Living Well in Yalobusha County

Unsafe Dieting Practices Can Have Negative Impact

By: Pamela Redwine

MSU Extension Service

As you are probably aware, Mississippi is among the states with the highest prevalence of both adult obesity and childhood overweight.  While striving for a healthy weight is important, eating a healthful diet full of variety and be physically active everyday is more important.  Practicing unsafe dietary practices can have negative consequences to our health and can often create a downward spiral that is difficult to reverse.

Remember that weight is just one measure of health and differs from individual to individual.  You have to take into account age, gender, body frame, family genetics, and metabolism.  Your weight on a scale is not an accurate measure of your health.  Simply because someone appears to be thin, does not mean they are healthy and because another person appears overweight, does not mean they are unhealthy.  

Preoccupation with weight can lead to a dissatisfied body image.  Once you are unhappy with your body image, you may begin to practice unhealthy eating behaviors.  Many fad diets, currently available, give one the opportunity to try a number of different ways to lose weight.  While some may lose weight in the short-term, the weight loss is often short lived and many gain more weight once they discontinue the diet.  The result is finding another diet.  This concept of moving from diet to diet is called yo-yo dieting and can be very damaging not only to your physical health, but also to your emotional and psychological health.  

It is important to remember we have two extremes with regard to weight, overweight and underweight.  Everyday, we have more and more children and adolescents that struggle with their weight and what they feel they should “look like” instead of what they should “feel like”.  As mentors, educators, role models, and parents, it is vitally important that we strive to create a body friendly environment that focuses on health and not weight.  Below are 10 tips to create a Body Friendly Environment that can help avoid these severe health concerns.

1. Help children and adolescents understand the changes in their appearance.  Talk about the changes their bodies will undergo and reinforce that we are all different and our bodies will change at different times and different degrees.

2. Be a positive role model.  Watch what you do.  If you have unusual eating habits or are overly critical of your own body, you send both verbal and non-verbal cues to your children and the children in your lives.  

3. Avoid offering compliments that focus simply on looks rather than on achievements. Make the adolescent feel good for what he or she can do, rather than how he or she looks.

4. Banish teasing.  It is important to teach that teasing for any reason is an unacceptable way to behave. Don’t allow generalizations or labels to be made by your children or yourself.  Overweight doesn’t mean “lazy” and underweight doesn’t mean “healthy”.

5. Encourage children to advocate for themselves.  Empower children with verbal skills to combat teasing.  Teach children how to handle responses regarding their weight or size.

6. Show kindness, affection, and unconditional love. Eating disorders may develop, because adolescents think that it will make them more attractive and therefore more loved.  Teach them that love has nothing to do with how they look. Teach them that your love is there for them regardless.

7. It is what is on the inside that counts and not what we see on the outside. Work with children to place importance on what a person is and not on what a person appears to be.  Teach them to focus on important qualities, such as compassion, honesty, devotion, and leadership.  True self-worth can never be measured with a scale.

8. Watch the pitch. Media perpetuates a certain type of image that is associated with fame and fortune.  Often times what we see is not real.  Teach children that media uses a wide variety of tools to make something appear real that often times isn’t.  

9. Listen to them.  Hear what your children have to say.  Don’t dismiss comments like “I am so fat.” or “Why can’t I look like them?”  Use those statements to initiate dialogue between you and the child about healthy eating and physical activity.

10. Offer a variety of healthy foods and physical activity.  Focus on health and not on diets.  Focus on being active and not winning or losing.  Work to generate a healthy lifestyle that will benefit them for a lifetime.  Health is more than weight.  We should strive to arm or children and ourselves with behaviors, that make us healthier and not simply thinner.

Recipe of the Week

Finger-Lickin’ Chicken Salad

1/2 cup cubed roasted boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 stalk celery, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup drained mandarin orange segments

1/4 cup red seedless grapes

2 tablespoons lemons sugar-free fat-free yogurt

1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or ground cinnamon

 Toss together chicken celery, orages and grapes in small bowl.  Combine yogurt, mayonnaise, soy sauce and pumpkin pie spice in another small bowl.

To serve, dip chicken mixture into dipping sauce.

Makes 1 serving

 Nutrients per Serving: 1 salad

Recipe Source: Taste of Home’s Diabetic Cookbook 2007

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