nutrition
Thinking About Food

How Balancing Your Kid’s Brain Can Help Balance Their Diet

The next time your kid stares down a piece of cake, pay careful attention. How they go about eating it will tell you a lot about their future weight, according to new research out of Vanderbilt, and a pre-fat intervention doesn’t necessarily need to include “No cake for you!”

In an observational study, the researchers looked at data from 38 kids between the ages of 8 and 13, including their weight, answers to a standard questionnaire about eating habits, and MRI scans of 3 areas of the brain associated with impulsivity, reward, and inhibition. Six of the kids were overweight, 5 were obese, and the rest average. In the kids who tended to eat more, the neural networks around the brain’s impulsivity centers fired way harder than those around inhibition; for the skinny kids, the opposite was true. If that all sounds sort of unsurprising, that’s because it is.

mindful eating

What’s interesting is the study’s recommendation for addressing the issue: mindfulness. Basically, if you can train your kid to be in the present moment while they’re eating and fully experience it, that can go a long a way toward curbing a future tendency toward obesity. And, yes, even your spastic kid can learn how to chill out enough to actually enjoy their cake — just ask a Transcendental Meditation master. Or a Buddhist monk. And, if all else fails, grab a stopwatch.