By Toronto Nutritionist, Theresa Albert
Want your (born or unborn) child to live a long and healthy life? Studies show that we are living longer with one little backward blip last year because of our collective obesity issues, but there are loads of people beating the “control your weight” drum, so I will move past it. The frightening (at first) fact is that much of your child’s genetic makeup, and therefore, inheritance of disease or illness genes, is set when your mother was in HER MOTHER’S uterus.
Here is what you need to know if you are pregnant…much of the health of that infant is pre-set because the genes that will express themselves for her entire life were created in your grandmother. Got that? The egg that became your daughter was made while your mother was in utero, forming her ovaries. So, depending upon the environment available to your grandmother while she was preggers (war? ration? factory worker? poverty? mental depression?) much can be predicted about her health.
Do not freak out! The good news is that we have a massive impact on the outcome or expression of these genes and whether they are turned on and off. The long term implications of this are, of course, if you are pregnant, that you are making your grandchild right now, not just your child. It’s like that other children’s song, “there’s a bump on a long, in a hole, in the bottom of the sea”.
The good news is that there is a lot that you can do at any point, at any stage along any life that will have the impact of turning those bad genes on or off! And those things are simple. Of course, I am supposed to say that it is all in the food but there is strong evidence now that the emotional environment that a child, er, incubates in has direct impact on the brain. And, with that direct impact, behaviors are set that the child uses to cope. It may sound out there but I assure you, there is plenty of evidence that the emotional environment that a child is set in factors into their health later in life.
Blaming the victim is not going to help here but it might illuminate and motivate us mothers to get our emotional houses in order. If expectant mom is perennially stressed, those hormones bathe both of you. If baby/toddler learns that mother is infallible and never sleeps or expects anything for herself then baby may do the same thing. One of my commitments is to be as healthy as possible so my daughter’s 30’s don’t suck taking care of me!
So taking care of me takes care of her. Go figure.
Here is a list of easy things, beyond the food, that will have a positive impact on my daughter’s health.
- I will find a way to deal with stress…sing, chant, pray, laugh
- I will not let anything “eat away at me”, and express even negative emotions
- I will not wait until I am sick to have an excuse to take a day off
- I will spend time on my work, my friends, my family and laughter to model a well rounded life
- I will let her know that mom and dad have a relationship outside the family
- I will exercise and not feel guilty about the time it takes away from the family
If we could time travel and teach our mothers to have done the same, we may not have such expectations of ourselves. Barring that, the buck stops here. I think I will spend that buck on a movie and sneak in some homemade popcorn) just for me this afternoon while she is at school. I will make sure she knows that I took some time off to be a better me. That will improve her health just as much as baking muffins.
About the Author:
Theresa Albert is a nutritionist and food communications consultant. Her Food Network show,Just One Bite! aired for 5 years on both Food Network and BBC Kids. She is currently a trusted on-camera correspondent for CTV Newschannel as well as CBC and regular health expert on the daily lifestyle show, Steven and Chris which airs internationally.
Named one of Canada’s Top 25 Tweeters by Today’s Parent Magazine and one of Savvymom.ca’s 35 Favorite Bloggers, she is called for comment from every major magazine, newspaper and television outlet in Canada. She has a weekly column in the Metro Newspaper and regularly writes features for Today’s Parent, Canadian Family Magazine and blogs at Huffington Post.