Table Set and Ready

Mind Your Manners, Mind Your Weight?

Just for the record, we do favor good etiquette here at ConscienHealth. But, the idea that children with obesity have poor manners is simply false. With a new paper published in Appetite, Naomi Briones and colleagues dispel the myth that children with obesity behave badly at the table.

Weight Bias in Action

Offensive stereotypes of people with obesity as “slobs” with poor manners are common and deeply offensive. They target both children and adults. Unfortunately, they creep into thinking about how to prevent obesity.

Take, for instance, the Good Manners for a Healthy Future program. Possibly, the intentions are good. The folks behind this program supposed that they could help children eat more slowly and thus help them control their weight. It’s a reasonable supposition, though not a proven intervention. But the program was not about good table manners. It was only about the pace of chewing. And if you look closely at the study design (non-randomized, self-reports of eating behaviors), it doesn’t prove much.

And clearly, on the broader question of good behavior at the table, we have only bias and stereotypes – until now.

Etiquette and Obesity

It turns out that poor table manners have nothing to do with obesity. Briones et al found no association with weight status in a sample of 228 mother-child pairs. But they did find a few things that predicted bad table behavior. Being younger, eating more cupcakes, and having a mom who’s fussy about manners were the best predictors.

The fact remains unchallenged that eating more slowly is probably a good idea. But the idea that obesity is a problem of etiquette? That can go out with the trash. Please.

Click here for the study by Briones et al.

Table Set and Ready, photograph © El Ronzo / flickr

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February 5, 2018