Children, like adults, not only eat when they are hungry, but there are situations in which they can eat more than necessary without their body needing it. Although this is completely normal, and should not be a cause for immediate alarm, it is convenient for the child, from the beginning, to learn to detect these moments to control them, since, uncontrolled, they can be the first step on the road to obesity . What are those situations that cause children to overeat?
Young children, more or less between 2 and 5 years old, are developing their senses to the maximum, and are going through a stage in which, in addition to beginning to detect the different sensations that their body faces, they try to name them , define them.
As happens in adulthood, some sensations are difficult to understand, so children tend to relate or identify new sensations with those they already know. One of the first to be identified, since it is done unconsciously from birth, is hunger, which is why, in an unknown situation, it is easy for the child to use 'I'm hungry' to help.
In English, this is known as emotional eating, which we could translate as emotional pecking. Curiously, most adults think that emotional snacking is basically related to negative feelings such as stress (at exam time or before a sports championship, food can be the child's escape route), boredom (watching TV or on a rainy afternoon tucked at home, it is easy for the child to resort to food to avoid feeling that he is doing nothing) or sadness (problems with friends, change of city, health problems of a relative, it is difficult to identify this feeling in childhood and the tendency is to hide it behind food).
However, it is in childhood that these pecking habits are established in relation to positive feelings:
- Love / affection
Love –as well as heartbreak-, be it the first or the second, awaken feelings unknown until then and difficult to identify, which can lead to the consumption of sweets and chocolates.
- Parties and celebrations
At Christmas, birthdays, banquets ... it is not only adults who eat too much, children are also absorbed in food as a social event and can involuntarily eat excessively, especially when everything is succulent and appetizing dishes.
When an ice cream, a sweet or a celebration in a hamburger is offered to a child's achievement, it is easy for that connection to be established in his brain, causing the child to resort to emotional snacking as a reward to a job well done.
Unfortunately, emotional snacking does not usually lead to the consumption of fruits and vegetables, but of meals loaded with simple carbohydrates (sweets, industrial pastries, ice cream, smoothies ...) or saturated fats (hamburgers, batters, pizzas ...) so it is more It is recommended that the child be aware of these situations and avoid them as much as possible.
Additionally, and apart from these situations that make, as a general rule, that the child unconsciously overeats, there are others in which the child may eat too consciously:
- To please
Sometimes when the child knows that he has done something wrong, it is easy for him to try to please by finishing the whole plate and even asking for more food even if he does not need it. It is worth clarifying to the child, if we find ourselves in this situation, that we must eat only what is needed.
- Like invited
When a child goes to eat at the house of another or at the house of a relative, it may happen that, out of shame or wanting to please the person who has invited him, he eats more than he should. We must make sure that our children know how to say no when necessary, in a polite way, of course.
- When there is tension at home
In situations in which problems at home are evident (illnesses, separations ...) it is common for children, trying to go unnoticed and not cause problems for the adult, eat more than they need.
Interestingly, in many of the situations listed, especially those related to stress and sadness, it is easy for the opposite behavior to also manifest itself, in which the child refuses to eat Even if I'm hungry, nobody said this was easy!
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