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The Domino Effect: How to Create a Chain Reaction of Good Habits

Human behaviors are often tied to one another.

For example, consider the case of a woman named Jennifer Lee Dukes. For two and a half decades during her adult life, starting when she left for college and extending into her 40s, Dukes never made her bed except for when her mother or guests dropped by the house.

At some point, she decided to give it another try and managed to make her bed four days in a row—a seemingly trivial feat. However, on the morning of that fourth day, when she finished making the bed, she also picked up a sock and folded a few clothes lying around the bedroom. Next, she found herself in the kitchen, pulling the dirty dishes out of the sink and loading them into the dishwasher, then reorganizing the Tupperware in a cupboard and placing an ornamental pig on the counter as a centerpiece.

She later explained, “My act of bed-making had set off a chain of small household tasks… I felt like a grown-up—a happy, legit grown-up with a made bed, a clean sink, one decluttered cupboard, and a pig on the counter. I felt like a woman who had miraculously pulled herself up from the energy-sucking Bermuda Triangle of Household Chaos.”

Jennifer Lee Dukes was experiencing the Domino Effect.

The Domino Effect

The Domino Effect states that when you make a change to one behavior it will activate a chain reaction and cause a shift in related behaviors as well.

For example, a 2012 study from researchers at Northwestern University found that when people decreased their amount of sedentary leisure time each day, they also reduced their daily fat intake. The participants were never specifically told to eat less fat, but their nutrition habits improved as a natural side effect because they spent less time on the couch watching television and mindlessly eating. One habit led to another, one domino knocked down the next.

You may notice similar patterns in your own life. As a personal example, if I stick with my habit of going to the gym, then I naturally find myself more focused at work and sleeping more soundly at night even though I never made a plan to specifically improve either behavior.

The Domino Effect holds for negative habits as well. You may find that the habit of checking your phone leads to the habit of clicking social media notifications which leads to the habit of browsing social media mindlessly which leads to another 20 minutes of procrastination.

In the words of Stanford professor BJ Fogg, “You can never change just one behavior. Our behaviors are interconnected, so when you change one behavior, other behaviors also shift.”

small-steps-can-lead-to-big-changes

 

Inside the Domino Effect

As best I can tell, the Domino Effect occurs for two reasons.

First, many of the habits and routines that make up our daily lives are related to one another. There is an astounding interconnectedness between the systems of life and human behavior is no exception. The inherent relatedness of things is a core reason why choices in one area of life can lead to surprising results in other areas, regardless of the plans you make.

Second, the Domino Effect capitalizes on one of the core principles of human behavior: commitment and consistency. This phenomenon is explained in the classic book on human behavior, Influence by Robert Cialdini. The core idea is that if people commit to an idea or goal, even in a very small way, they are more likely to honor that commitment because they now see that idea or goal as being aligned with their self-image.

Returning to the story from the beginning of this article, once Jennifer Lee Dukes began making her bed each day she was making a small commitment to the idea of, “I am the type of person who maintains a clean and organized home.” After a few days, she began to commit to this new self-image in other areas of her home.

This is an interesting byproduct of the Domino Effect. It not only creates a cascade of new behaviors, but often a shift in personal beliefs as well. As each tiny domino falls, you start believing new things about yourself and building identity-based habits.

overwelmed

 

The Rules of the Domino Effect

The Domino Effect is not merely a phenomenon that happens to you, but something you can create. It is within your power to spark a chain reaction of good habits by building new behaviors that naturally lead to the next successful action.

There are three keys to making this work in real life. Here are the three rules of the Domino Effect:

  1. Start with the thing you are most motivated to do. Start with a small behavior and do it consistently. This will not only feel satisfying, but also open your eyes to the type of person you can become. It does not matter which domino falls first, as long as one falls.
  2. Maintain momentum and immediately move to the next task you are motivated to finish. Let the momentum of finishing one task carry you directly into the next behavior. With each repetition, you will become more committed to your new self-image.
  3. When in doubt, break things down into smaller chunks. As you try new habits, focus on keeping them small and manageable. The Domino Effect is about progress, not results. Simply maintain the momentum. Let the process repeat as one domino automatically knocks down the next.

When one habit fails to lead to the next behavior, it is often because the behavior does not adhere to these three rules. There are many different paths to getting dominoes to fall. Focus on the behavior you are excited about and let it cascade throughout your life.

