How to Help Your Children Fight Obesity and Stay Healthy

All kids have a bit of puppy fat, but, as parents, you can tell when your child’s weight becomes a cause for concern for their wellbeing. If your child’s wellness is affected by shortness of breath, inability to concentrate, depression, and/or emotional eating, it may be necessary to talk to your child about their weight and visit the doctor. Bringing up the topic of weight with your overweight child can be difficult, so here are a few guidelines to help shape the conversation.


1. Fix your own health challenges: We could all use a little boost to our diet and exercise regime, unless you’re an Olympian or something, so set an example for your child. Whether seeing you take control of your own wellness inspires your child to make a few of their own, or forces them to ask you why you’re doing it, you can be the change you want to see in your kid. If nothing else, it will start a dialogue and show your child that you know how it feels to change your lifestyle.


2. Encourage athletics: Participating in sports, whether at school or an after-school club, helps kids to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and have fun at the same time. Doing sport also bolsters self-esteem, which is crucial to your child’s weight loss efforts as well as their overall sense of wellbeing. If your child is too heavy to participate in competitions, or is worried about joining a team of much healthier classmates, why not start doing activities as a family until your child’s confidence is stronger.


3. Don’t be blunt about weight loss: When talking about your child’s wellness, say “get healthier,” not “lose weight.” Children and teenagers don’t need tough words; they’re aware of their sizes. Your focus should be on helping your child reach a healthier BMI, rather than some vague ideal weight goal. The difference is in building muscle and making healthier food choice, not just cutting calories and making the number on the scale go down. Your child shouldn’t be aiming for a certain look; he or she should be after a certain health level and feeling.


4. Keep unhelpful concerns to yourself: We all know that kids can be cruel, and so you may be concerned that your overweight child won’t be socially accepted, especially if you have a daughter. However, despite these valid concerns, they aren’t the best motivators for weight loss and can wreak havoc on your child’s self-esteem. Your child needs to lose weight for herself or himself, not for the acceptance of other people or you.


5. Reward healthy behaviours: Adding a little light at the end of the tunnel can motivate your child to keep going. Offer to reward healthy behaviours, such as eating two portions of vegetables at dinner or exercising regularly. It’s important to emphasise the healthy behaviours themselves, rather than the outcomes – the actual number of pounds lost will take care of itself once your child has those healthy habits in place. The vague goal of “losing weight” is rarely helpful for obese or overweight young people; you need a specific system of mini goals and rewards.


6. Get to the root of the problem: There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on young people – both girls and boys – to look thin, so if your child is severely overweight then there’s likely an emotional cause. There may be pain for your child to get through, a self-worth issue to work out, or a habit of eating to relieve stress. Again, don’t focus on the weight itself but what is causing the excess eating and lack of self-love. Journaling, regular conversations, and healthy social outlets can help your child come to terms with the cause of the problem.

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