Advice From YidParenting

By Rabbi Yitzie Ross

Note: I answered last week’s question about weight from a parenting perspective. Since then, I received many e‑mails requesting more information from a professional. So I sent the same question to Dr. Rachael E. Schindler, a noted psychologist, nutrition counselor, and fitness instructor. Her response appears below.

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Thank you for bringing up this important issue. While I agree with the points Rabbi Ross brought up last week, I would also emphasize that, in my practice, I have found that there are two categories of young snackers. One is the “hungry group,” generally having a sugar issue (either hereditary or because they eat too much sugar already), so they always feel like they are starving. The other group is those kids who are bored and eat simply because there’s just too much junk food in the house that they can grab, so why not?

The difference in handling these categories is that the first can be controlled by eating healthier and less-sugared foods. The other requires a greater measure of self-control, discipline, and/or distraction. Part of the confounding factors are “treats” in school and at “Shabbos party.” They are not so easy to get around, since “everyone” enjoys them and you don’t want to be left out, or not have the best snack!

In my practice, I like to differentiate as to whether there is a biological tendency to overeat, and therefore store fat in excess, or if the problem stems from emotional or biochemical issues. Either way, it is important to model the same message for the entire family. Don’t give the child who is a little heavier different food than everyone else. You may think that it’s not fair to the other kids, or that maybe one of your kids even needs to gain weight. However, we are looking towards improving our habits and lifestyle. It’s better to be consistent across the board, with the entire family, so that this doesn’t come across as a “diet.”

Additionally, make sure gym classes or exercise is part of your child’s routine, perhaps even doing it together from a video. Both of you will bond and be healthier.

I also advise to read books like Eat This, Not That, where a child is able to see examples of smart choices in picture format. To illustrate, instead of eating four small cookies, he can have five medium-sized apples. It’s very powerful and helps them choose wisely when they see the comparisons.

One last tip: If it’s too hard on your relationship with your child and is having a negative impact, then I recommend seeing a professional, such as a nutritionist. For long-term results, I would suggest not limiting yourself to those that list foods that you can or can’t have or who stress measuring. Rather, the best approach is to combine medical know-how, psychology, sound nutrition, and exercise all in one.

Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly e‑mails and read the comments, you can visit www.yidparenting.com.

Rachael E. Schindler, PhD, is the founder of The Five Towns Diet home-delivery plan and an in-house nutrition expert at Life Clubs in Lawrence. Dr. Schindler specializes in fitness, food, stomach problems, and hormonal and behavioral issues in children and adults. She can be contacted at Teichbergr@aol.com or 917-690-5097.

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