Should I Put My Child on a Diet?

All parents want the best for their children and this includes making sure they are physically healthy and confident about their own body image. But getting children to eat well, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy lifestyle can sometimes be a challenge. Media reports are regularly suggesting that childhood obesity is increasing but if you feel your child is at risk of becoming overweight, is it right to put them on a diet?

Yes – Tanisha
By the time she was ten, my daughter was a lot heavier than her classmates. She was getting to the age where clothes and her appearance were becoming really important and I could tell that she was becoming upset about being bigger than all of her friends. I really didn’t want her to end up struggling with her weight all of her life – as I have and so I suggested that we both start a new diet.

By planning our diet together, I was able to supervise exactly what she ate. It gave me the opportunity to teach her about healthy foods and help motivate her not to turn to the sugary snacks that she loves. Every Friday we weigh ourselves and if we’ve hit our target for the week, we’ll reward ourselves with a trip to the cinema or some new clothes.

If your child is overweight then I think the right thing to do is put them on a diet. If you don’t, they will continue to put on weight and then it’s only a matter of time before doctors, teachers or their classmates start to make comments about their weight – and this is far more upsetting for children. Hopefully by putting my child on a diet at this age, she will grow up to eat healthily and maintain a normal weight for the rest of her life.

No – Gillian
Children are still growing well into their late teens and so putting them on a diet at a young age isn’t a good idea. Quite often a chubby child will lose their puppy fat naturally as they grow up and so diets often aren’t necessary for children.

I think it can be really harmful to talk to young children about diets and body shape. It can cause them to become obsessed about food which can then lead to eating disorders. It’s far better to encourage children to feel happy and confident in themselves, whatever their shape happens to be.

In our household, we all eat healthily most of the time. This means that our children have naturally stayed at a healthy weight and there has never been any need to suggest that they should diet. If I was worried about my children putting on weight, I wouldn’t mention it to them. Instead, I’d just change the habits of the whole family – perhaps by buying fewer treats.

Our culture is obsessed with image and it’s really sad to see young people obsessing over whether they ‘look right’. So many adults are on endless diets and encouraging children to diet just starts them on this path from a young age.

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