Fatherly Advice: Guess What? Running Around Prevents Childhood Obesity

Want to raise a kid with health issues? The fastest way is to model bad behavior.

“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email advice@fatherly.com. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re far too busy for that nonsense.

 

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Hey Fatherly,

My wife and I have a super cute toddler who just learned how to walk. But we’ve noticed that even for a toddler he’s pretty clumsy. I’m worried because both my wife and I have really bad eyesight. We’re talking coke-bottles, here. Is it possible that my kid needs glasses and how can I tell?

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Kyle
Bangor, Maine

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At 42, I recently had to trade up to trifocals, Kyle. Trifocals. So as a fellow four-eyes I’m happy to receive your question. And to get something out of the way right up front, given his parent’s genes, there’s a huge probability that your kid will need glasses one day. Is that day now? Not necessarily, but there are good ways to find out.

The most obvious way is to take your kid to the optometrist. Now you might think that wouldn’t work. That thing with the lenses is so freakin’ big and your kid is so small. Also, he’s probably not the best communicator, so reading the eye chart and answering “Is number one or two better?” would seem highly unlikely. That said, optometrists are medical pros whose schooling taught them how to even test the eyes of babies. Crazy, but true.

Still, you might be a bit reticent to bring your kid in and I get that. There are some signs to look for that will help you understand if your kid has a problem with his eyesight. Kids who have reduced vision will need to hold objects close to their face to see them. They may squint in bright light, or chronically rub their eyes and tilt their head. Also, they might not mimic facial expressions. Those are really the biggies. The most obvious signs there is an issue is if the eyes point inward or outward. But I’m guessing you would have mentioned that.

Notice I didn’t say anything about clumsiness? The fact is that your kid just learned to walk, so the tottering and toppling is probably more linked to their new reality than their eyes.

Again, though, with you and your wife’s eyesight, bad vision will be something you will want to watch out for.

 

Fatherly

My wife is pregnant and she keeps telling me that she wants to have a doula. The thing is, I have no idea what a doula is and I feel a bit embarrassed to tell her I don’t know. What does a doula do and does she really need one?

Richard
Omaha, Nebraska

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First of all, Richard. If your wife says she wants a doula you’re probably going to have a doula. It’s always best to defer to the one who is about to push another tiny human being out of an inconceivably small opening in her body. That said, by answering the question “what is a doula“, you can help choose the right professional for the job. And that’s the first thing you need to know: a doula is a professional person. Not a thing. As much as they might sound like a thing.

What a doula does is advocate for your birth plan while giving you both emotional and physical support during the birth. They can also act as breastfeeding coach once the kid arrives and provide other postpartum care. That said, they are not a doctor or a midwife and cannot perform the delivery. So you’ll still need to have a medical professional around.

RELATED: America’s First Blind Doula is One Stubborn Dude

The amount a doula will be involved in the birth depends a lot on you. If you were planning on being your wife’s birth coach — with the breathing and massaging — a doula won’t be taking your place. However, they can step in if you happen to be losing your shit, or if you’d rather have minimal involvement in the birth.

A doula is there to help you both navigate the birth, but considering it’s an intimate moment, your choice of a doula will be very personal. I would recommend finding a doula certified by DONA International who provides comprehensive pre-certification training to doulas and are closely aligned with Lamaze International. But the rest is up to you. If you want a crunchy granola-type doula who will be all about energy, you’ll be able to find one. If you want a more professional straight-laced doula you can find one of those too. Heck, there are even dude doulas.

While it’s pretty clear that a doula will be involved in your birth, make sure that you are talking with your wife about the comfort level you have with the doula you choose. They will be helping you as a couple. You should both feel good about the choice.

 

Hi Fatherly,

My wife and I have a one-year-old baby, and she is absolutely adorable but kind of chubby. My wife and I are big people. I’m 5’11” and weigh about 250. I’ve struggled with my weight all my life and don’t want my daughter to struggle. How can I help make sure that she doesn’t become obese in the future?

Franklin
Redding, California

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Man, I hear you about the weight struggle. It’s been something I’ve wrestled with my entire life, too. And like you I want to make sure my boys don’t have the same struggle. But we have to admit that we can only lay the foundations, Franklin. It’s up to them what they decide to build on top of those foundations.

But giving our kids a good foundation means giving them a healthy relationship with food and exercise right from the get-go. You’re in a good place because your kid is just a year old and has probably just started in the solid food department. So, now is a good time to address this stuff. But you’re not going to start with the kid. You’re going to start with yourself.

MORE: How to Decrease a Toddler’s Childhood Obesity Risk

The reality is that kids use parents as a model for what it means to be a well adjusted human living in this world. That means if they see a slothful, junk-food-loving dude schlepping around the house, they’ll get the idea that’s the way to be. I’m not saying that’s you. I’m just saying we can all give our kids a better example of good health.

I had to do this in my own life. My wife and I have cut back on processed and fast foods and we’ve started regular family walks because we want our boys to know what’s healthy. We’re not preaching to them about it, we’re just living it. You have an adorable, one-year-old ball of motivation right in your arms, dude. Use it.

As for practical advice in helping your kid develop good habits there are some things you can do as she grows. First of all, you can make sure her early solid foods are whole ingredients, and mostly fruits, veggies and whole grains. Try to lay off the snacky, sugary finger foods as much as possible. This will get her developing tastes primed for veggie flavors and not sugary carbs, leading to far easier dinners.

Try to start family dinners now. That means everybody sits at the table together to eat the same meal. This will be particularly important as she grows. A family dinner makes eating an event, not a mindless thing to do in front of a screen. It also ensures everyone is getting the same healthy meal. Be persistent when you get to that point. Offer variety. But understand a kid might need to see a food upwards of 16 times before they give it a shot.

Finally, limit the screen time and get outside with your kid. This is something you can start right now too. Load the kid in the stroller and hit the sidewalk. Go for a hike in the park. Play on the lawn. The point is to move and avoid getting sedentary.

You can do this, man. And the beauty of it is that by working on your own health, you’ll be giving your daughter a chance to succeed with her own health.

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