URBANA, Ill. – Could the quality of your attachment to your parents affect your own child’s risk for obesity? A new University of Illinois study says it can.
“If your mother regularly punished or dismissed your anger, anxiety, or sadness instead of being sensitive to your distress and giving you strategies for handling those feelings, you may be insecurely attached and parenting your children in the same way. A child who doesn’t learn to regulate his emotions may in turn develop eating patterns that put him at risk for obesity,” said Kelly Bost, a U of I professor of human development and family studies.
The U of I study documents the association between a parent’s insecure attachment and their child’s consumption of unhealthy foods, leading to weight gain, she said.
“We wanted to discover the steps that connect attachment and obesity. Scientists know that a person’s attachment style is consistently related to the way he responds to negative emotions, and we thought that response might be related to three practices that we know are related to obesity: emotion-related feeding styles, including feeding to comfort or soothe; mealtime routine; and television viewing,” she said.
According to Bost, children form secure attachments when their caregiver is available and responsive. That attachment gives the child a secure base to explore his environment, protection in times of distress or uncertainty, and a source of joy in everyday interactions.
When that secure base isn’t there, an insecure attachment can result, and children who are insecurely attached often experience feelings of anxiety and uncertainty in close relationships. As adults, they are especially at risk for ineffective parenting surrounding some of the factors that are implicated in pediatric obesity, she said.
In the study, 497 primary caregivers of 2½- to 3½-year-old children completed a widely used questionnaire to determine adult attachment, answering 32 questions about the nature of their close relationships. They also rated themselves on a scale that measured depression and anxiety.
Parents then responded to questions about how they handled their children’s negative emotions; whether they engaged in emotion-related, pressuring feeding styles known to predict obesity; frequency, planning of, and communication during family mealtimes; and estimated hours of television viewing per day.
The families are part of the university’s STRONG (Synergistic Theory and Research on Obesity and Nutrition Group) Kids program, a cells-to-society approach to the study of childhood obesity. The children are enrolled full-time in 32 child-care centers.
“The study found that insecure parents were significantly more likely to respond to their children’s distress by becoming distressed themselves or dismissing their child’s emotion. For example, if a child went to a birthday party and was upset because of a friend’s comment there, a dismissive parent might tell the child not to be sad, to forget about it. Or the parent might even say: Stop crying and acting like a baby or you’re never going over again,” she said.
That pattern of punishing or dismissing a child’s sad or angry emotions was significantly related not only to comfort feeding but also to fewer family mealtimes and more TV viewing, which led to children’s unhealthy eating, including self-reported sugary drinks, fast foods, and salty snacks, Bost said.
“One explanation might be that insecure moms are more easily overwhelmed with stress, find it more difficult to organize family mealtimes, and allow their children to watch more television as a coping strategy,” she suggested.
The study’s findings provide valuable information for health professionals who are working with parents and children, she noted.
“Clinicians can help address children’s obesity by giving parents practical strategies to help kids deal with negative emotions like anger, sadness, and boredom. That means helping them describe what they’re feeling and working on problem-solving strategies with them,” she said.
Also, telling a child to “clean your plate” or “eat just three more bites and you can have dessert” sends the wrong message, she said.
“In fighting childhood obesity, one of the most important lessons we can teach children is to eat when they’re hungry and recognize when they’re full. We want to encourage children to respond to their internal cues and encourage parents not to promote eating under stress or eating to soothe,” she added.
It’s also useful to give busy working parents practical plans for establishing a routine for mealtime planning, she said.
“Associations Between Adult Attachment Style, Emotion Regulation, and Preschool Children’s Food Consumption” is available online in the January 2014 issue of the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. Co-authors are the U of I’s Angela Wiley, Barbara Fiese, Brent McBride, and its STRONG Kids team as well as Amber Hammons of Fresno State University, formerly a U of I postdoctoral researcher.
