Food for Thought: Connecting the Dots between ACEs and Food Preferences

The Body Builders daily do is one of the essential parenting skill sets that we ask parents to do as often as possible. As you know, Body Builders has four primary components: Predictable and Safe Environments, Daily Exercise, Responsive and Preventive Health Care, and Good Nutrition. It’s this last one that we will spend some time thinking about today.

Let’s start by thinking about the obesity problem. The CDC tells us that more than 2/3 of adults and 17% of youth were obese in 2011-2014. (Ogden, Carrol, Fryar, & Flegal, 2015) You may have heard that there have been some slight declines recently in the obesity rates for preschool aged children, but the reality is that the rate for that age group is still too high. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012) The rate is even higher for many of the target populations served by programs like yours. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015)

Statistics tell us that children who are obese during their early years are also likely to be obese during later childhood and as adults. In 2008, 1.5 billion people globally were overweight or obese. (World Health Organization, 2013) We all know that there are huge increases in health risks associated with being obese. Things like increased risk for many chronic diseases, stroke, heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and even certain types of cancer.

Much research has been done to try to determine what might be fueling this obesity epidemic and what we should do about it. Strategies listed in the Body Builders daily do include the following suggestions for parents: feed you children meals and snacks made from things like fresh natural fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains; avoid processed foods or really anything that comes from a box, can, or freezer; and of course limit meals at fast food restaurants. Interesting though, there might be some other GGK Daily Do’s that come into play here as well.

Recently an interesting study was conducted in England that found a significant link between childhood experiences on eating preferences and behaviors. What they found was that participants in the study who had unhappy or violent childhoods were significantly more likely to prefer “feel good” foods and significantly less likely to eat fruits and vegetables than those with happy and non-violent childhood experiences. (Russell, Hughes, & Bellis, 2013)

Early adversity has a huge impact on who we become, this is likely not news to any of us in our field. Now, however, there are some scientific findings that support the idea that even our food preferences and well-being are significantly affected by childhood experiences. Low fruit and vegetable intake is linked to chronic disease, and a preference for “feel good” foods is linked to obesity, which also links to chronic disease. (Russell, Hughes, & Bellis, 2013) The researchers conclude:

“Preventative interventions which support parent–child relationships and improve childhood       experience are likely to reduce the development of poor dietary and other health-risk                   behaviours. Such prevention and support would require a multi-agency approach, with                 coordination from domestic violence, parenting, developmental and school services.”                   (Russell, Hughes, & Bellis, 2013)

“Preventative interventions which support parent-child relationships and improve childhood experience”…well that’s you! GGK has many tools designed to support you in that work. Which of the tools included in the curriculum are connected to this? Really the answer is all of them. The GGK focus is on building secure attachment relationships. All of the GGK Parenting and Attachment Skill Building Tools are designed with this in mind. Have you introduced all of the Daily Do’s to your families? Do they need refreshers on any of them? Are you doing Getting and Sync and Ready for Play at every home visit? Are parents practicing them when you’re not around? How about playing…is there a lot of that going on? Child development activities encourage the kind of parent-child interactions that lead to joyful childhoods. How are your families doing with this?

Be sure that when you working to motivate families to do the hard work of changing some of their parenting behavior, you make connections to what they want for their child. Have them revisit the pay-offs for the Daily Do’s frequently and point out that each of these parenting skills ultimately will lead to their child becoming a healthy adult…emotionally and physically.

Works Cited

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, June 19). Childhood Obesity Facts. Retrieved     from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:                                 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Trends in the Prevalence of extreme obesity among US preschool aged children living in low income families. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2563-2565.

Ogden, C. L., Carrol, M. D., Fryar, C. D., & Flegal, K. M. (2015, November). NCHS Data Brief. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Russell, S. J., Hughes, K., & Bellis, M. A. (2013). Impact of childhood experience and adult well-being on eating preferences and behaviors. BMJ Open.

World Health Organization. (2013, March 2013). Overweight Fact Sheet. Retrieved from World Health Organization:





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