Why I'm Not Fat – It Is All Due To My Mum!

by DavalosMcCormack on February 11, 2010

My mum is a genius. She must have been. Years before anyone even talked about childhood obesity she had hit upon a foolproof method of helping me and my brothers and sisters avoid weight issues. She made us eat dinner together regularly, made sure we went to bed on time, and limited our television viewing.

Of course that last one wasn’t too hard because when I was growing up in Ireland and England there were only two or three TV stations you could watch and most of the time the shows that were on were rubbish.

However, on the other two points she was definitely ahead of her time. At least according to a new study in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics. Now, the new study doesn’t actually mention my mum by name (I checked, there’s no mention of Una in there at all) but it does say that preschool-aged children have a lower risk of obesity if they regularly engage in one or more of three specific behaviours. Those behaviours are:

  1. Eating dinner as a family
  2. Getting enough sleep
  3. Limiting the amount of time kids watch television during the week

The nice thing is that each individual behaviour reduces kids risk of obesity, but when combined they have an even greater impact.

Now, this shouldn’t be a big surprise as many previous studies have shown that eating dinner together as a family, even just a couple of times a week – can have big health benefits. For instance:

  • November 2004 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health showed that adolescents were less likely to have unhealthy eating habits, to be binge-eaters or have eating disorders if they had dinner with their parents on a regular basis.
  • May 2003 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that teenagers who eat dinner with their parents are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • 2007 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that, compared to teens that have frequent family dinners, those who rarely have family dinners are three-and-a-half times more likely to have abused prescription drugs or an illegal drug other than marijuana.

So this new study simply adds yet another layer to the existing evidence, that eating dinner as a family can have a wonderful impact on the kids health. Not just physical but also mental. And it adds a couple more factors to boost the impact of family dinners.

Shirley thinks it’s because when you are having dinner together regularly you get to know what is happening in your child’s life, how they are doing at school, who their friends are, who’s a jerk etc. It’s a continuous conversation rather than something that only happens when there’s a problem. Of course, sitting at the table with them also means you get to control what they eat – to some extent – so you can teach them good eating habits as well as good communication skills.

Now, Shirley hasn’t done a scientific study to verify this. But some things you really don’t need to study. They just make sense.

Right mum!

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