Conference: childhood obesity in the context of eating disorders

In December 2023, a conference dedicated to the topic of childhood obesity and its causes was held in Prague
aftermath. The program was provided by the Society for Nutrition, which brings together independent nutrition and food industry experts. And although I usually focus on eating disorders in children from the underdevelopment side, preparing for the conference led me to an interesting discovery: many children with obesity experience a strange paradox. Although they often have a limited diet, they still tend to consume large amounts of their favorite foods. So this is a completely identical problem to that of children who are not making progress. This interesting insight became the basis of my presentation, which dealt with non-invasive therapeutic approaches to the treatment of eating disorders in children.

Author

Mgr. Jitka Ludvíčková

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Childhood obesity in a new concept

Leading nutritionists from the ranks of doctors and therapists have presented a comprehensive view of childhood obesity that has gone beyond traditional indicators such as body mass index (BMI). Although physical health was undoubtedly the central theme, the conference highlighted that the impact of obesity extends far beyond this measure.

The psychic side

One of the most interesting discussions at the conference revolved around the strong impact of childhood obesity on mental health. Children who struggle with obesity may struggle with issues such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. The interplay between mental health and obesity is a dynamic, interacting field. This is often a vicious circle in which children and their families fall.

The paradox of pickiness in food

My conference paper looked at the relationship between restricted food repertoire and overconsumption of preferred foods in children with obesity. Rather than framing these behaviors as mere self-indulgence or impulsivity, I sought to explain the underlying triggers and patterns that contribute to these eating habits. The key takeaway was that sometimes the most mundane little things can be the key to understanding and solving these difficulties.
For example, one of these little things could be the much-discussed topic of distraction at food. While some children slow down their chewing when distracted (TV, tablets, etc.), hold a bite in their mouth without swallowing or scoop food onto a spoon at an extremely slow pace, many children have the exact opposite. When distracted, they don’t pay attention to internal signs of satiety and continue eating even though they are already full.

Therapeutic approaches

The feedback on my post reinforced my long-term goal of adopting holistic therapeutic methods in the treatment of eating disorders in children—both binge eaters and obese children. A universal approach is rarely enough, successful interventions often include not only addressing specific eating behavior, but also the broader context of the child’s functioning in society. Focusing only on food choices or food restrictions has been shown to neglect essential aspects of emotional well-being and rather further exacerbates the negative effects on the child and his family.

Future outlook

The Prague conference reminded that childhood obesity is a complex problem that requires a complex solution. She emphasized the need for a holistic approach that considers physical health, mental well-being and eating behavior in the wider context of a child’s life. Therefore, I would also like to address this issue in the future, and I would like The Eating School to provide a refuge and a functional solution not only for small picky eaters, but also for children with obesity and their families.

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At the Ostrava jubilee 10. At the Congress of Pediatrics for Practice, I had the opportunity to present The Eating School and its mission to experts. My presentation on the topic: "Non-invasive diagnostic techniques and therapeutic options for children with eating disorders at an early age" was aimed at presenting to pediatricians what children can face.