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Like Mother Like Daughter Health Legacy Summit

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by Mary McCarthy, Editor

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Like Mother Like Daughter Health Legacy Summit at the Newseum in Washington DC. The event was sponsored by Family Circle magazine and the National Milk Mustache Got Milk? campaign. Dieticians, health experts, political influencers and media from around DC gathered as Family Circle Editor In Chief Linda Fears moderated a panel discussion on the role modeling and influence mothers have on our daughters’ eating habits.

Fears stated, “Mothers’ own food and beverage choices are more influential to children’s choices than anything,” adding, “Mothers may be the most important health care system in the world.”

First on the panel was former first daughter Jenna Bush Hager, who spoke on “The Importance of a Good Role Model” and how her mother Laura Bush affected her dietary and literary development. She also addressed her experience as a teacher and her travels around the world working with underprivileged children, stating that her mother had more influence over the trajectory of her career than any other factor in her life.

Next on the panel was Elizabeth Ward, a Registered Dietician who spoke on “Modeling Desired Food and Nutrition Behaviors,” saying “A mom’s own food and drink choices affect children’s nutrition more than any other factor,” and that “moms need to nourish our own bodies to show children they should do the same.”

Pediatrician Alanna Levine, MD spoke on “Parental Pressure and the Dieting Legacy,” pointing out that authoritarian (“do as i say!”) parents have a higher prevalence of overweight kids versus authoritative parenting styles- in essence, micromanaging your children’s food choices is not good and that excessive parental eating restraint can equal unhealthy child eating restraint. “Eating meals together and serving the same food and beverages to all family members is a great way to model a healthy lifestyle.” She sangie-harmon-300x400ays girls as young as 5 notice their moms’ eating habits, stating “I wish the word dieting didn’t exist at all.”

Levine also pointed out that girls whose mothers had a negative body image were more likely to feel dissatisfied with their own bodies regardless of their weight. Moms need to care of themselves, she says, since “the reason to take care of yourself is to take care of your child.”

Elizabeth Ward added “It’s just like the airplane mentality: you put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then your child.”

Also unveiled at the summit was a video by actress/model Angie Harmon, mother of three, who introduced her brand new Got Milk ad featuring her three girls.

Athough the event was sponsored by the Got Milk campaign and clearly the benefits of drinking milk over serving kids sugary sodas were hailed, it was an objective and excellent summit educationally for me as a mother of three girls (and a boy!), helping me remember to model healthy behaviors for my own kids.

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