How do you address wealth gain and/or obesity issues in your family without making everyone feel like they’re someone that needs to be fixed?
As we celebrate National Pediatric Obesity Awareness Month this September, it is of much relevance that we talk about the issue of obesity, especially as the numbers rise to their highest at present.
More often than not, we tend to unconsciously project our own wounds on our children, which usually leads to a negative approach to building a healthy relationship with them and food. So in this episode, Dr. Adrienne aims to help you get your head in the right place so you can help yourself, your children, and your family as a whole in a way that is empowering them towards change.
In this episode, Dr. Adrienne does a follow-up on last week’s episode to share tools and strategies you can use as you have conversations in your family around the topic of obesity.
What you will learn from this episode:
● Learn tips/strategies on how to avoid having a negative mindset and behavior as you and your family work towards creating positive health and wellbeing at home;
● Understand why you should be mindful of your own insecurities, wounds, and actions as you approach your children in addressing weight and/or obesity issues; and
● Find out why you should see the issue and the act of addressing it as a process, something that takes time, and not as something that needs to be fixed
“Teach them about resilience. Teach them about persistence. And remind them that they don't need to hit the mark 100% of the time. They don't need to be perfect in order to be effective.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
“When you act from a place of fear, you cannot act from a place of intention. And more importantly, you project that fear and anxiety onto your child.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
“Manage your expectations. Don't expect this thing to be fixed right away. It's not a thing to be fixed; it is a process that you need to engage in as a family.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
“Eat as much of the good stuff so that there's less room, less desire for the things that don't serve you.” – Dr. Adrienne Youdim
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Dr. Adrienne Youdim
As we mentioned on last week's podcast, September is National Pediatric Obesity Awareness Month, and never has it been so important to raise awareness around pediatric, adolescent obesity and excess weight, as our current numbers are the highest they've ever been in the United States.
Currently, one in five children and adolescents are considered obese by BMI criteria. And as I've discussed in prior podcasts, BMI, which is a weight for height ratio, it gives us a number that tells us about a degree of excess weight, has its limitations. It is not a perfect tool, but it is a good general population tool in terms of determining the state of affairs with regards to excess weight. And currently, one in five pediatric and/or adolescent teens are considered to be obese by BMI criteria. And this is, of course, important because while there is tremendous bias and stigma, unfortunately, around overweight and obesity resulting in psychosocial consequences, this is also a medical condition. In fact, there are changes that occur in the body when we develop excess weight, both as children and as adults. And as such, the American Medical Association back in 2016 actually declared obesity as a disease. So, this is not a character flaw, it is not limited to emotional causes and consequences, but actually has a pathophysiology of its own.
TODAY’S EPISODE: A FOLLOW UP ON LAST WEEK’S PODCAST, FOCUSING ON TOOLS AND STRATEGIES
Dr. Adrienne Youdim
And so, last week I brought on Dr. Wendy Schofer, a pediatrician and coach, an expert in treating and having conversations, really, around this topic in families and with children and teens. And today, I wanted to do a follow up to talk a little bit about some tools and strategies.
Now, when parents come and speak to me, and I'm not a pediatrician, but often I see parents, and in the conversations they do talk about the family dynamic around food and talk about their kids, often they want tips and strategies for their children, and often I lead the conversation towards mindset, which is something that is not always well-regarded. People don't want to talk about mindset. They want to talk about tips and strategies. They want to talk about tools. They want to talk about treatment.
But really, mindset is a tool because all of the guidelines and the recommendations in terms of diet and exercise really are meaningless if we don't address mindset, if we don't take charge of what is happening in our mind and collectively in the mind of the family. Because when our head is not in the right place, and as adults we know this for ourselves, we cannot execute any action the way that we would like when we can't get our head on straight.
So, so much about this issue and addressing this concern really is about getting our head in the right place and helping our children do the same in a way that is compassionate, understanding of the stigma, understanding of the sensitivity around this issue, and yet giving them the opportunity and the empowerment to progress, to change.
