I was at our local chain grocery store this afternoon. Walking down the frozen section, I saw a middle-aged grandmother with her 4 or 5 year old granddaughter. They each had their own carts, the little girl’s a miniature version of an adult cart. We crossed each other at the ice cream section. The little girl was looking at the large assortment of treats in the freezer-chest window. She looked at something that struck her fancy and said to her granny: “Oh, yum, that looks really good Granny”. Her next words, however, stunned both her grandmother and me. She said, “We’ve got to look at the calories!”.
Her grandmother was aghast and clearly discombobulated. “Who told you such a thing?”, she stammered at her granddaughter. “Mommy”, the little girl said. Grandma tried to put a better spin on it by saying, “Well, I’m sure what Mommy meant was that we should read the labels to make sure there are only good things in the food we buy”. But it was too little, too late. We both new what Mommy had said, and it wasn’t about nutrition, it was about calories.
This phenomenon of adults transferring their food obsessions to their very young children has been extensively documented and criticized. It is particularly disturbing because we know that the externalization of control away from the individual’s intuitive sense of what and how much to eat, is a central problem in obesity control. In other words, relying on a label, diet, system, program, method, etc., to control how much you eat is precisely the way to get fat fast.
And as well intended as it might be, it is so irresponsible and destructive to be pushing our obsessions on our young kids.