Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Overweight Children

Mary (not real name for confidentiality purposes) is overweight. She is one of my students and I’m concerned about it. I noticed that the snacks and lunch she brings from home are croissants/salami sandwiches, several desserts every day (cookies, brownies, candies, etc.), pizza, pasta, etc. In short, not very healthy choices. I felt it was concerning enough that it warranted a conversation with the child’s mother. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I noticed that Mary is a little overweight”.

Mother: “Yes, I know, but what can I do?”

Me: “Well, I noticed that the food she brings from home is not very healthy”.

Mother: “I know, but she wouldn’t eat anything else”.

So, I discussed the issue with the BII (one-on-one behaviorist that works with her from our company) and she agreed to be sure Mary eats the food if mother sends her healthier choices.

Since two weeks ago, her lunch and snacks consist of carrots, broccoli, celery with a small portion of peanut butter, whole wheat pita bread sandwiches, apples, etc. She still has a hard time with chicken, tuna or turkey, for example. She prefers foods that are crunchy. So for now we honor her preferences and proteins are a work in progress, but we’ll get there.

I went to school this week and I swear I noticed that Mary had lost some weight. I thought it was my perception, you know, my eyes seeing what I want to see. But the BII said that not only she, but the PE teacher noticed it too.

The next step is talking to her mother again. I’m planning to praise her for sending healthy food and encourage her to feed Mary the same food at home. I know she will say she can’t do it, so I’m going to invite her to school at lunch time so she can see with her own eyes what the BII does, and how Mary eats her food willingly.

I share this story because I want to make one point very clear: it is about your behavior, mom, not your child’s. You change the child’s behaviors by changing the behaviors of the adults that take care of that child. Plain and simple. No kid starves if there is food available. So it is about what is available. If cheeseburgers and fries, donuts, pizza, pasta and candies are available, they will eat that. Who can blame them, right? We are all tempted by these delicious but unhealthy foods on a daily basis.

Obesity is an epidemic. The effects of it on our health and wellbeing are endless and very well documented. We all should be concerned. Feeding your child only with cheeseburgers, donuts, pizza, pasta and candies is poisoning him. Would you let your child smoke cigarettes, drink beer, or eat paper for that matter? I know your answer is “NO”. Unhealthy “junk” food when your child is already overweight is the same. I know it can be hard because your child will fight for junk food. But this is definitely a fight we have to fight. And win.*

When my wife was pregnant with our daughter she was vomiting all the time and wanted some medication. My wife called the doctor and the doctor said “No medication. It’s not good for your baby. This will be the first of many sacrifices you make for your child”.

And no more monkeys jumping on the bed.

Daniel Adatto, BCBA

*Important: Always consult with a doctor when implementing a weight management plan.

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