Children & Overeating – A 6 point guide to helping them stop
Almost 20% of under 19’s are obese!
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, from 2017 to 2018, an estimated 19.3% of American children and adolescents aged 2 to 19, had obesity, including 6.1% with severe obesity and another 16.1% with overweight.
There was also another research project which proved that this was less likely in educated households. This is what I’m hoping to add to. Here, I will explain how to approach talking with a child who has become obsessed with food.
1. The first thing to do is to try and understand what’s behind the eating
It might be something physical or physiological causing your child to eat more, but it is also likely to be emotional. So, as an ongoing question, keep being curious about what’s going on for your child that they might need to comfort eat.
2. Know that portion control is likely to backfire
Because, it’s going to be perceived as shaming, which makes us feel worse, and therefore more likely to want to comfort eat.
Have you ever been told that you could, or should, eat less? By the Doctor, your Personal Trainer, well-meaning parents or friends?
It doesn’t feel good, does it?
That’s the shame of portion control. So, that’s how your child might feel if you start telling them to eat less, or that they’re eating too much. It’s highly likely that they will carry on eating, it’s just that now they might do it in secret. It’s going to be a lot easier for you to educate them when they’re actually sitting in front of you doing it.
3. Don’t make food a bad thing, just slow eating down
Food is a good thing. We need food to survive, and it can be pleasurable to eat!
But, that’s the point. Binge-eating or comfort eating often happens at breakneck speed. The binge-eater doesn’t really take pleasure in the eating any more. It usually goes down rapidly, doesn’t it?
So, start educating your child on eating slower. Perhaps as a family start eating more mindfully around the dinner table. Slow down and enjoy your food.
4. Start educating your child around when they might be responding to their hunger, or to something else
Obviously, educating yourself on this is going to be so important too. This might be something you want to learn together.
You can also educate your child (and yourself) around the fact that, in this culture, we rely on external substances, rather than our inner resources, for reassurance and comfort.
You can start to teach your child as an ongoing project that there are other ways to manage how you feel.
The best thing you can do here is to learn this for yourself and pass it on. Start with your child by explaining that this is what we all do, to some extent. We instinctively squash uncomfortable feelings with something else that makes them more tolerable.
If you are a comfort eater too, the most effective thing you can do to influence your child, is to address your eating, and underlying self-confidence. The psychology you might pass on to your children is one of the things that parents who come to see me, are most concerned about.
5. Lastly, get to know what they enjoy
You can pre-empt your child’s need to overeat with other activities they might enjoy. For instance, if it’s a pattern for your child to want seconds after dinner, bring something else in that they might love doing, instead.
This could be something you both enjoy.
Whichever way you choose to approach your child’s overeating, know that you can’t go wrong by getting to know your child. Often, quality time spent with you is what a child craves the most. This will go a long way to addressing any underlying confidence issues. It will teach them directly that they are worth spending time with. That’s the thing we all need the most. So, perhaps this is a win-win for both of you.
If you’re an adult who needs support with self-confidence and managing comfort eating, you can find help here: https://www.bristolcounselling.co.uk/binge-eating-disorderbristol.html