Advertising and Childhood Obesity

We have all been exposed to advertisements: interruptions in our daily television and radio programming, printed advertisements disrupting articles in newspapers and magazines, required viewing prior to watching videos online, large signage in stores, schools and on billboards, products placed strategically around a store, promotional giveaways, viral content, media tie-ins, downloadable content.
Many of us have been exposed to any and all of these advertising types since we were children. As technology and media continue to develop, companies have developed strategies to continue to put their products in front of consumers.

The most demonstrative example of this is in advertising towards children. What are the primary products advertised to children? Toys. Media. Food. Lots of food. Lots of unhealthy food: breakfast cereals, snack foods, candy, dairy products, baked goods, sweetened beverages, cold desserts, restaurant foods.
Public health experts and consumer advocates are becoming increasingly alarmed: 1 in 3 American children are overweight or obese. Children may experience coincidental social discrimination and psychological distress in addition to developing medical conditions that were previously only diagnosed in adults. These ailments can follow them into adulthood, and continue to tax an already overburdened healthcare system.
This makes food advertising and marketing towards children particularly controversial. While there are many contributing factors to childhood obesity, unhealthy food advertisements have been identified as a playing a separate and specific role. Studies have been conducted evaluating multiple aspects of food marketing as it relates to children:

  • the association between advertisements of unhealthy foods and childhood obesity rates
  • the amount of screen time (tv, computer, mobile) of children in different age groups related to placement, type, and frequency of advertisements
  • the media literacy rates of children in different age groups, including distinguishing programming from advertising, advertising intent, and impulse control as they relate to food purchasing and consumption.
  • the development of intergenerational brand loyalty
  • children’s repeated purchase requests after repeated advertisement exposure, which may influence parents’ purchasing habits
  • snacking behavior and its biological ramifications in relation to food advertisements
  • children’s behavior in establishing food habits (making their own food choices and purchasing power) during the critical stage of development: between ages 8-12
  • the use of technology to actively engage children in brand-related activities (online games, etc.)
  • federal, state, and local attempts to enact laws and regulations on the food industry
  • effectiveness of self-regulation within the food industry

So what can we do? As parents, we have several options from promoting healthy snacks and an active lifestyle to restricting screen time, being stalwart against repeated requests for junk food. Stepping outside of our families, we can advocate for change in our children’s schools or on a legislative level, create advertising promoting healthy food choices, push the food industry to increase their commitment and standards of self-regulation.

We all have to work together to combat childhood obesity. Contact the experts at the Metabolic Medical Centers for programs specifically designed for child and adolescent weight loss.

Who Defines What is Healthy?

• possessing or enjoying good health, or a sound and vigorous mentality
• pertaining to or a characteristic of good health, or a sound and vigorous mind
• conducive to good health
• prosperous or sound
Healthy, as defined above, can refer to many behaviors that contribute to good health: food, rest, intellectual engagement.

We all have our own measures of what is considered healthy for our bodies and minds.

When we make healthy decisions about our food choices, these are often based on how “healthy” is communicated to us through the media, fueled by the food industry and overseen by governmental agencies.
“… the food industry knows people will buy food products based on the way they're marketed and promoted, not on the nutritional value."  - Dr. Aseem Malhotra, London cardiologist and advisor to the U.K. National Obesity Forum
Healthy. Natural. Organic. 

These terms are not interchangeable, and have different meanings among growers, producers, manufacturers, marketers, government, and consumers.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, will begin working to amend its current “healthy” nutrient regulations in relation to the current 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA.

The disconnect begins with deciding what our bodies need for basic functions and maintenance. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines have shifted from labeling foods as good or bad without factoring nutrient content to focusing on healthy eating patterns. The guidelines never intended to tell consumers not to eat something.

Current FDA-approved “healthy” foods cannot contain more than 3 grams of total fat per serving. This would rule out the extra health benefits of foods like almonds and salmon because of their high fat content. The FDA “healthy” rating also does not currently incorporate sugar content, so sugary cereals fortified with vitamins and minerals would still be considered healthy.
Public dietary health concerns are now focusing on lower sugar, low-fat and low-calorie products, as well as adjusting for increasing number of individuals with food sensitivities due other health disorders.
Gluten sensitivity is one indicator of Celiac disease.
Thanks to the growing amount of nutrition research, we are changing our perceptions of health and eating habits. “Healthy” and “natural” often differ by food category, as well as our individual nutrient requirements

According to the Wall Street Journal, the FDA will begin the process of updating the definitions of healthy and natural in an effort to keep up with current nutritional research and public perceptions. This process generally takes several years and includes a proposal, a comment period from the food industry and the public, input and research, the actual proposed rule change, a second comment period, a final ruling, and an implementation period for food makers to comply. As an example of this process, the gluten-free designation took more than six years to complete.

