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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

BettyAnn A. Chodkowski,Ronald L. Cowan,Kevin D. Niswender/Elsevier

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.