No wonder your (usually) sweet honey child acts like a junkie on withdrawal when you drive by her favorite fast food restaurant. A new study (on rats, mind you) suggests that high-fat, high-calorie foods affect the brain in much the same way as cocaine and heroin. Eating too much junk food gradually overloads the “pleasure centers” in the brain, just like cocaine would. Eventually, your child needs more and more fatty food to get the same “high.”
So we did a little experiment and took the basic principles of anti-drug campaigns. And look, to no surprise, the same refusal skills we have been teaching our kids all along to help them stay away from drugs apply to fatty eats too:
Five Tips on Teaching Your Child to Say NO to Junk(ie) Food (peer pressure-proof!)
- Help her build a positive self image. A child who loves her body and knows junk food can make her fat and sick will be more likely to stay away from the bad stuff to protect her body.
- Teach him how to say no. Think of your 12-year old surrounded by friends who want to go grab fast food cheeseburgers after skateboarding. Just saying no is tough. Equip him with other things to say, such as “I don’t want to slow down my ride! Let’s get something less greasy instead!”
- Healthy is “in.” Teach her that it’s actually the cool kids who say no to fast food, not the other way around. Her peers who still think it’s ok to pig out on the greasy fare just haven’t caught on to a hipper, healthier lifestyle yet.
- Enable her to be a leader, not a follower. Show her how to inspire her friends to care about what they put into their body.
- Be a role model! Restrain yourself from eating high-fat, high-calorie foods – just like you wouldn’t light up a cigarette in front of a kid you don’t want to smoke.
The findings of this new study, which showed brains of rats that gorged themselves on human fatty foods changed, could lead to new treatments for obesity. Read Sarah Klein’s article Fatty foods may cause cocaine-like addiction on CNN.com.