FOOTNOTES

  • “Want to Change the World? Start by Making Your Bed” by Jennifer Lee Dukes
  • The phrase, the Domino Effect, comes from the common game people play by setting up a long line of dominoes, gently tapping the first one, and watching as a delightful chain reason proceeds to knock down each domino in the chain. I thought up this particular use of the phrase, but I’ve seen others say similar things like “snowball effect” or “chain reaction.”
  • Multiple Behavior Change in Diet and Activity: A Randomized Controlled Trial Using Mobile Technology by Bonnie Spring, Kristin Schneider, H.G. McFadden, Jocelyn Vaughn, Andrea T. Kozak, Malaina Smith, Arlen C. Moller, Leonard H. Epstein, Andrew DeMott, Donald Hedeker, Juned Siddique, and Donald M. Lloyd-Jones. Archives of Intern Medicine (2012).
  • Quote from “BJ’s note” posted on September 21, 2015. It is worth noting that BJ has some fantastic ideas on behavior change on his site, many of which have influenced my thoughts including his idea that “behaviors travel in packs,” which is similar to the core argument of Domino Effect.


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The Immune System Affects Social Behaviour and Personality

The immune system was thought to have little effect on the brain — until now.

The immune system is directly responsible for social behaviour and even our personalities, new research finds.

The conclusion comes as a shock to scientists and raises questions about the cause of mental health problems like schizophrenia and autism.

A malfunctioning immune system could be at the heart of these disorders.

Professor Jonathan Kipnis explained why the finding is so shocking to scientists:

“The brain and the adaptive immune system were thought to be isolated from each other, and any immune activity in the brain was perceived as sign of a pathology.
And now, not only are we showing that they are closely interacting, but some of our behavior traits might have evolved because of our immune response to pathogens.
It’s crazy, but maybe we are just multicellular battlefields for two ancient forces: pathogens and the immune system.
Part of our personality may actually be dictated by the immune system.”

For the research in mice and other animals, the scientists blocked a critical immune molecule called interferon-gamma.

The mice (and other animals) then became much less social than they had been before.

The study follows on from findings published last year that there is connection between the brain and the immune system previously thought not to exist.

immune

The link between the immune system and social behaviour makes sense, though, as being social is important but also raises the risk of disease.

Dr Anthony J. Filiano, the study’s lead author, explained:

“It’s extremely critical for an organism to be social for the survival of the species.
It’s important for foraging, sexual reproduction, gathering, hunting.
So the hypothesis is that when organisms come together, you have a higher propensity to spread infection.
So you need to be social, but [in doing so] you have a higher chance of spreading pathogens.
The idea is that interferon gamma, in evolution, has been used as a more efficient way to both boost social behavior while boosting an anti-pathogen response.”

Professor Kipnis said:

“Immune molecules are actually defining how the brain is functioning.
So, what is the overall impact of the immune system on our brain development and function?
I think the philosophical aspects of this work are very interesting, but it also has potentially very important clinical implications.”

The study was published in the journal Nature (Filiano et al., 2016).

source: PsyBlog       21 JULY 2016


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ADHD Commonly Co-Occurs With Other Mental Health Diagnoses

Looking at a Comparative Psychiatry study

It’s common for adults with ADHD to also have another co-occurring mental health diagnosis, according to a study published in Comparative Psychiatry. Rates of mental health disorders are significantly higher among adults with ADHD, suggesting that ADHD itself may be a predictor of other mental health difficulties.

ADHD and Other Comorbidities
For the study, researchers reviewed psychiatric profiles of a sample of adults seeking outpatient psychiatric care. Each of the 1,134 participants participated in a semi-structured diagnostic interview based on DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for various mental health disorders. The study’s findings showed a significant connection between ADHD and other mental health conditions.

Patients who had ADHD were more likely to experience social phobia, impulse control disorders, borderline personality disorder, alcoholism, and eating disorders. They were less likely to experience adjustment disorders or major depressive disorder. Patients with ADD—the inattentive type of ADHD without a hyperactivity component—were more likely to have eating disorders and social phobia.