TIP/STRATEGY #1: STOP, PAUSE, AND CHECK YOURSELF. BE MINDFUL TO NOT PROJECT AN INSECURITY OR WOUND THAT YOU HAVEN’T DEALT WITH ONTO YOUR CHILD
Dr. Adrienne Youdim
And so, I have put together a list of tips and strategies really that are related very much to mindset, but I think are essential in creating these changes, not only for our children, but in the household at large. And the first is to check yourself.
We know that our children are a mirror. They bring up for us so many of our own childhood insecurities, so many of our own childhood wounds, many of which we may not even be aware of prior to having children, and many of which we may have never addressed. And when that happens, that stirring that happens, it's so intense, not only because we've experienced it ourselves, but because it's painful to see our children experience that pain; it's doubly painful.
And so, weight is one of those things that really triggers us. When we see our children gain weight or engage in unhealthy practices, it often triggers that insecurity or wound in ourselves, whether we're dealing with the present day or it's something that we dealt with as children. Having been overweight, having had the stigma and the psychosocial consequences of excess weight, it really is a painful wound that gets stirred up. And we have to be mindful of that, because often, that stirring triggers us to act in ways that is not intentional and can have negative consequences for our children.
So, the first step again is if you're dealing with this issue in the household, the issue of our children gaining weight and/or unhealthy behaviors that you think could potentially result in weight gain, because we can be unhealthy and not necessarily have that reflected in a weight. And the conversations are true; we can be engaging in healthy behaviors and that still not reflect, meaning our children and/or ourselves may be overweight despite engaging in healthy behaviors. And so that's important to keep in mind.
So, stop, pause, and check yourself. What is coming up for you? Is there an insecurity or a past wound that you haven't dealt with? And if so, please be mindful to not project that onto your child. Try and work through it on your own. Take time to work through it on your own. And when you're addressing your child about this issue, check those wounds at the door if possible. Just be mindful. Be mindful of what may come up and how that may impact or affect the way you interact with your child.
TIP/STRATEGY #2: ROLE MODEL; DON’T PREACH. YOUR ACTIONS ARE SO MUCH LOUDER THAT YOUR WORDS
Dr. Adrienne Youdim
The second tip is role model; don't preach. As it is said, our actions are so much louder than words, and oftentimes, we are engaging in unhealthy activities or practices. Parents will tell me they themselves hide candy from their kids because they don't want their kids to consume the candy or to consume sugar, and yet they're consuming the sugar themselves. So, we can't expect our children to witness one thing in us and then to act in a different manner.
So instead of preaching, try and make those changes for yourself. Try and eliminate those triggers from the household for yourself. Try and make time to have the proper foods in the house that serve you and the family. Take time to prepare food. Take time to cook food, take time to make healthy snacks, and then engage in them yourself.
Not only should we be mindful of not overeating or eating excessive amounts of processed foods, high sugar foods, high in fat foods, but also be mindful of your restrictive behaviors because that also has an effect on our children. Them, viewing us being overly restrictive, can have negative consequences in their relationship with food.
And also, that spans to our minds’ diet, so be mindful of what you say to yourself. When you look at yourself in the mirror, how you respond to your own physique, what sort of words you use to describe your body and what names you might be using to call yourself. All of these, when witnessed by our children, can have a profoundly negative impact in how they view food in their relationship with food and with their relationship with themselves and their bodies.
So, role model the positive behaviors you seek to instill in your children. You want them to eat healthier? You eat healthier. You want them to take time to prepare healthy food? You do that for yourself. You want them to sit and eat a meal with family and not with technology? Get away from your phone and your laptop, sit at the table and eat at the table, and let them witness that. You want movements? You want your children to exercise? Engage in movement yourself. Better yet, grab them by the hand and take them with you; do it as a family activity. And you want them to speak kindly to themselves and to view themselves kindly to have a healthy relationship with food in their bodies? Then cultivate that same healthy language when you speak to yourself.
TIP/STRATEGY #3: DON’T CATASTROPHIZE THE PROBLEM. THIS IS NOT A CATASTROPHE; THIS IS PREVENTION
Dr. Adrienne Youdim
The third is don't catastrophize the problem. I know the statistics are out there. I started this episode talking about the statistics. I also know the health consequences of excess weight. Yes, there are metabolic consequences, diabetes, high blood pressure, all of these things. But these things don't happen overnight. They don't even happen over the course of months. They take years and years to develop. And they are, by and large, reversible.
