July 2018 Newsletter

Rudd Center Recent Publications

Study Analyzes Adolescents' Reactions to Weight-related Terms Used by their Parents

Conversations about weight can be particularly challenging for parents with adolescent kids, and not much is known about parent-adolescent communication about body weight. This study examined 148 adolescents enrolled in a weight loss camp, asking them what words their parents typically use to talk about their weight, how those words make them feel, and what words they would most want their family to use when talking about their weight.

"Body weight is an emotionally charged issue for many youth, and instead of making assumptions about what words to use in these conversations, it may be more effective for parents to ask their adolescent what words he/she feels most comfortable using, so that parents can engage in more supportive discussions about weight-related health," said Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director of UConn Rudd Center and lead author of the study.

The findings of this study, published in Childhood Obesity, showed that parents use a diverse range of words to describe their adolescent’s weight; some of these words, like “heavy”, “large”, and “big” induced feelings of embarrassment and shame in adolescents. The more frequently the parents commented on their weight, the more negative emotional reactions adolescents had to these comments. In general, adolescents wanted their parents to use more neutral words when referring to their weight, such as “unhealthy weight.”

Taken together, these findings indicate that parents need to carefully consider conversations about weight with their child.

Pilot Study on the Association of Food Security, Feeding Style, and SNAP Participation on Low-Income Mothers and Fathers

Childhood obesity continues to remain a key public health concern. One way to combat it is to learn more about how parents can be empowered to be primary agents of change when it comes to children adopting healthy eating habits. 

This pilot study was the first to look at both mothers and fathers of young children to understand how they both might influence a child. "This work is important because parental feeding research often discusses parents, but includes only or predominantly mothers. When fathers are studied, typically only their individual influence is assessed. This is counterintuitive when the majority of households in the US have 2 parents present," said Jaime Foster, UConn Rudd Center Postdoctoral Fellow and lead author of the study.  

On average, mothers were found to be marginally food secure while fathers were highly food secure. On further exploring gender differences, it was found that mothers', not fathers', food security status was related to child BMI. That is, mothers who were more food insecure had children with lower BMIs. More importantly, SNAP was not associated with poorer child weight outcomes. In fact, SNAP participation was associated with a lower likelihood that fathers would have an authoritarian feeding style, which is considered a less optimal style.

Published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, this study showcases novel benefits of the SNAP program, which faces looming cuts. It also sheds light on the need for more research looking at both parents’ influence on a child and acknowledges potential differences between mothers and fathers.

Rudd Center in the News

An article highlighting how media coverage of obesity influences attitudes about the issue listed two studies by Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director of UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Headless, Hungry, and Unhealthy: A Video Content Analysis of Obese Persons Portrayed in Online News" and "The Stigmatizing Effect of Visual Media Portrayals of Obese Persons on Public Attitudes: Does Race or Gender Matter?” to help reporters better cover obesity and its associated issues.

A July 12 WBUR article - Half of Americans Are Trying To Lose Weight, Including Many Who Are Not Overweight, CDC Reports - included comments from the Director of UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Marlene Schwartz. “Changing your eating habits is certainly a lot easier when you have enough money to buy the food you need,” she said. 

A Connecticut Health I-Team piece July 18, Yale Program Tackles Kids’ Obesity By Teaching Parents Healthy Eating Habits, featured UConn Rudd Center.

Colorado News Connection, a bureau of the Public News Service, interviewed Rebecca Boehm, UConn Rudd Center Postdoctoral Fellow, for a radio story on how consumer food decisions can cut climate pollution. "The easiest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from your diet or your food purchases is to purchase less red meat and animal products," says Boehm in the interview. The story was run in Colorado, Texas, and Wyoming, among other states.

What's Simmering With Our Friends

Call for abstracts

A special issue is planned for the Journal of Translational Behavioral Medicine focusing on food access among low-income populations. They are specifically interested in studies that expand understanding about the intersect of diet, obesity, food insecurity, hunger, and nutrition. The deadline for abstracts is September 1, 2018 with invitations to submit full papers for review November 1, 2018 and full papers due January of 2019. Please note that submissions will undergo full peer review. Click here for more details.

News to Chew On

The Washington Post
The true connection between poverty and obesity isn’t what you probably think

HowStuffWorks
Is Juice Really Better for You Than Soda?

Croakey
The most comprehensive wrap on the national obesity inquiry that you will read today!

Chicago Health
Study Shows Marketing Health Food to Kids Works

Psychology Today
Does Criticizing Our Own Bodies Damage Our Kids' Body Image?

Brookings
Increasing SNAP purchasing power reduces food insecurity and improves child outcomes