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Dr. Katja Rowell: Finding healthy allies

Love Me, Feed Me!This is the fourth of a 5-part interview series with Dr. Katja Rowell whose consulting service, The Feeding Doctor, focuses on helping families learn about healthy, happy eating. Finding non-alarmist nutrition information for kids is a challenge and her commonsense, respectful approach has been a huge boon to me. Be sure to become a The Feeding Doctor fan on facebook and check out her new book, Love Me, Feed Me! now available at Amazon.

How can we find doctors who will be allies and not focus solely on our kids’ growth charts?

This is really tough. Ask around, go to the Health At Every Size website for a list of doctors who will focus on behavior and health. Doctors are notoriously biased against larger people (great article by Harriet Brown from Feed Me blog in the NYT recently) although diets are ineffective 85-95% of the time, doctors still recommend them. Is there any other treatment with a 90% failure rate, and a big chance of making things worse that would be recommended? Restricting a toddler is basically putting them on a diet. I know I was so frustrated when I was in practice and felt like I was nagging and cheerleading about weight loss and somehow I know I believed it was their fault if my patients didn’t lose weight or their kids kept gaining weight. it makes me sad that I didn’t question what the medical establishment was offering, even though I could see for myself that it didn’t work. In medical training, there was a whole area of science and data that I was never even exposed to. I truly believed that BMI, misery and death were linearly related. It’s a horrible disservice to patients, and I fear it’s getting worse rather than better with all the focus on obesity. Be educated as a parent (this is tough with such bad information coming from the health experts) and then be an advocate for your child. If a doctor ever told my child she was obese I would walk out and file a complaint. I also found a way to have a brief chat with my pediatrician when my daughter was young that I didn’t want to discuss her growth chart in front of her. If your school is measuring BMI, make them stop. Write to me-seriously- I will do what I can to intervene. There is NO PLACE for weighing kids anywhere but the doctor’s office.

Little girl eating watermelonWhat are some good resources for parents who want to learn healthy nutrition?

Child of Mine is awesome. There are appendices on nutrition. I just so firmly believe that the key to improving what kids eat is really knowing HOW to feed them. There are some good web resources out there. Raising Healthy Eaters seems pretty good. I just caution parents that if they hear a message about limiting, restricting or pushing “good ” foods on your kids that it can backfire. MyPyramid.gov is getting better in terms of snack ideas and general advice, but it still clings to BMI, calorie counts and restriction.

What are some good resources for kids who want to learn more about nutrition?

I honestly don’t know. There is so much garbage out there. Secrets has an appendix, and Ellyn Satter has some information online for age appropriate nutrition education. You can start with structure, the basic food groups, what foods do for our bodies, how they make us feel, but again watch out for the more typical messages of “limit fat grams” limit sweets etc. When you stress avoidance you set up that craving and unnatural interest in a food. Maybe find more of a biology text rather than nutrition? Let me know if you find anything and I’ll keep looking!

(Stay Tuned for the conclusion next week!)

difficult child

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