You probably don't see many kids tracking their food or counting their steps. That's because dieting and weight loss are generally adult concerns—after all, youngsters still have lightning-fast metabolisms and don't need to worry about their weight, right? Well, yes and no. While it's true that children have a higher metabolic rate, it's never too early to start fostering healthy eating habits. In fact, some recent research has found that adopting mindful practices as early as infancy can have dramatic effects on long-term health.
Determining a Child’s Risk Factors
A study from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that an infant's risk factors for obesity can be predicted as early as six months after birth. According to the study's lead author, Dr. Allison Smego, a baby with a body mass index (BMI) above the 85th percentile on the growth chart has an increased chance of becoming obese and developing metabolic disorders. She recommends monitoring these high-risk children from a very young age.
As a parent, you probably would never think to measure your baby's BMI, but Dr. Smego says it's a good practice for predicting and preventing obesity. "Pediatricians can identify high-risk infants with [a] BMI above the 85th percentile, and focus additional counseling and education regarding healthy lifestyles toward the families of these children," Dr. Smego says. She believes that knowledgeable parents will be better able to establish healthy habits, mitigating their children's risk factors and encouraging mindful eating practices as they grow older.
Understanding Adolescent Obesity
There's been a lot of buzz around mindfulness lately, both in terms of mindful exercise and mindful eating. According to researchers at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, a heightened awareness of diet and activity could be the key to preventing obesity in teens.
During a recent study, a group of overweight ninth-graders participated in a series of mindfulness seminars, during which they were trained to be aware of their breathing, their sense of taste, their hunger levels and how their emotions affect their eating habits. Additionally, students learned about the benefits of mindful movement by incorporating pedometers and walking meditation in their routine.
The researchers found that students who took part in the instructive intervention ate better and exercised more at the conclusion of the study. And over the course of six months, the teens increased their amount of vigorous physical activity to 4.3 days per week, while those in the control group dropped to two days per week.
Dr. Vernon Barnes, the study's lead author, believes parents can instill healthy habits by encouraging teens to be aware of their eating, breathing and physical activity, making them less prone to struggling with weight-related issues as adults.
6 Tips for Teaching Mindful Eating to Kids
Kids and teens tend to wolf down their food without much thought. You can help raise their awareness of what they're consuming by encouraging them to adopt these mindful eating strategies:
How do you promote healthy eating for your kids? Do you think it's ever too early to start?
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