activity to balance their energy intake and output. This fairly simple concept appears to have been too difficult to grasp for one UK woman, who decided to put her daughter on a severely calorie-restricted diet from age 2 in order to prevent her from winding up like her mom - obese. Clever!

The daughter, who is now 8 years old, is only allowed 700 calories per day which is less than half of what is recommended for a growing child! Not only is she likely deficient in key nutrients necessary for development, but she won't have enough fuel to actually grow! The mother says she's doing this for her daughter's own good so that she will be 'pretty and popular' when as she grows up, and not heavy-set like her mom and grandmother before her. Well, I'm not sure if she's clued in yet to the fact that she won't even grow or develop properly if she doesn't eat enough!

Kids grow in spurts until the age of about 18 and it's never a good idea to restrict their food intake if they are genuinely hungry. This doesn't mean 'give them oreos if they want them', this means 'give them healthy food if they are hungry'. Most kids do look on the 'chubby' side from time to time but this is followed by a period of 'leaning out' - it's part of normal growth! Kids need fuel to learn and play, where they socialize, develop life skills and grow into healthy well-adjusted adults if all goes well. So, to recap, food intake in kids should not be restricted and kids should never be put on 'diets'. Their weight and height should be tracked by the doctor, and if they are gaining at a very rapid rate, perhaps they're eating too much and vice versa. Maybe they need to incorporate more exercise and eat more fruits and veggies.