The Connection Between ADHD and Mental Illness
The study did not explore and does not specify why ADHD is a predictor of other mental health issues. A number of factors could be at play, and it is unlikely that just one explanation accounts for the full spectrum of mental health issues associated with ADHD. Some possibilities include:
•    Genetic influences that lead to ADHD are similar to those that lead to other mental health disorders.
•    The challenges of life with ADHD. ADHD makes everyday tasks challenging, and environmental factors can contribute to a number of mental health issues. It’s possible that ADHD triggers environmental changes that in turn trigger further mental health difficulties.
•    ADHD symptoms could accompany some mental health diagnoses. For example, bipolar disorder can impede concentration and contribute to hyperactive behavior, mimicking the symptoms of ADHD.

adhd

The Challenges of Diagnosing Adult ADHD
Many clinicians still treat ADHD as a childhood disorder. Some even tell parents that their children will grow out of their condition. For this reason, adults with ADHD—particularly those for whom symptoms only appeared in adulthood—may experience delays in diagnosis. They may be incorrectly diagnosed with other disorders, such as impulse control issues, depression, or personality disorders. This study makes it clear not only that ADHD can and does persist into adulthood, but that adulthood ADHD is a significant predictor of other mental illnesses.

Common Symptoms of Adult ADHD
Knowing the symptoms of adult ADHD can help you get an accurate diagnosis. Clinicians sometimes focus on behavior in school when diagnosing children, so detecting hyperactivity and inattention in adults may prove challenging. Some signs to monitor for include:
•    An intense need for stimulation; you might find boredom intolerable.
•    Chronic procrastination, even when you commit to completing something on time.
•    Difficulty remembering dates, deadlines, and where you placed familiar objects. Chronic forgetfulness and missed deadlines are a hallmark of ADD and ADHD.
•    Impulsive or aggressive behavior, particularly during times of stress.
•    Substance abuse; while not always a symptom of ADHD, some people with ADHD turn to drugs and alcohol to manage their symptoms.
•    Depression, anxiety, and other symptoms as a result of problems at work or in relationships.
•    Difficulty listening to other people or following a conversation.
•    Frequently fidgeting or interrupting others during conversations.

If you suspect you have adult ADHD, tell your clinician your symptoms, since mentioning ADHD can increase the odds of an accurate diagnosis. Lifestyle remedies, therapy, and stimulant medications can all help symptoms, and a combination of all three typically works best.

References:
ADHD comorbidities revealed in adult patients. (2016, June 29). Retrieved from http://www.clinicalpsychiatrynews.com/specialty-focus/bipolar-disorder/c…|%20ADHD%20Comorbidities%20|
Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). (2016, March 31). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adult-adhd/home/ovc-20198864

 Joel Young, M.D    Posted Jul 20, 2016      When Your Adult Child Breaks Your Heart
Coping with mental illness, substance abuse, and the problems that tear families apart
Joel Young, M.D., teaches psychiatry at Wayne State University, and is the Medical Director of the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine.


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Stuck on a Problem? Let Your Mind Wander, Researchers Say

A new study suggests that quiet, “unloaded” brains come up with the most creative thoughts.

There’s a reason some people say they get their best ideas when they’re running. A new study from researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and published in the journal Psychological Science, suggests that a clear mind—free of too much chatter—is a more creative one.

In three different experiments, about 20 people completed the same free association task. (They had to quickly name the first thing that popped into their head after they heard a series of target words.) But in each experiment, the researchers manipulated the “cognitive load” of the participants with various additional tasks. For example, some people were asked to remember a string of two digits (a low cognitive load), while others had to alphabetize the first three letters of each target word (a high cognitive load).

What the researchers found was that the participants with lower cognitive loads gave more creative responses. “When you reduce mental [stress], people have a greater tendency to avoid the ‘obvious solution’ and instead access unique thoughts in their mind,” study co-author and PhD student Shira Baror explained in an email to Health. In other words, when your brain is quieter, it can afford to “put aside its stored, immediate, well-earned associations and take a more interesting path of more original associations.”

mind wanderer

The study’s findings are in line with prior research, says Jonathan Schooler, PhD, a professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2012 he led a study that showed the benefits of letting your mind slow down and wander: His team’s work suggested that when you’re trying to solve a problem, you may get the best creative boost from engaging in a non-demanding task. Think taking a shower, doing light chores—or you know, going for a good sweaty run.

