Tips from Dr. Christine Theiss: How can I protect my child from being overweight?
FIT FOR FUN: How did you come up with the idea of “The Biggest Loser – Family Power Couples”?
Dr. Christine Theiss: For two reasons. There are more and more children and teenagers who are overweight. You have to attack early with the countermeasures. In my eyes even much earlier than when I was a teenager, but then in my eyes this is no longer an area that should take place in front of cameras.
On the other hand, it has been shown time and again in recent years that problems with obesity began for many people in their youth and / or when they lived together with their parents. Therefore it was actually only the right consequence to bring this age, but also the common constellation to “The Biggest Loser” camp.
Why is the number of overweight children increasing and what are the dangerous consequences of this?
Food is always and everywhere available, at the same time movement is decreasing more and more. I also have the impression that the parents’ generation is losing their knowledge of how to cook healthily and without problems.
Obesity is often a family issue: How does the wrong diet and lifestyle as a child also affect later adulthood?
Fatal. People who were already overweight as a child have little chance of a “normal” life, because the body always wants to return to its original weight, even if weight loss has been successful. In addition, many young adults now have type 2 diabetes mellitus and joint problems.
Not to mention the exclusions that overweight young people have to experience. Be it because society marginalizes them or they do it of their own accord, because they no longer feel comfortable in their own skin or can no longer keep up physically.
How do parents’ preferences for food and body image possibly affect the child?
It starts with the unborn or infant. The taste of what the mother eats is transferred via the placenta and later breast milk. The next step is the administered baby food. According to one study, the first 1000 days of a child’s life are a crucial phase in which they are shaped.
How can parents teach their children a healthy lifestyle?
Parents set an example for their children and encourage them to participate in a positive way. But mostly past life is enough and the small children automatically want to emulate their parents, but then we have to let them too. It’s more cumbersome, but pays off in the future.
But it’s not just about being overweight: underweight babies and teenagers can also become a serious health problem – what causes and consequences do you see here?
I think you have to make a clear distinction. If it is a child who has always been on the lower percentile of his weight and is continuously increasing in this area, then everything is usually fine and simply different from each other. If an infant fails to thrive, however, metabolic or other diseases must of course be ruled out. The situation is different if a child suddenly begins to lose weight, withdraws or shows other behavioral changes.
The environment has to prick up its ears. The changed eating behavior, as is also the case with overweight, is often only a symptom of a much deeper problem of various kinds. I have often made the experience that the separation of parents is an important role in the development of problematic eating behavior, but unfortunately also sexual abuse. An area where society still looks the other way too often.
What can parents do if their child only wants to eat certain foods and has a very one-sided diet?
I am not an expert in this area and can therefore only give my personal opinion. It depends on the age. With a younger child, I would persistently put varied dishes on the table and enjoy them myself. Don’t force the child into anything, you just block solutions. I would also encourage them to lend a hand, that is, to shop or choose and cook for themselves.
With older children I would stay calm, because the body often reports on its own. If there is suddenly no more pleasure in eating, then it makes sense to investigate more closely whether more serious problems are the real background.
How should I behave if my child wants to eat a vegetarian or even vegan diet – is the latter not too one-sided, especially in the growth phase?
I would personally support my child in this. Try out recipes together and buy the basic groceries. Especially with the last-mentioned form of nutrition, knowledge is required in order not to become too one-sided. But knowledge can be acquired and it’s more fun together. In no case should you go into confrontation.
What are absolute no-gos parents should avoid to prevent their children from developing unhealthy relationships with food and their bodies?
We still give our children sweets to comfort them. Why? When a child falls on their knee, they are in pain and not have food cravings. This eating equals consolation behavior pattern is established very early on. I also don’t believe in sweets as a reward or when food is served on the side, such as nibbling in front of the TV or to calm a child.
What do you think of bans on eating – be it snacks, sweets or certain foods that are poorly digestible?
In principle, I do not believe in bans for people of normal weight, unless there is actually a food intolerance. As so often in life, the dose makes the poison. In addition, one should look around for healthier alternatives, for example switch to various types of tea instead of drinking energy drinks.
How can parents deal with it when their children eat frustration, for example?
Find out the cause of the frustration and, if possible, even eliminate it. They also look for other solutions together, for example hitting a sandbag or going to the football field. Eating should always be for food intake and enjoyment, but not for solving problems.
How can parents recognize in good time that their children are developing an eating disorder and are acting correctly?
I am not a psychiatrist or a psychologist. So here too I can only give personal advice. Parents should pay attention if the child suddenly changes their behavior, if they marginalize themselves, if they stop enjoying things and only eat food with reluctance or greed. If the child begins to mask their actual body measurements with clothing, the alarm bells should ring. I can only recommend that you seek professional advice in good time if you have any doubts. If it was a false positive, it’s only good.
In your opinion, what role do media-conveyed body images and nutritional trends play for children and adolescents?
I personally believe that these play a very important role. The body images conveyed in particular are very problematic. On Instagram you can only find perfect bodies and faces that have been processed with filters. But the whole thing starts much earlier. We just have to look at the magazines for young girls.
The girls drawn there practically all have anorectic body measurements, big googly eyes, pouty lips. It starts so early and that is why it is the task of us parents to give our children self-confidence and we have to offer them the opportunity to define themselves through something other than pure externality. Exercise is a good tool and much more than just a way to stay slim.
What strategies would you recommend to include children directly in the diet and introduce them to cooking in a fun way?
Children are naturally curious, so let’s allow that curiosity. Yes, it’s annoying when the kitchen looks like a bomb has hit afterwards. Yes, children don’t have to stick to prescriptions. So what? Let them experiment. In addition, there are now many great cookbooks for children with simple recipes in which they can carry out most of the steps themselves. My five-year-old daughter often helps with cooking. If there is something special that might endanger the result, then she can conjure up something of her own at the same time, with which she can let her imagination run wild.
Should children compulsorily participate in a sport? What types of exercise do you recommend?
I mean yes. But it is important that you find the right sporting activity for you. With children it is often not so much the sport that matters, but whether they feel comfortable in the environment. The focus should not be on success, but on having fun and learning social skills such as team spirit, discipline, dealing with defeats, but also victories. It doesn’t matter which sport is the right one for a child in the end. We should give them the time to find the right lid for the pot.
“The Biggest Loser – Family Power Couples” – from August 30, 2021 every Monday at 8:15 pm on SAT.1.
Dr. Christine Theiss studied human medicine at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich from 2001 and graduated in 2007 with the state examination and medical license. At the end of 2008, she defended her doctorate.
In addition, Dr. Theiss professional kickboxer in full contact and completed 40 professional fights (40/38/1/1). She won 23 out of 24 world championship fights. At the end of 2013, she resigned from her competitive sport as the reigning world champion.
Christine Theiss has been the host of the TV show “The Biggest Loser” in front of the camera since 2012, where she advises and looks after overweight candidates on their way to weight loss.
In addition, she has been a member of the federal board of the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund eV since 2014, and has been its deputy chairwoman since 2018. In her free time, she works as a trainer and dog handler in a rescue dog team.