Childhood Obesity vs. Diet Culture: The Sugarbreak Take

Finding a balance between addressing the issue of childhood obesity and not contributing to problematic diet culture is the sweet spot for the doctors at Sugarbreak. Our mission is to encourage healthy eating habits in tandem with healthy blood sugar management. Why? Because we support children’s overall health and wellness rather than claiming a child should weigh a certain amount on a scale. 

We sat down with pediatric advisor and Sugarbreak medical expert Dr. Kyle Monk to discuss the issue and how Sugarbreak can better equip parents with the tools and knowledge they need to make informed choices to do what they believe is best for their child. 

  • Why is childhood obesity a health concern, especially in the US?

Childhood obesity in the US is a major health concern as studies have shown links between childhood obesity and developing obesity in adulthood. Over the past decades, the prevalence of obesity in the US continues to rise in children. The concern is that obesity can contribute to the development of multiple chronic health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers. Not only do these conditions negatively affect one's health, but they can have negative impacts on one's quality of life. If childhood obesity is addressed early on, many of these conditions are preventable.

  • How can certain social determinants of health, such as access to fresh foods versus processed foods, make preventing childhood obesity a challenge?

Social determinants of health play a major role in preventing childhood obesity. When there are barriers to accessing healthy food options, children and their families might turn to easy—and often less healthy—food options. Typically, foods that are more easily accessible and cheaper are processed foods which have many added sugars and sodium, which over time can contribute to high blood glucose levels and high blood pressure. 

Sadly, fresh fruits and vegetables are generally more expensive than quick and convenient processed foods. And if families have limited resources, they may not be able to prioritize the healthier options. Not only do processed foods have extra sugars, salts, and additives, but they do not always provide other nutrients and vitamins which support and sustain overall health. 

  • How can obesity impact a child’s quality of life?

Obesity can have a huge impact on a child's quality of life. Not only does obesity contribute to immediate health consequences, but there are multiple long term complications that many children are now at increased risk of developing. Obese children may experience less physical endurance, sleep apnea issues, bone and joint diseases, liver disease and low self-esteem. Over years, these can develop into more chronic conditions that greatly impact one's overall health and quality of life.

  • As a doctor, what are your thoughts on the popularization of diet culture and its intersection with health?

Diet culture can be unhealthy for so many reasons. Not only does it glamourize a certain image as healthy and promote unrealistic body images, but it encourages often unhealthy and non-sustainable eating habits. Diet culture will often promote quick fixes for obesity and weight loss solutions, but does emphasize the importance of proper and balanced nutrition coupled with overall healthy lifestyle habits. It places more value on overall body image and fitting a standard of beauty which can ultimately be harmful to self-esteem and promote a negative self image. 

  • How do we find a balance between addressing the issue of childhood obesity and actively not contributing to harmful diet culture?

Addressing childhood obesity is very important, but it is also important to do it in a way that stresses healthy nutritional and lifestyle habits as opposed to attaining a certain weight. Encouraging and praising children for healthy habits and positive lifestyle changes helps to shift the focus on overall health. I encourage parents to acknowledge these efforts their child makes. I advise against giving compliments on physical attributes which reinforces society's emphasis on a perfect body image, and instead give positive feedback on actions that promote overall good health. 

  • How can parents teach their kids to build healthy eating habits and relationships with all kinds of food (i.e. eating food in moderation; not labeling a food as “good” or “bad”; restricting themselves)? 

Children develop eating habits and their relationship with food early on, just by observing their parents. Parents can help their children build healthy eating habits by modeling good behaviors. Diversifying the diet and constantly offering different food types is important so that children do not label certain foods as healthy or others as reward foods. By doing so, it encourages children to eat in moderation, as opposed to overeating the reward type foods. 

Parents should also monitor what language they use around foods and how they restrict themselves, as children may start to pick up on these habits too. It is important to also limit processed foods and sugary snacks or beverages in the household. If they are not accessible, then there is less chance that children will incorporate these items into their diet.

  • Why is it important to build these habits & relationships early in children?

Because there is such a strong link between childhood obesity and adulthood obesity, it is important to establish healthy eating habits early in life. The health conditions that develop early on can have many long-term health complications that are preventable. If these healthy habits are established earlier in life, there is more likelihood that they continue healthy eating and living into adulthood.

  • Why is the Sugarbreak Kids line a good support system for parents to create healthier habits with their children and take a preventative and proactive approach against childhood obesity?

The Sugarbreak Kids line overall is a great support system to create healthier habits because it helps empower children and their families to have healthier lifestyles. It is natural, safe, and actually effective in curbing sugar cravings. Many children and their parents grow discouraged when not seeing results from healthy eating habits and exercise, and need a little extra boost to help reduce cravings and block the body's absorption of carbohydrates. 

The Sugarbreak line helps families feel like they are being more active in their healthy efforts, and do so in a way that does not promote overall weight loss, but instead focuses on overall health. Not only does Sugarbreak assist families with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but it is a preventative approach to reducing long term health complications that can be associated with childhood obesity. 

We know that it’s difficult for children to avoid the messages projected by diet culture on social media, but we also know that it’s important for us to promote a healthy lifestyle while not adding to the issue.

To get help managing your child’s blood levels and curb their sugar cravings, shop the Sugarbreak kids bundle here

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