The Paleo Diet: Managing Overeating in Children

Often times, while searching the internet for new, interesting, and potentially credible pieces of nutritional information, I happen upon something that just really chaps my hide. When you’re passionate about something (which I’m sure is an idea that most of you are familiar with), it’s easy to get mad about all of the persistent misinformation that permeates the internet…. and TV for that matter…. on a daily basis.

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It never ceases to amaze me, how hard these so-called experts will work to try and formulate a new cure for an old problem, by doing everything EXCEPT for addressing the problem directly, and in a logical way. To illustrate my point here, I’m going to point you towards an article that I stumbled upon on ScienceDaily.com, entitled “New Approach To Management of Overeating in Children”, published December 7th, 2011.

Now, I can’t blame these “experts” for trying to find a solution for the growing numbers obese children in the country today…..it’s definitely a noble cause…. but is this just another misguided example of barking up the wrong tree?

Overeating, whether in children or adults, often takes place even in the absence of hunger, resulting in weight gain and obesity. Current methods to treat such overeating in youth focus on therapies that restrict what kids may eat, requiring them to track their food intake and engage in intensive exercise.

But for most children, such behavioral therapy techniques don’t work long term, according to Kerri Boutelle, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Boutelle and colleagues are developing new ways to treat overeating in children and adults.”

Okay, so tracking intake, and restricting what kids eat could be valuable tools, IF we restrict appropriate things. Obviously, I’m not talking about restricting fat, and when we’re talking about growing children, it’s silly to think about restricting calories too much, because calories are required for growth.

And no, behavioral techniques do not typically work for people with weight issues, and they’re certainly not going to work on children who often have no concern for their future health issues, being potentially caused by what they eat right now. They just want to eat what tastes good…. period.

Their study, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology this week, describes two new methods for reducing overeating. The overall aim of these studies is to improve responses to internal hunger and satiety cues and decrease physiological and psychological responses to foods in the environment. Basically, how do we learn to stop eating when we are no longer hungry?

The first treatment group, called appetite awareness training, trains children and parents to recognize, and appropriately respond to, hunger and satiety cues. The other treatment group, called cue exposure training, trains children and their parents to resist the food that is in front of them.”

So, recognizing and responding to hunger and satiety cues, and resisting the food that is in front of them, are the two proposed methods…. Oh please! This kind of thing really annoys me! It’s just more of the same old calorie restriction dogma.

The article goes on to blame easily available “high calorie foods”, and suggests that these children should be instructed on how to “ride out their cravings”. Ironically, people don’t have to “ride out” their cravings, and avoid calories, if they’re eating all the right foods, and none of the crap.

While the appetite awareness group focused on training the participants to regulate eating by focusing on internal cues of hunger and appetite, the cue exposure group trained the participants to tolerate cravings to reduce overeating.

The researchers assessed the impact of these two different eight-week treatments on body weight, overeating, binge eating and caloric intake in both the children and parents.

“While this was a pilot study, our initial results suggest that the ‘cue exposure’ approach might be very helpful in reduction of eating in the absence of hunger,” said Boutelle. She added that significant reduction in such overeating was found in the cue-exposure group, even six months post-treatment, though there was very little long-term impact on overeating in the appetite awareness group. There was only a small effect on body weight and no effect on reported calories eaten in either group; however, both approaches resulted in decreased binge eating in children and their parents.

“These findings are exciting because they offer a completely new paradigm for controlling overeating and binge eating,” Boutelle said. “By reducing overeating and binge eating, we hope to provide a new way of preventing weight gain and providing children with a sense of control over what they chose to eat. This is really important, because a loss of control can lead to depression and other psychiatric problems, and of course childhood obesity.”

Whether I believe it 100% or not, this reminds me of the famous Gary Taubes quote, “they’re not getting fat because they’re overeating, they’re overeating because they’re getting fat”.

