No rewards if the child does not eat: it could promote an eating disorder

Parents who use food as a reward and who tend to put a lot of stakes in their children’s diets, however good their intentions may be, risk turning their children into emotional consumers of food: children, and then perhaps adults, who eat – more or less healthy, more or less caloric, it doesn’t matter – not only when they actually have an appetite, but also to console themselves, to relieve stress, or to ward off negative thoughts.

Emotional eating occurs in the developmental age

With all due respect to the repercussions on health, in particular the health of the youngest, since we know that when emotional eating (or emotional eating, EE, as the phenomenon called by those who deal with it professionally) is established in developmental age and favors obesity, a condition that often tends to continue into adulthood and which can promote metabolic disorders and psychological distress. To make us reflect on the possible effects of adult eating strategies on children’s eating habits, more or less free from emotions, there is a study published in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior with the title “Emotion Regulation Moderates the Associations of Food Parenting and Adolescent Emotional Eating”.

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Research with children and parents

The study involved 218 pairs of parents and their son or daughter, for 4 years (a time interval that made it possible to cover the transition from childhood to adolescence). One parent per family and the children were given questionnaires that contained questions about their eating behavior and parenting eating strategies. Instead, the researchers measured the teen’s emotion regulation and their weight and height.

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Three models of food management strategy

In general, three different types of parenting food strategies can be distinguished: the constricting control (essentially the tendency to impose one’s will even with restriction or to use food as a reward or as a regulation of emotions), a structured style, so to speak, with rules, limits and monitoring of children’s nutrition; L’absence of structure (letting the children themselves control their food choices as much as possible); the autonomy support which, simplifying, consists in favoring the independence of children and young people, for example by involving them in food choices and in the planning and preparation of meals, or during meals. Constrictive control is linked to a decreased ability to respond to internal cues of hunger, appetite and satiety.

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Food doesn’t have to be a prize

How did things go in this studio? Emotional food consumption has been more likely to occur among adolescents with parents who have a tendency to exert tight control over their children’s diet, for example in a restrictive sense, and who use food as a reward (you did a task well you deserve a nice cake). These kids were shown to have a lower ability to respond to internal cues of hunger, appetite, and satiety, and a higher risk of EE. Unlike the children of so to speak engaging parents: involvement was in fact associated with higher levels of emotion regulation and lower emotional nutrition.

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“We already knew that emotional nutrition is more learned than inherited,” he says Joanna Klosowskafrom the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Ghent in Belgium, as well as the first signature of the research – now this study has analyzed not only the interaction between parents at children’s meals, but also what the children have learned watching their parents eat “.” This study – adds the expert – indicates that parents during adolescence continue to play an important role in their children’s eating behavior “.

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About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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