Children’s Cravings

Dear Sharon,

Our children seem to be pretty healthy. We are not a family who thrives on fast food, and we make an effort to eat well. However, one of our children, our middle son, is overweight and seemingly unable to control his appetite. He CRAVES food, and is out of control about it. He hides candy and takes more food at every meal than he should. His portions are twice that of ours. What can we do about it? We want to raise three healthy children.

Dear Parent,

Your question is a very common one – almost all parents have concerns about their children’s eating habits.

Sometimes outside healthcare professionals who are experienced with children and nutrition can be helpful in talking to families about diet. If you haven’t done so already, it would be a good idea to consult a physician for an objective opinion about your son’s weight, a review of possible physical causes for his demanding appetite and a relaxed perspective about diet that you and your son might appreciate. If the physi cian proves to be helpful; regular check-ins might be in order.

One other piece of advice I can offer is to try and take the tension out of discussions you have with your child about diet. Of course this is much easier said than done! If you have issues about your own diet, it can make it even harder to be relaxed. Many parents I know feel anxious or upset when they try to talk about diet with their child. Repeated tension can make it difficult to work out reasonable solutions.

If your worries about your son have produced a tense tone in your voice when you try to address the topic with him you might try the following. For a period of time, perhaps a week, remove all tension about eating from your family dynamic. If you find some hidden candy, – you can talk to him about it but only in a playful or loving voice. When he takes more food than he should at the table take a deep breath and do the same. A loving comment that helps him relax or laugh can lighten up the issue and make it easier to talk about. If it is not possible to be relaxed then hold your tongue and just let these incidents happen without comment.

This “perfect” relaxed week is primarily to give you the opportunity to be creative. This relaxed and easy going approach is probably unrealistic over the long term but taking a week to try out some fresh approaches might help you think of all kinds of interesting things that might be productive ways to help your child.

My best wishes as you tackle a complicated but important question; feel free to write back and let me know how things go.