In fact, that’s exactly what Baror suggests when you’re stuck in a rut. “Ruminating on the same problem, especially when you’re under stress or tension, will not yield creative solutions.” Instead, she says, literally walk away, and give your mind the chance to make those seemingly random, unexpected turns that lead to breakthroughs.

 By Jessica Migala  June 23, 2016
 


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This One Childhood Experience Turns Out to Have Major Consequences Later in Life

According to results of a new study, you might want to rethink before moving your family around at a vulnerable time.

In 2014, according to a United States national census, more than 11% of Americans relocated across state borders. In our mobile society, this might seem like par for the course—no cause for alarm. But what about the effects such internal migration has on children later in life? Washington Post writer Christopher Ingraham recently asked this very question. His conclusion: In the long run, it’s bad for the kids.

For the article, Ingraham drew on the findings of a recent study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that addressed the effects of moving one’s family around. In the study, a team of researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis using information gathered from everyone in Denmark born between 1971-1997 (which is only marginally less impressive when you consider that the country is around a third the size of New York state.) The team looked at the ratio rates of “attempted suicide, violent criminality, psychiatric illness, substance misuse, and natural and unnatural deaths” within this data set.

Their conclusion? Based on the “uniquely complete and accurate registration of all residential changes in [Denmark’s] population,” the team found that moving during childhood was directly tied to an increase in all of these measured negative outcomes later in life. And repeated moves in the course of a year — even worse. The team further found that children are most vulnerable at ages 12-14, with those who moved at 14 experiencing double the risk of suicide by middle age.

Young man in the dark

As Ingraham duly noted, however, while the study took into account parents’ income and psychiatric history as a control, the data was unable to provide information on the reasoning behind the moves. Ingraham illustrated this flaw by pointing to previous research conducted in the United States, which shows that beyond the act of moving itself, environment plays a far greater role in childhood development and its implications for adulthood. In other words, the positive effects of moving during childhood to a less violent neighborhood far outweigh any negative consequences. Of course, this oversight could also be attributed to Denmark having a generally lower rate of violent crime.

One of the study’s findings likely to carry more weight in the U.S. and abroad concerns the effects of changing schools. For these purposes, the study only considered moves across municipal boundaries, which meant a change in the child’s school district. Here the authors concluded:

“Relocated adolescents often face a double stress of adapting to an alien environment, a new school, and building new friendships and social networks, while simultaneously coping with the fundamental biological and developmental transitions that their peers also experience.”

Overall the results of the research are pretty damning. How much they directly apply contextually to other countries such as the United States is less clear. The study’s authors conceded that “the findings may not apply universally beyond Denmark, although it seems likely that they are relevant to other western societies with similar drivers of residential mobility.”

It seems pretty logical that changing one’s living environment during the onset of puberty could have lasting psychological consequences, and families that need to do so should take into account the hardship it presents to their growing children. Any direct link to higher risks of other negative consequences later on in life may be harder to establish.

Robin Scher is a freelance writer from South Africa currently based in New York.
He tweets infrequently @RobScherHimself.
By Robin Scher / AlterNet June 15, 2016


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Why High School Stays With us Forever

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For better or worse, many of us never forget high school: the unrequited romantic crushes, chronic embarrassment, desperate struggles for popularity, sexual awakening, parental pressure and, above all else, competition – social, athletic, academic.

There’s even an entire genre of entertainment that revolves around high school. “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Mean Girls,” “Heathers,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” all revisit the conflict and angst of these years.

What is it about this period of our lives that makes it seem more meaningful and memorable than any other?

My research experience as an evolutionary psychologist leads me to believe that many factors interact to make our teenage memories so vivid. But the main driver is the collision between the hardwiring of our brains that took place across several million of years of evolution and the odd social bubble created by high school, which poses an unprecedented social challenge to our prehistoric minds.

In other words, the world that we evolved to be successful in (a small, stable group of interrelated people of various ages) is very different from the holding pen full of teenagers brimming with hormones that populate our world during the high school years.

‘The reminiscence bump’

Some look back on high school as the best time of their life and pine for those “good old days.” Whether or not this was actually the case, it turns out there may have been some evolutionary advantages to having a rosy view of the past.

But most of us remember high school with an emotional mixture of longing, regret, joy and embarrassment. And strong emotions equal strong memories; even the music from those years gets imprinted on our brain like nothing that comes later.