This research was funded in part by grants from the Illinois Council for Agricultural Research (C-FAR) to Kristin Harrison (principal investigator) and the University of Illinois Health and Wellness Initiative. The project was also supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch projects to K. Bost (Project #ILLU-793-343), A. Wiley (Project #ILLU-793-321-0205791), and B. Fiese (Project #ILLU-793-328). The STRONG Kids team includes Kristen Harrison, Kelly Bost, Brent McBride, Sharon Donovan, Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, Juhee Kim, Janet Liechty, Angela Wiley, Margarita Teran-Garcia, and Barbara Fiese.
Unique dining experiences highlight Spice Box season
URBANA, Ill. – University of Illinois hospitality management students and guest chefs from around the country will be offering food and restaurant concepts often not experienced in central Illinois during the Spice Box’s 2014 season.
The 18 nights of unique dining experiences kick off on Friday, Feb. 7, with a nod to sports fans as student manager Kathleen Hudson puts together The Clubhouse – A Sports Bar–Inspired Menu. Guest chefs Sarah Herberger and Phil Stubstad from Wildfire Restaurants in the Chicago area will team up with Hudson for the Spice Box’s 2014 debut.
“Our students benefit from working side by side with successful and talented industry professionals in managing a restaurant,” said Jill Craft, instructor of the Spice Box course, Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN) 443. “They also experience managing a team of fellow students who make up their staff.”
A longstanding fixture on the U of I campus, the Spice Box, located on the second floor of Bevier Hall, is a working laboratory for students majoring in hospitality management in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.
“The broad spectrum of menus and themes offers diners a new fine-dining experience with each meal,” Craft said. These themes include: It’s Amore: Italian-Inspired Cuisine, Into the North: Cuisine from the Northwoods, Backyard BBQ, Greek, and more, which can be enjoyed on Wednesday and Friday evenings throughout the semester.
A complete list of the dates of the meals, meal themes, and guest chefs is available on the Spice Box website at www.spicebox.illinois.edu. Full menus will be posted there as they become available. Interested persons can also be placed on an e-mail list that will keep them informed about upcoming offerings by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each dining event offers either a four-course meal, including salad, appetizer, featured entrée, and dessert, or a two-course salad and entree combination. A specialty alcoholic beverage and a regular wine list are also offered. Price varies according to menu, and the meals are available by reservation only. Reservations are available at 5, 5:30, 6, 6:30, 7, and 7:30 p.m.
To reserve seating for any of these fine dining experiences, call (217) 333-6520.
Students interested in the U of I find their place at ExplorACES
URBANA, Ill. – ExplorACES at the University of Illinois on March 14 and 15 will spotlight the wide-ranging opportunities in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). The two-day student-run event is designed to help students who are interested in attending U of I learn more about what ACES has to offer.
Prospective and admitted students can learn more about ACES faculty, academic offerings, and the myriad of student organizations. More than 125 exhibits showcase academics, research, and student development. Students can also find out more about study-abroad programs, how to apply for nearly $2 million in scholarships, and where a degree in ACES may lead in the job market.
“ExplorACES is the ultimate opportunity to learn more about the college, especially if you are a soon-to-be high school graduate or transfer student interested in finishing a bachelor’s degree,” said Jason Emmert, ACES assistant dean of academic programs.
Although prospective and admitted students are the target audience for ExplorACES, parents are also encouraged to attend.
“Deciding where to attend college is one of the most important decisions students will ever make, and it is incredibly helpful for prospective students and parents to see the campus, talk to faculty and staff, and perhaps, most important, connect with current ACES students,” Emmert said.
Many current students themselves attended ExplorACES during high school to learn what ACES offers.
“ExplorACES gave me hands-on experiences in all of the ACES departments while also letting me meet professors and current students,” said ACES sophomore Kendall Herren. “The endless opportunities in ACES, including research, internships, and study-abroad trips, are inspirational.”
More than 2,000 students will attend ExplorACES on Friday, March 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday, March 15, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. A reception for admitted students at the Student Dining and Residential Programs Building will complete Saturday’s events.
Free parking and a free shuttle service to the ACES campus are provided at parking lot E-14, just west of the Assembly Hall.
For more information, connect with ExplorACES on Facebook or Twitter or visit www.exploraces.org.
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Morgan Moon, Nutritional Sciences Graduate Student
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500 Seminar: ACES Library
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