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Jun 21

Do Bossy Moms Mean Heavy Kids?


By Annie Hauser, Senior Editor THURSDAY, Feb. 2, 2012 — “You’ll like it. Just try it. Eat!” These phrases probably sound familiar to any parent who’s tried to cajole their kids into taking a few extra bites of food. And though they’re uttered with the best of intentions, this kind of mealtime pushiness can result in real weight gain, a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports.

In the study, researchers at the University of Michigan brought 1,218 moms and their kids to a university lab for snack-time observation when the child was 15 months, 2 years, and 3 years old. Researchers found that when parents were overly intrusive during snack time, the kids were heavier — though not significantly so — by age 3. For example, the study found that a child with a pushy parent might move from the 50th percentile on the body mass index scale to the 57th — noticeable, but not an unhealthy weight gain.

Although it’s not necessarily certain that the pushiness of the parents alone led to the excess weight, experts suggest that the findings mean parents should take a relaxed approach to their child’s eating. The best course of action is to present the child with healthy options, and then back off when it comes to how much the child eats, they say. The thought is that overly encouraging parents can actually override the kid’s satiety signals — limiting the child’s brain’s ability to tell when they feel full.

Lower-income and minority children have a greater risk of obesity than white, affluent children, the study authors note, and these parents have been shown to be more likely to push toddlers to eat at meal times. Still, more research needs to be done to ascertain the link between parental behavior and childhood obesity. The same team of researchers is now starting a study where they will have participants videotape typical meals at home to see whether parent-child interactions in the home are related to weight.

For more fitness, diet, and weight loss news, follow @weightloss on Twitter from the editors of @EverydayHealth.

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