Memory researchers have, in fact, identified something called “the reminiscence bump,” which shows that our strongest memories come from things that happened to us between the ages of 10 and 30.

What is it about this time of life that makes it stand out from the rest of our years? Part of it is undoubtedly due to changes in the brain’s sensitivity to certain types of information during adolescence. Emotions signal the brain that important events are happening, and the teen years are chock full of important social feedback about one’s skills, attractiveness, status and desirability as a mate. This is precisely the stuff we need to pay attention to in order to successfully play the cards we have been dealt and to become socially and reproductively successful.

A dog-eat-dog world

Memory research may offer hints about why the mental snapshots of our high school years remain so vivid even decades later. But evolutionary psychology can also help explain why so much meaning is attached to these years and why they play such an important role in who we become.

For example, there’s a reason teenagers often strive to be popular.

As far as scientists can tell, our prehistoric forebears lived in relatively small groups. Most people would live out their entire life in this group, and one’s social standing within it was determined during adolescence. How much one was admired as a warrior or hunter, how desirable one was perceived to be as a mate and how much trust and esteem was accorded to one by others – all of this was sorted out in young adulthood. A person deemed to be a loser at 18 was unlikely to rise to a position of prominence at 40. Thus, from an evolutionary perspective, the competition of the teen years had lifelong repercussions.

Of course, today, those who have unsavory high school experiences can move to new places after graduation and start over. However, even though we may be consciously aware of this (to the extent that we are consciously aware of anything when we are teenagers), the psychological buttons that get pushed in the adolescent brain make us become consumed with our social lives during this period.

Popularity can become an obsession, since you’ll be ranked against the people in your own age cohort for the rest of your life. After all, your status as an adult primarily depends upon how you stack up compared with them, not with others.

Also, strong pressures to conform ensure that you do not stray too far from a friend group’s values. Ostracism from the group in prehistoric times was tantamount to a death sentence.

june75
Sometimes, conformity can lead to
cringeworthy moments – bad hairstyles among them.

It all requires forging alliances and demonstrating loyalty to others. The result is a splintering of the social world into competing cliques that grind each other up in the gears of the social hierarchy.

Mom, stop bugging me!

Back home, conflict with parents is usually inevitable. Parents want their children to succeed, but they usually have a more long-term perspective than that of their teen.

So the things that the parent thinks that the child should be concerned with (preparing for a career and developing important life skills) and the things that the child is emotionally driven to actually be concerned with (being popular and having fun) are often at odds. Parents usually realize where the parent-offspring tension comes from. Kids don’t.

Meanwhile, hormones fuel the sort of “showing off” that would have increased one’s attractiveness in early societies. In young men we still reward, to some extent, the things that would have been essential for success in hunting and combat thousands of years ago: the willingness to take risks, fighting ability, speed and the ability to throw with velocity and accuracy. Young women will showcase their youth and fertility. Beauty, unfortunately, continues to be a significant criterion by which they are judged.

Reunion angst

In earlier times, because you had a personal connection with nearly everyone in your group, the ability to remember details about the temperament, predictability and past behavior of peers had a huge payoff. There would have been little use for a mind designed to engage in abstract statistical thinking about large numbers of strangers.

In today’s world, while it is still important to keep tabs on known individuals, we also face new challenges. We interact with strangers on a daily basis, so there’s a need to predict how they’ll behave: will this person try to swindle me or can he or she be trusted? Is this someone important that I should get to know or a nobody that I can safely ignore?

It’s a task many of us find difficult because our brains weren’t really wired to do this, and we fall back on cognitive shortcuts, such as stereotyping, as a way to cope.

Natural selection instead shaped an innate curiosity about specific people – and a memory to store this information. We needed to remember who treated us well and who didn’t, and the more emotional the memory, the less likely we are to forget it. It’s tough to forget when the person you thought of as a close friend publicly snubbed you, or the time that you caught another trusted friend flirting with your boyfriend or girlfriend.

The result is a strong propensity for holding grudges. It protects us from being taken advantage of again but can also make for some uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing moments at high school reunions.

To further complicate things, high school is probably the last time in life when people of all sorts are thrown together for no other reason than they are the same age and live in the same area. Yes, high schools are often segregated by economic background and race. But most high schoolers will still encounter more day-to-day diversity than they will later in life.

