Guest Post By Alyse Ryan

Since obesity is on the rise and recognized by the surgeon general as a nation-wide problem in the United States, it's crucial to make sure your child doesn't end up falling into the same unhealthy habits as so many of his or her peers. Compulsive eating is defined as a form of gratification that temporarily satisfies a repressed emotion by the comfort of food. If your kid begins eating every time she has an emotion that she feels unequipped to deal with, you might not only have an overweight child on your hands, but a child who cannot process her emotions in a healthy manner. We've outlined three healthy,yet effective, steps to prevent your kids from becoming compulsive eaters.

1. Have "set" mealtimes and discourage idle eating. Make sure your child eats at regular meal times that you have outlined to your family. Giving them hearty and healthy meals at the same time every day, three times per day, will regulate adolescent eating habits. It will also make them feel fuller, reducing the chance of unnecessary snacking. If you feel that your children do need a snack, make snack time a regulated time as well. Also, make sure the snack is healthy and filling, as children need regulated but healthy food to develop good eating habits.

2. Do not completely eliminate unhealthy foods from your child's diet. If your kid has access to unhealthy foods, it teaches them to exercise self-control. Self-control is one of the most important factors in the prevention of compulsive eating. Giving your children a little freedom with their diet will allow them to make healthy eating decisions because they have practice doing so. It would be a good idea to allow your children small amounts of junk food, such as a dessert, after dinner every night, or let them snack of chips or something else once in a while so they don't feel deprived. As long as they are taught to eat these foods in moderation, they will be less likely to binge on unhealthy food when they see it.

3. Address your child's emotional issues on a regular basis. One of the main causes of compulsive eating is using food as a method of coping with emotional stress. Compulsive eaters use food to comfort themselves. In order to prevent your children from using food as a coping mechanism, it is important to talk with them about their feelings. First, you need to let them know that food is not a good way to deal with problems. You also need to stress that you are there to listen to them and help them through difficult emotional times in their lives. If your child feels like he has a support system, he will be more likely to open up to to you instead of turning to food for comfort. Make sure to always leave a communication channel open to your children so that they can cope with their problems without food.

Your child's health starts with you, but it should end with your child. By teaching them the importance of communication and self-control, obesity doesn't have to be a feared term within your household. Practice limitations, but don't forget to let your kids be kids! They only have one childhood.

Alyse Ryan is a part-time swim instructor and writes/edits articles for