The big question here, is where does the Paleo Diet come into play for managing overeating in children, and how is it a better option that what these people have to offer? Well, there are many reasons why people and children in this country today have problems with general health and obesity. The majority of these reasons relate to hormones, and how we either manipulate them for a positive outcome, or screw-up the whole natural balance of things through our diet. I’m not about to go into the biology or the biochemistry of the whole thing here, because there are plenty of books that do that, but suffice it to say that we’re not just talking about “calories”, or the ability to mentally control our craving here…. it’s just not that easy. Hormones like insulin, leptin, ghrelin, ASP, and several others all work together in a harmonious symphony inside of our bodies. If we eat the foods that we evolved over 2.5 million years to eat and thrive on, our hormones do precisely what they were designed to do. We get hungry when need food, and feel satisfied when we don’t. When we mess with the natural order of things, and eat massive amounts of refined carbohydrates, grains, and added sugars, like in the goods old S.A.D (Standard American Diet), our hormones fall out of whack, and suddenly the symphony just doesn’t sound right anymore. We pack on the pounds, and we get sick and depressed.

The point is that WE as parents, directly control what goes in a child’s mouth, and WHEN. If we keep a child surrounded by nothing but good, whole, real foods as we find within the Paleo diet lifestyle, then that’s precisely what they’ll eat. They won’t have any choice in the matter. Also when a child is USED to eating only good, whole, real foods, they’ll grow to like it, and automatically shun the standard American “food” nastiness that they will undoubtedly be exposed to over the course of the rest of their lives. It’s not about behavioral modifications, as much as LIFESTYLE modification. When people eat nutrient rich, calorie dense foods that fuel their bodies, and reinforce their health (like in the Paleo lifestyle), they don’t feel the need to be constantly snacking, and looking for more to eat. Plus, when a person isn’t riding the blood sugar roller coaster that is caused by the over consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, they generally tend to have a much more “tame” appetite. Instead of that painful “gnawing” in the stomach that many people experience between meals (which is caused by low-blood glucose levels), people with proper blood-sugar control can go all day without eating, and maybe just be mildly aware of the idea that it might be a good idea to eat at some point.

Don’t taunt or temp your kids with food they love, and then take it all away as some asinine lesson in self-control. Just provide them with a diet of real, unprocessed, nutrient dense food, and let them eat as much as they want. Their appetites will self regulate and mother nature will take care of the body-weight, and the health of your child, in the way that our bodies were designed to do. This stuff isn’t rocket-science, it’s just good evolutionary logic that managing overeating in children with proper Paleo diet style nutrition, is easily the best way to go.

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Have you found behavior modification to work for overeating or was it a total lifestyle change to the Paleo diet or other low carbohydrate plan that helped you lose weight? Pleease leave your comments below. And if you found this article useful or interesting, please click the ‘LIKE’ button below to share on Facebook and Twitter.

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Go to www.undergroundnutritionist.com, and download my 30-Day UN-Challenge eBook now……It’s a step-by-step guide to your personal health revolution.

Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

For more information please visit: www.undergroundnutritionist.com

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2 Responses to The Paleo Diet: Managing Overeating in Children

  1. Deb December 19, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Thanks for this article! We eat mostly Paleo here (partly due to food sensitivities in the kids to dairy and gluten, as it turns out, so Paleo has helped a lot!) and I’ve been fighting an ongoing battle with my children’s school about the food that’s served there, not just in the cafeteria but at parties all year round: pizza parties for lunch groups, cake for birthday parties, candy bars handed out (by the PE teacher to the winning team in PE is just one example, and I wish I were kidding!). I’ve seen parents sending and even BRINGING McDonald’s lunches to school for their children; one 1st-grader gets a daily burger and 32-ounce Coke with lunch and is off the wall all afternoon, not to mention nearly as heavy as my 4th-grader. :-(

    I’ll take any fuel I can find in my battle to keep other people from feeding my family “food-like products” in the name of special treats.

  2. what is paleo December 20, 2011 at 3:06 am

    Most of the peoples are prefer to have healthy and good diet plan. If you’re finding that the newest and greatest diet isn’t working for you or if you simply don’t have the time to measure out your portions and count calories, try out the Paleo way. It is best for you good health and keep you body with full of energy and increase you resistant power which help to you to prevent for diseases