So, if you find yourself in a position where your child has experienced excess weight, particularly during the pandemic, which has become all too common, don't freak out. Don't catastrophize the problem. Because when you act from a place of fear, you cannot act from a place of intention. And more importantly, you project that fear and anxiety onto your child.
So, again, take a minute. Figure out where you are at yourself. Try and process those feelings and emotions. Try and sift through those thoughts on your own and try and not project that feeling of fear and anxiety onto your children. This is not a catastrophe. This is prevention. This is about incremental steps that we can take that will result in beneficial outcomes when done consistently and over time.
TIP/STRATEGY #4: RESIST THE DESIRE TO FIX. YOUR CHILDREN ARE NOT BROKEN AND THEY DON’T NEED FIXING
Dr. Adrienne Youdim
My next tip is resist the desire to fix. Your children are not broken and they don't need fixing. They don't need to be fixed. And you don't need to put that feeling or sentiment on your children. Really, this is a process. Our children's growth is a process and a journey, and that includes everything – heir education in the classroom, their education outside of their classroom, their education in how they should manage and maneuver themselves when it comes to their own self-care.
So, resist the desire to fix them and really think of this as a process, as something that is going to take time, patience and perseverance, and that is going to unfold and evolve over time. That fixing mindset, again, adds a feeling of urgency. It also adds to the sentiment of catastrophizing, which again breeds fear, anxiety, and a negative reaction in our children and the negative perception around this issue. So, resist the desire to fix and engage in the process and in the journey and have the patience required to engage in that kind of care.
Remember that it's not about 100%. When we're talking about healthy behaviors, when we're talking about eating good food, healthy food, fueling our body with healthy snacks, when we're talking about movement and exercise, it's not about every single meal, every single day, every single minute. It's about doing our best to hit the mark as often as we can. And we don't need to be perfect in order to be effective. When we chastise our children for not hitting the mark 100% of the time, then we are relaying to them that they need to achieve perfection in order to be effective, and that is a saboteur. We know there's no such thing as perfect; we even tell them this. And yet, sometimes our actions don't closely align with that value that we're trying to teach them.
So, teach them about resilience. Teach them about persistence. And remind them that they don't need to hit the mark 100% of the time. They don't need to be perfect in order to be effective. If they are challenged one day, one week, or even several weeks, it's okay. Accept their challenges with compassion, just like you would when they were learning to ride a bike. Accept their challenges, their limitations with compassion, and help them redirect themselves from a place of agency and empowerment rather than from a place of shame.
Celebrate the wins, and celebrate the right ones. So, remember when they were little, when we would encourage them and celebrate when they shared a toy with their friend? “Good job sharing, Cameron!” Remember when we used to do that? That kind of positive reinforcement begets positive reinforcement. So, celebrate their wins. When they actually take the time to go into the fridge and cut up a fruit salad, or when they take the time to go outside for a walk and engage in physical activity or movement, celebrate those wins, because that kind of positive encouragement will foster more of the same.
But don't celebrate the number on the scale. Let's not fixate on the number. And in fact, I would recommend that you don't even weigh your child, nor do you recommend that they weigh themselves. We do not want this weighing and these numbers on the scale to be a measure of their success, and we don't want it to be a measure by which they self-deprecate or criticize. We know as adults how difficult it is to get on the scale and how it can bring up all of these feelings and emotions. And so don't do that to your children and don't celebrate the win on the scale.
So if for whatever reason, you have agreed to do that with your child or your teen or your teen is doing it, and maybe they come and they share with you that they've lost weight, I want you to redirect them towards the behaviors. “Bravo for taking care of yourself. Bravo for understanding how important you are and how worthy you are of the time and effort required for self-care.” That is what we want to congratulate them on.
