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Monday, June 05, 2006

Study: Mean, Maniacal Mom Made You Fat


New research suggests an overbearing mother can lead to obesity

Just when I think I've heard every imaginable reason why obesity exists in our society, along comes a story like this one from the Washington Post which claims a new study has found moms who are considered extremely strict in their parenting style can actually cause their children to become overweight or obese.

Before I get into the details of this study, can I just call a quick timeout? Say what? Is this story a couple of months late for the April Fool's Day edition? This story certainly takes the cake in my opinion for being the most insane reason ever for obesity. Before I rush to judgment, though, let's see what this is REALLY all about.


Dr. Rhee says kids need a nurturing mom to learn healthy habits

Lead researcher Dr. Kay Rhee, Fellow in General Pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine, observed 872 children (11.1 percent of the children who were already overweight and 82.8 percent of them were Caucasian) to determine the effect that four distinct parenting styles had on the weight of first-graders.

The parenting techniques Dr. Rhee observed fell into one of four categories:

1. Authoritative ("It's my way or the highway because I'm your Queen!")
2. Authoritarian ("Here are the rules that I expect you to obey!")
3. Permissive ("Yes, you can have whatever you want!")
4. Neglectful ("Who gives a flying rip about my kid?!")

Dr. Rhee poured over information from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development to see how much the children weighed and how tall they were in the first grade. For the sake of this study, overweight was defined as having a body mass index (BMI) in the 95th percentile.

Various home environment factors were taken into effect regarding the parenting styles, including the mother's sensitivity to their child as well as what the mother expected to keep their child under control. Obviously, factors such as gender, race, maternal education, income/needs ratio, marital status, and child behavior problems were included in the analysis of each individual study participant family.

The results of the study showed that children who had an Authoritarian mother were five times more likely (17%) to become overweight compared with the Authoritative mothers (3.9%). Meanwhile, the children of the Permissive mothers (9.8%) and Neglectful mothers (9.9%) were found to be more than TWICE as likely to be overweight compared with the children of Authoritative mothers. Dr. Rhee said income/needs ratio was a significant factor in the study, but noted that it did not change the risk associated with the respective parenting styles on the child's resulting propensity for becoming overweight.

This study appeared in the June 2006 issue of Pediatrics.

Dr. Rhee described the results of her study as "pretty striking" and noted that parents should learn to be more nurturing with a kind and loving attitude towards their children so they will grow up to make better choices for themselves regarding a healthy lifestyle. She extrapolated from the results of her study that unnecessary stress in a family can lead children to eat to cover up their emotional pain and to escape from the reality of life.

OUCH! That's a hard pill to swallow for some parents to read and I suppose it does have some validity to it. If mom is in a crabby mood all the time barking out orders like a drill sergeant, then you will want to do anything that will take you away from mom. Maybe little Johnny grabs the entire package of Oreo cookies and takes them up to his bedroom, shuts the door, plays video games, and totally pigs out on the cookies in his haste to get away from mean maniacal mommy! It could happen.

Furthermore, if mom let's me have whatever I want or just plain ignores me, then who's gonna stop five-year-old Suzie from eating a whole gallon of ice cream in one sitting? Hmmm? This makes good common sense when you think about it.

Nevertheless, what I don't like about this study is that it gives people yet another excuse for being overweight or obese as an adult. I can hear them now: "See, it's all because my momma was so strict on me as a kid that I'm a big fat slob today. I knew I was destined to be overweight forever and this study proves it."

UGH UGH UGH! If that's what you believe, then I hate to burst your bubble. But that's a big fat cop-out, my friend. Don't fault your mom for your obesity problem. Sure, our childhood can have an impact on who we become as adults shaping our decisions based on the various experiences we have gone through. And some of us have been through circumstances that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

However, there does come a time when you have to grow up, stop blaming everyone else for your problems, and learn to take full responsibility for bettering yourself in those areas of your life that you have fallen short. That includes tackling your obesity and getting it under control once and for all.

I will admit that I had a very hard time transitioning from my teenage years under a very dominant authoritarian father who stripped me of all my self-worth, oftentimes telling me I was a mistake to be born, a worthless human being who would not amount to anything as an adult, and mentally abusing and berating me for the smallest mistakes I made. That living Hell I went through took me over a decade to finally get over and is likely why it took me so long to get my weight under control.

Even still, I'm not making excuses for myself. I was morbidly obese and it was MY decision to eat all those fast food meals, sugary sweets and other high-carb foods that ballooned me up to 410 pounds. Thankfully I was able to start livin' la vida low-carb on January 1, 2004 and now my life will never be the same again. My life is different now at the age of 34 than it was at 17 and I am a better man today because of all that I went through.

Interesting, Dr. Rhee said there were not enough fathers to participate in the study to see what effect their parenting style had on their children's weight. Could it be that there are a bunch of single moms out there trying to play the role of both parents? Where were the daddys? Additionally, since the vast majority of the participants were Caucasian, she said it is unclear if her conclusions would apply to every race. Me thinks this is a problem that transcends all people groups regardless of their skin color.

Looking at the results of her study, Dr. Rhee said she hopes this will help parents realize how they raise their kids can make a profound impact on every area of their life.

"Understanding the mechanisms through which parenting styles are associated with overweight risk may lead to the development of more-comprehensive and better-targeted interventions," the study concluded.

I can see it now -- the government announces a new national "Be Nice To Your Kid" campaign to help lower the childhood obesity rates. Don't laugh because I wouldn't put it past these jokers in Washington to do this! While I can certainly appreciate what this study found and earnestly believe it can help educate mothers about the amazing impact they have on their kids, this really shouldn't be blown out of proportion and lead to greater government intrusion into family life. That role still belongs to the man and woman who conceived that child to raise him or her to the best of their ability.

At the end of the day, mom and dad will be the ones who will have to stand before God and give an account for how they raised that precious gift they were given. Above all, no matter how rotten or wonderful your parents were to you as a kid, it's time to stop blaming them for your weight problem. Take matters into your own hands and overcome your obesity on your own. Cut the cord with your past and move forward into the future with a new perspective on life. Believe me, it'll be the best thing you will ever do for yourself -- it certainly was for me!

You can contact Dr. Kay Rhee about her study at kayrhee@bu.edu.

2 Comments:

Blogger Newbirth said...

I think it has to do with those kids in the study with the overly dominant or permission mothers who learn poor food choices (for example, eating all the Oreos) carry those poor food choices into adulthood. So that even as an adult, you find yourself doing what you always did (making poor food choices).

However, these CHOICES - and they are choices - can be altered by making different choices to eat healthy and reclaim their lives. In the end, as adults we are responsible for our own health and what we put in our mouths.

6/05/2006 10:18 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Several studies have shown that babies of mothers that make poor food choices during pregnancy have a much greater chance of being born obese. That's why we, these days, see children being born with full blown diabetes. But even if these children are lucky enough not to be born overweight, they still have a significantly greater chance of becoming obese later in life - plus a much lower life expectancy. In fact, even before conception and especially during pregnancy the food choices made and the resulting macronutrient ratios will influence the unborn child in a big way.

6/07/2006 1:09 AM  

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