While we wait for the FDA to update its definitions with the current research, the experts at the Metabolic Medical Centers can help you determine the healthy options for your individual needs.

11 Tips to Curb Overeating

You just had to get that extra scoop on your ice cream cone? Or you couldn’t help but pick up some french fries? The buffet keeps calling you to fill your plate? Or you didn’t realize how big the order was? You were raised to finish everything on your plate and not waste food?

Food Network Guilty Pleasures
A common dilemma, there are many types of overeating:

                  • Binge Eating
                  • Oversized Meal Portions
                  • Emotional Eating
                  • Stress Eating
                  • Super Sugar Craving
                  • Compulsive Snacking
                  • Fast Food
                  • Comfort Eating
                  • Social Eating
                  • Boredom Eating

There are a myriad of reasons for overeating. Sociocultural, psychological, and even biological factors which can cause and perpetuate a cycle that can potentially lead to weight gain as wells being a symptom of two common eating disorders: bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.

Curbing the urge to overeat is a challenge that begins with listening to your body.
Hunger is a physical cue that you need energy. -  Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet 
The first step is to identify how your body feels when it is hungry.
Once you can recognize how your body feels when its hungry, you can better adapt your eating behavior.

The second step is the determine why you are overeating. If there are other emotional reasons like anxiety or depression, or biological reasons like hormone imbalances or adverse effects of medication, your overeating may be a symptom an underlying issue in which you may need some professional guidance.

Beyond these primary steps, there are a variety of actions that can help you refrain from overeating:
  1. Don’t confuse hunger with thirst.
  2. Drink water.

  3. Don’t skip meals.
  4. Make healthy food choices for meals and snacks.
  5. Make mealtimes major events, but set it like you are at a restaurant with the only food on the table is the food on your plate.

  6.     Eat smaller portions and/or measure your portions.
  7.     When eating, give your meal your undivided attention, especially that first bite.
  8.     Stop when you are full.

  9. Get enough rest.
  10. Distract yourself with other activities, particularly physical exercise.
  11. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up from time to time. Just recommit yourself to your goals.

Overeating is a relationship about how we feel about our bodies and ourselves. Changing our eating habits will require dedication and commitment.

If you’ve decided to combat overeating as part of your strategy for weight management, the experts at Metabolic Medical Center can help you assess your goals and create a plan that works for you.

Hydration and Weight Management

Water. It’s that one thing we can’t live without. And many of us don’t get enough of it.

When someone brings up the topic of getting enough water, the context usually implies how much water we are drinking daily. Just plain, unadulterated, clear, clean water. And how many of us respond with “I don’t like drinking water’?

Why is it so important that we get enough water? 

We all like it when our body feels good. Being adequately hydrated is a major factor in making our bodies work properly. Not enough water, or dehydration, can lead to a decrease in physical activity and lead to or contribute to health problems.

So how is being adequately hydrated related to drinking enough water? According to the Hydration for Health Initiative, the quality of what you drink is vital to your health. They call this healthy hydration.

When we drink sodas, juice, coffee, milk, alcohol, our bodies are still receiving some benefits of hydration, but the other substances within the beverage may be detrimental to our overall health.

A study published in the Annals of Family Medicine investigated the relationship of hydration to weight status. Researchers were specifically looking at hydration and the body mass index (BMI), and hydration and individuals identified as obese or overweight. Using federal health survey data documenting participants’ height and weight, and testing the water content in urine, the data suggested a relationship between individuals with higher BMI or identifying as overweight or obese had a greater tendency to be dehydrated.

Can adequate, healthy hydration help with weight management? 

There are many contributing factors to weight management, including personal health conditions, medications, physical activity, and your own personal weight management goals. Healthy hydration will help your body work more efficiently and effectively. Some people will need more water than others to stay hydrated.
Water consumption is not an ideal measure of hydration. The amount of water it takes to stay hydrated depends on your body size and many other factors like your activity level and the climate you live in. Imagine if you were a landscaper in Arizona versus a receptionist in Michigan. The amount of water it takes to stay hydrated will be drastically different." - Dr. Tammy Chang, University of Michigan Medical School

What about those water-dense foods? 
Do they count towards daily water consumption? 
While water is best for staying hydrated, increasing water-laden foods does contribute to your overall hydration levels. As a boon, you’ll be treating your body to some vital vitamins, minerals, and fiber that it will need.

If, in your weight management plan, you are looking to a simple solution for your daily calorie intake, switching to water is your first course of action. The experts at Metabolic Medical Center can help you assess your hydration needs in relation to your weight management goals.