THE BEHAVIOR: LACK OF SLEEP CAN HAVE VERY IMPORTANT METABOLIC CONSEQUENCES. ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILDREN TO HAVE POSITIVE AND GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE
Dr. Adrienne Youdim
And so, let's talk a little bit about the behaviors, and I want to point out sleep, because we talk a lot about dietary change, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, getting the processed carbohydrates and sugary beverages out of the household, we talk about exercise and movement. I think for the most part, we're clear on those two facets, but sleep is an important thing that we dismiss. But lack of sleep can have very important metabolic consequences, including increasing hunger hormones, as well as increasing the likelihood for metabolic side effects.
In fact, a study came out last month, I believe it was out of Spain, that looked at teens and linked limited sleep or sleep less than 7 hours with metabolic consequences like abnormal blood sugar, dyslipidemia, meaning abnormal cholesterol and blood lipids, as well as elevated blood pressure.
So, focus on things that they can do, and sleep is one of them. Focus on encouraging positive sleep and good sleep hygiene.
TIP/STRATEGY #5: SPEAK TO THEM FROM A PLACE OF ABUNDANCE RATHER THAN A PLACE OF RESTRICTION. NOBODY WANTS TO BE RESTRICTED
Dr. Adrienne Youdim
And speaking of things that they can do, that takes me to another tip, which is speak to them from a place of abundance rather than a place of restriction. Nobody wants to be restricted. Again, that causes fear, anxiety. It gets us operating from a place of lack, and it promotes more desire and more wanting.
So instead of saying “don't eat this” or “don't eat that” or “don't do this” “don't do that”, which only makes one think more of doing this or that, approach it from the things that they can do. “You can get more sleep”, “you can eat more veggies”, “you can make yourself a rainbow plate”, “you can eat until you are full.” So, nourishing them with foods that are satiating and nourishing to their body. Eat as much of the good stuff so that there's less room, less desire for the things that don't serve you.
So really approaching this from a place of abundance and being really careful and cautious about not approaching this from a place of restriction. You want to restrict? I promise you 110% of the time, the reaction is going to be that they want more of that which they feel is being taken away from them, that which they feel is being restricted. So, promote abundance, not restriction.
TIP/STRATEGY #6: MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS AND MANAGE THEIR EXPECTATIONS. RELATIONSHIPS AND EDUCATION TAKE TIME
Dr. Adrienne Youdim
And then finally, manage your expectations and manage their expectations. Relationships take time. Knowledge takes time. Education is a timely endeavor; it takes time. And our relationship with ourselves and our food and our bodies is no different. The learning curve and the education that we give ourselves in terms of learning to care for ourselves. Learning self-care is no different; it takes time, patience, practice, perseverance. Sometimes, we're on the ball; sometimes, we're not. It is a process. It is a journey. It is filled with bumps and hiccups and ups and downs.
So, manage your expectations. Don't expect this thing to be fixed right away. It's not a thing to be fixed; it is a process that you need to engage in as a family. And guess what? It very well may be a lifelong process, a lifelong journey of learning to care for yourself and teaching your child to care for themselves.
So, check your expectations at the door. Manage your expectations of a quick fix. Manage your children's expectations for a quick fix. Remind them that all things worth having take time.
Dr. Adrienne Youdim
And so, those are my personal tips in honor of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. I think these are tips that we can employ in our families. We can utilize them in how we counsel our children. We can utilize them and how we can counsel ourselves. And we can apply these principles not only to food, but to so many aspects of our lives.
So let's use this opportunity, let's use this current challenge that we are in not as a problem and not from a place of worry and concern, but from a place of intention and opportunity. Let's use this as an opportunity to foster confidence in our children, to empower our children, to educate our children, to inspire our children, to take ownership of their own lives, their own health, their own physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
I wish you luck out there, to all of the Mamas and the Papas, in dealing with your children. It is not for the faint of heart. And I wish you luck in engaging in this journey with yourselves.
I would love to know how we're doing on the Health Bite podcast. If you could shoot me an email, you can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is my email account. I do get a lot of emails and I do go through them each and every one myself. I'd love to know how you feel, what you're learning, and even if there's topics out there that you wish for us to touch upon, tell me about that, too.
Have a great week, in good health, and I look forward to seeing you next week on Health Bite. Until then. Bye now.