After high school, studies have shown that people begin to sort themselves out according to intelligence, political values, occupational interests and a wide range of other social screening devices.

At the same time, however, the people you knew in high school remain your default group for engaging in social comparison.

According to “Social Comparison Theory,” we figure out how good we are and develop a sense of personal worth by comparing ourselves with others; the more similar those others are, the better we can gauge our own strengths and weaknesses. Because your high school classmates will always be the same age as you – and because they started out in the same place – there’s inherently a degree of interest in finding out what happened to them later in life, if for no other reason than to see how your own life stacks up.

Given all this, it’s no wonder that the English Romantic poet Robert Southey once wrote that the “the first 20 years are the longest half of your life, no matter how long you might live.”

June 1, 2016        Frank T. McAndrew Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology, Knox College


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How Emotional Eating Is a Habit That Can Start in Childhood

The way we feed children may be just as important as what we feed them.

By Claire Farrow, Emma Haycraft, Jackie Blissett / The Conversation May 16, 2016

Food can be an extremely effective tool for calming young children. If they are bored on a long car journey, or fed up with being in the pushchair, many parents use snack foods to distract them for a little longer. Or if children are upset because they have hurt themselves or want something they cannot have, the offer of something sweet is often used to “make them feel better.”

But what are the effects of using food as a tool to deal with emotions like boredom or sadness? Does it turn children into adults who cannot cope with being bored or upset without a sweet snack? Probably not. There certainly isn’t any evidence to suggest that occasionally resorting to the biscuit tin will affect children in this way. But what if we do it on a regular basis? What happens when sweets and biscuits become the tool for rewarding children for good behavior and doing well? Or if food is consistently withheld as a punishment?

There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that using food as a tool or as a reward regularly with children may be associated with a greater risk of emotional eating. In a recent study we explored whether children as young as three preferred to play with toys or eat snack foods if they were feeling stressed.

All the children had just eaten lunch so were not hungry, and were then observed to see what they did in a four minute period – eat or play with toys – whilst waiting for someone to look for a missing final piece of a jigsaw. Children aged three to five did not tend to eat much more in comparison to a control group. However, in a similar experiment when the children were two years older, we found many of the children would eat foods when they were not hungry (emotional overeating), rather than play.

It appears that somewhere between the ages of four and six, the tendency to emotionally overeat may increase in many children. And parents who told us they frequently used food as a reward (or its withdrawal as a punishment) when their children were younger, were more likely to have children who emotionally overate when they were aged five to seven. This suggests that frequent use of food as a reward or punishment in that younger period may predict a greater chance of children using food as an emotional tool later in life.

overweight

Of course you may be thinking that your own exposure to “reward” foods hasn’t had any lasting impact on your current eating behavior. But it is worth considering how society has changed in the last few decades to market and promote high calorie foods to children. Many people believe we live in an “obesogenic society,” where our environment has evolved to promote obesity rather than support healthy eating. The fact that around a third of English school children are overweight or obese is testament to this. With grab-bag sized bags of chocolates being promoted to children, supersized portions in fast-food outlets and even clothes shops selling sweets at children’s eye level in queues, it is clear our children need to adapt to cope with constantly being marketed large portions of high calorie foods.

So how can we navigate this complex environment, juggling the balance of making food enjoyable and sociable, whilst helping children to achieve a healthy and balanced diet? Sweet foods are a fun part of life and not necessarily something we want to remove. Even if we eliminated all links between food, emotion and reward in the home, the reality is that society is full of situations where children will experience being given calorie dense foods as a reward or as part of celebrations. It would be a pity to take away the joy that children find in party bags, birthday cakes, Easter eggs and other celebration foods. Perhaps thinking about not just what foods we give children, but also how and why we give certain foods to children at particular times is a good way to start.

Teaching children how to manage their appetites, to eat if they are hungry and to stop if they are full, is an important lesson which is often overlooked.

Eating patterns can usually be tracked across life, so children who learn to use food as a tool to deal with emotional distress early on are much more likely to follow a similar pattern of eating later in adult life. Around three quarters of children who are obese will continue to be obese as adults. Emotional overeating is one factor that has been linked not only with overeating and obesity, but also with the development of eating disorders. To combat this, the way we feed children, and the lessons we provide about how to use food, may be just as important as what we feed them.