In her article, “A Nurturing Relationship”, author Kindy R Peaslee has asserted that mothers should be aware of the extent of influence their eating habits and diet preferences have on their daughters. She proposed that by setting a good example, mothers can motivate their daughters to adopt good food habits. The author has explained that since a child’s first relationship is with the mother, it inculcates a lot of trust in the child. As a consequence, a mother has unparalleled impact on the child’s psychology, including self-image.
The author has recalled a summit entitled, “Mother-Daughter Role Modeling” where prominent personalities and experts shed more light on how the closeness of this relationship strengthens the influence of mothers. Through these examples she has tried to convey that attempting to control a child’s eating habits, or forcibly implementing a diet for them can be extremely dangerous. This can lead to two extreme responses from the child; they may rebel and consume junk food whenever there’s a chance, or they may stop eating at all on their own.
Peaslee has suggested that instead of monitoring a child’s habits and trying to forcibly change them, mothers should inculcate good eating and dietary habits themselves and set a good example for their daughters to follow. She has stressed that mothers are the most influential persons in their daughters’ early development and the standards they set with their own actions are perhaps the most enduring in the minds of daughters. She has backed her claim with the findings of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research. The Director of this research Lean Birch said, “Same-sex models are more likely to be imitated.
Mothers are more influential than fathers on their daughters”. Besides setting desirable benchmarks for their daughters, mothers are also encouraged to participate in activities with them. Peaslee cited Christina Economos from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, who said that the percentage of highly active girls was significantly higher when at least one parent provided physical activity support. The involvement of parents, particularly mothers is also stressed in other ways. Family meals provide a good opportunity for children to observe their parents and imitate their actions.
If such occasions occur regularly in a child’s early life, it forms the crux of their eating and dietary habits. Research has also proved that involving children in the preparation of meals improves their consciousness about food choices. Once again Peaslee has cited the example of Tamara Vitale and her daughters. The daughters recall that their mother showed them that vegetables could be cooked in lots of different ways that tasted good too, but never forced them to eat vegetables. She simply offered them good choices.
As a result, both daughters have healthy eating habits in their adult lives and are also passing on the same to their children. Peaslee has urged dietitians to “continue to live and teach a non-diet lifestyle and stop the dieting mentality”. She has acknowledged that daughters too can help their mothers improve their eating habits, hence improve their health. She has urged women to challenge stereotypes of desirable figures that are created by movies and TV shows and encouraged them to accept and love their own forms. She has said that every individual has to figure out the body weight that one is most comfortable with and can maintain.
Then good eating habits can help gradually attain this form and maintain it. One of her most compelling arguments is that we must be the change that we wish to see. This applies to mothers, daughters and even dietitians. Peaslee has repeatedly stressed that mothers must not mandate diets and workout plans to their daughters. They must not criticize their bodies or pressurize them to reduce body weight. Her suggested approach of setting the right example is a much more effective method and can be used not only to inculcate good eating habits; but can apply to all other aspects of child rearing.
The use of examples and research findings also lends more credibility to her argument. But the author seemed to have made some sweeping generalizations while asserting her arguments. She reiterates multiple times that mothers should control their own dietary habits and encourage their daughters to adopt routines and balance in the kinds of foods they eat. While this may be true for a vast majority of people, there are many other cases where at least some form and time duration of dieting is advisable. “Accept and talk about the fact that diets don’t work”, she claimed.
Interestingly, in the same section of the article she had highlighted that surveys show “more than 56% of U. S women are on diets”. Surely, not all of these women would have failed to achieve their desired weight adjustments. The proportion of obese persons in the total population is high in the United States as compared to most other countries of the world, with the exception of the United Kingdom and Australia. In the U. S, the prevalence of junk foods and convenience snacks is one major reason for this. High intake of sugar, which is non-essential in the human diet, is also leading to weight problems.
Conversely the constant bombardment of images on television and other mass media create unrealistic ideals for the perfect body and cause pressure among young adolescents. While parents can be the most influential in helping children, especially girls be comfortable with their own forms, corporations also have a duty to fulfill. In this day and age, when corporate social responsibility has become a buzz word, companies too should be pressurized to include more realistic examples in their campaigns. Some ideas can also be borrowed from other cultures to improve health standards in the U. S.
As an example consider the use of bicycles for travel. In urban China, the use of bicycles has become very extensive and often families can be seen riding around in groups in the evening. Similarly, the use of fruits and vegetables in meals as opposed to processed and packaged foods is also more common in other places. I agree with the assertions put forth by Peaslee. I would extend her idea of mothers setting good examples for their daughters, beyond diet and eating habits. Life is busy nowadays and most people find it difficult to spare time from work for family.
But parents, especially mothers must make every effort to spend as much time as possible with their children. The process of imitating and learning through observation starts from infancy in every child and these concepts start to solidify at an early age. So it appears that every effort should be made to develop good eating habits in early childhood. Above all parents must provide an environment for children; where they are not embarrassed of their forms. Encouragement to imitate healthy habits should be the aim, not pressure to create the same.