An Arab Mama's role: Key to feeding, key to weight loss

Published May 23rd, 2011 - 08:40 GMT
Mothers today pamper their children with food to compensate for busy lives or being a working Mum.
Mothers today pamper their children with food to compensate for busy lives or being a working Mum.

 It is usually the mother who provides the family food and organizes the shopping and cooking.  So the mother’s role is key. Childhood has changed. It is important to reflect on how childhood has changed. My generation was free to roam; we cycled far afield, caught tadpoles, made dens and bow and arrows in the woods. These days children do not have the same freedom to roam and enjoy as their parents did.  Many children lead solitary, sedentary, lonely childhoods in front of computer screens and have huge pressure from exam obsessed education systems. Generally parents are more anxious about their children’s safety and do not want to send their little ones out to roam the streets. Less exercise opportunity If children have less opportunity to get out and about and enjoy nature they will naturally have to eat less than the previous generation; and yet they are eating more.

The childhood of my youngest son is quite different to mine. He plays computer games with friends and expends less energy. He has had less freedom to roam as the world is certainly perceived as less safe. I try and let him cycle to the nearest shop to spend his pocket money but if he is a little late returning then I worry and want to get in my car and go and look for him. We have really had to think about his diet so that he won’t become overweight and his father makes time to spend with him taking him to tennis lessons. It is really important that you find a sport that your children enjoy and that they are encouraged to do their best and keep it up. This is important for the body, for fitness, for fun and for meeting other children and to give their brains a rest from studying.

Mothers’ changing role

With more women working, mothers naturally feel guilty on return from work having left the children all day and pamper them with food treats to avoid feeling guilty. It would be much healthier to spend time with the children playing games, reading stories and listening to them. If children have weight problems it is the mother who needs to talk and communicate with the child to help them sort out this situation; not because they are to blame but because the child needs the mother’s support to make the changes and move forward. It is often very difficult for a mother to accept that a child or family member has a weight problem; withholding food they ask for feels wrong. Generations living together This can make it more difficult for a mother to control what the children eat and older members of the family may want to spoil the child. This needs gentle education so that everyone is supportive of the child so that the child will have a healthy future. Lead by example We mothers need to adapt our approach to feeding the family to the changing needs of modern life. Children do not always want to do as we say so lead by example. And they will gradually follow.

This means adapting the way your family eats and exercises, and how you spend time together. The mother who gives a small child a sip of her cola is developing a taste for cola in her child at a young age. Change takes time It takes time to put on weight so it will take time to lose weight and most overweight children who gradually get into healthy eating and exercise habits will also gradually lose weight as they grow.

Importantly do not make negative comments or nag. For a free fact sheet “Cool habits to keep your kids slim fit and healthy” e-mail: [email protected]  

I do not have time to exercise due to busy family commitments but I can do it alone when I have a moment. What do you suggest? — Rania

Try to get into a regular routine of fitting exercise in to your day. A daily walk has great benefits and burns 230 calories per hour. Gardening is very relaxing and as well as great exercise and burns 340 calories per hour.  Swimming is a great body toner and burns 410 calories. Play ball games with the children every evening. Play skipping games.  You can send to: [email protected] for a copy of my award winning mini-morning workout which is an overall body toner to keep you supple and make you feel great. — Alva          

In the US, one in three children are obese which is shocking! In the Gulf, doctors warn that in today's fast-paced society many parents neglect feeding their children healthy home cooked food, which is one of the factors for the growing number of obese children in the region. We can blame the media for targeting our children; or the schools for not doing enough to provide good nutritional education and sport to keep our children slim fit and healthy. But in the end the responsibility for our children’s health is up to the parents.


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