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Monday, 16 January 2012

Obese Children Are Not The Enemy?

This was the title of a message from a "working think tank" which landed in my postbox this week. This is supposed to be promoting "Integrity and Dignity". What? Where does the enemy word come from?

At the same time I met an authoress and journalist, Tanith Carey who has written "Where Has My Little Girl Gone? How to protect your daughter from growing up too soon." We had a conversation about weight problems in children.

I have it on good authority from a very good friend that it's hard being the mother of an overweight child. Everyone will look at the parents and say;
"Why don't you put him on a diet" when some of us know that dieting only makes an overweight child fatter in the long run. Much fatter.
"Don't let them eat ice cream" - when all of their slim friends are eating ice cream and no-one gives a damn. Anyway, restricting food only makes it more desirable, so how do you get the balance right?

"Make them do more exercise" when you take them swimming and they just want to waft like basking dolphins in the shallow end or play around like the other children.
"Give them healthy lunchboxes" when they ALSO go into the cafeterias at school and swap carrots for chips with their friends.
"Switch off the TV" when their self esteem is shaky anyhow and they want to be tweeting and Facebooking or following East Enders like all their other friends.

"Help your child to grow out of their weight problem by keeping their weight steady as they grow". Easier said than done, anyway do you want to be weighing the child every week and controlling everything they eat and do?

Some parents are lazy and some are thwarted by the culture at large and some are ignorant. My friend whose authority I lean on, knows everything there is to know about healthy eating and activity, and lives in a healthy environment and his very fat child loves fruit and vegetables. 

Working with an overweight child is a very, very complex task. Parents need help because they can feel like a bad parent if they have a fat child. The parent needs help and support to deal with their shame.

Experts have to stop talking in generalisations about what to do. Some children have a much  harder job than other children managing their weight and the situation is going to become worse before it gets better, if at all. If a parent is worried about their child's weight problem they need personal advice and sometimes that advice may be to do very little for the moment.

Food for thought.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Men Worry Too

It comes as no surprise that according to an article in the Times today, men talk about diets and worry about their weight. It's not just the young ones either. Most of the men I know who are old enough to be grandfathers are trying to control their weight. More than half of them are trying to exercise more. Is this really a dangerous decline in body acceptance or is it more about trying to stave off ageing. After all, now that we aren't all dying young from smallpox or famine, we have the challenge of trying to stay active and keep up with others as we grow older. The best way of doing that is to take responsibility for our health.

The Times tells us that a minority of men are trying to manage their weight by vomiting or by taking laxatives. I knew that when I started counselling over 30 years ago, so it doesn't come as a surprise either. Many men do not come for help because they don't view purging as a dangerous psychological problem or feel ashamed to have " a woman's illness".

Dieting doesn't cause eating problems but will lead to some people developing a very toxic relationship with food. Also, obesity is a clear health risk that shortens life. It makes sense to take stock of your lifestyle if you are overweight or very sedentary. The question is; how do we get the balance right and live a flourishing life?


Thursday, 5 January 2012

To Detox Or Not To Detox, That Is The Question

I wonder how many of you out there are thinking of detoxing, exercising, doing Dukan and purging yourself of the excess food and drink that comes your way at this time of the year.

Have you noticed how many ads there are for weight control and cleansing which are in your face right now?  Weight Watchers have produced a 3 minute ad which calls directly to all the guilt buttons in people who arent a perfect size 10. The Times are running a series by some crazy person who calls upon the Fat Bitch mentality to motivate people to take on the True Grit of daily workouts.  Not dieting? Not detoxing? Not running 5 miles a day? Shame on you!

I have an Facebook page for National Centre for Eating Disorders and it horrifies me that all the ads that are on the right side of the page are for instant tummy flatteners, diet products and quick fix weight loss products that are mad, bad or dangerous.  

You don't need to detox, just take care of yourself, eat generally healthy food and go for some walks to admire the scenery not shed the calories. Its not a crime to be unfit - yes, really.  A healthy mind will promote a healthy body so focus on that first and foremost.

We need a helpline for people who feel that they are in danger of being buried by the January avalance of detoxing and bootcamping programmes. Do yourself a favour. Just say NO.

Happy New Year. Make this the year you put eating disorders behind you.