PWS Blog

The Benefits of Food Security

Posted: Feb 19, 2016 by The Children's Institute


For people with PWS, just thinking about food causes high levels of anxiety. And because of their insatiability, they tend to think about food all the time. Insecurity about food causes overeating and medical problems resulting from obesity and poor nutrition. It can also lead to unwanted behaviors such as skin picking, obsessive/compulsive actions and emotional outbursts. Achieving food security helps to address many of the challenges of PWS. By developing a nutrition plan that assures where
the next meal is coming from - and what foods will be served - both children and adults with PWS experience less anxiety, enabling them to fully engage in and 
enjoy other life activities. 

 Food security helps to:
• Prevent over eating and inhibit weight gain
• Improve nutrition
• Promote a healthier lifestyle
• Decrease anxiety and stress
• Decrease unwanted behaviors

A high level of commitment and dedication from families, other caregivers, support personnel and connected loved ones is vital to achieve food security, but it's not an impossible task. The multidisciplinary team at The Center for Prader-Willi Syndrome at The Children's Institute is ready to help every step along the way.

1. Prepare Menus in Advance - Start planning a day or two at a time, with a goal of creating a weekly menu. Include your loved one with PWS in a few preliminary decisions about meal choices and times. Once the plan is set, STICK TO IT. Avoid spontaneity related to food. Predictability decreases anxiety and eliminates disappointment related to false hopes for "treats" or other foods not included in the plan.

2. Post the Plan - Everyone involved should be able to see menus for mealtimes and snacks. It's essential that everyone participate 100% of the time for the plan to succeed.

3. Control Accessibility to Food - At home, lock the refrigerator, pantry, cupboards (or even the entire kitchen) to remove access to food. Supervise and minimize exposure to food whenever possible. At school, plan routes to classes without passing the cafeteria. When considering vocational training, avoid jobs that include food service.

4. Develop Contingency Plans - People with PWS and their caregivers should enter food situations with a plan that can help to manage the circumstances. Prepare ahead how to participate in social events, especially special occasions like birthday or holiday parties. Access restaurant menus in advance to discuss what will be ordered. Stress to others that non-compliance by anyone involved, no matter how well-meaning, is harmful.

5. Ask for Help - Life happens. Children grow, and circumstances change, so plans that work for a few months or years may not be sustainable long-term. Ask the treatment team at The Children's Institute for help in evaluating needs and implementing changes that address evolving challenges.

Food security builds trust and diminishes the brain's hyperawareness of food. The demands of achieving food security are great, but the benefits to overall health, wellness and quality of life are significant.


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