Children & Obesity

Today more kids are overweight and have weight related health issues than ever before. Obesity related diabetes and even elevated blood pressure & cholesterol is on the rise with our kids. If there’s a child in your life living with a weight issue, one of the best things you can do for him or her is to help them get back on the right track. In some cases, professional intervention may be needed. For others, a gradual shift in attitude and habits will do wonders. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Don’t nag the child or fling insults. Calling a child “fat” or other negative words can easily hurt already sensitive self esteem issues and lead to long term issues.  Instead, praise good choices and other accomplishments.
  • Kids learn a lot by watching, so be a good example. Look around. Overweight kids often have overweight parents. Active parents within healthy weight ranges usually have active children within healthy weight ranges. You are the role model.
  • Kids respond best to exercise that is fun. Family walks & bike rides are more fun that riding an exercise bike. Playing active games like Frisbee, tag, tennis, and one-on-one basketball, will disguise exercise as fun time.
  • Stop providing empty calories.  You can still give occasional treats, but giving your child daily junk food isn’t doing them any favors. Once a child is over the age of 2, they no longer have extra fat requirements (unless there’s a specific medical condition present) and will survive very nicely on skim milk and a low fat, varied diet. Kids need fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and healthy fats just like adults do. An occasional Happy Meal won’t produce a child with a weight issue. But there is no reason to have a supply of chips, candy, and other high calorie & fat foods constantly on hand for snacks. Don’t buy them at the store! Instead, stock up on low fat yogurts, whole grain cereals, fruits, and veggies for snacks. Wash and prep fruits and veggies to make it easy for them to grab and eat. Make a healthy dip & it will be more fun.
  • Remember that you are the adult! The child doesn't get to choose what's for dinner or what foods are in the house! Having a fit because they aren't getting chicken nuggets? Tough. No, they won't stave to death if they refuse to eat a healthy meal that you provided. I wouldn't encourage you to "make them" eat a healthy meal (either they eat it or they don't), but giving in to junk food is just a power play and let's face it... kids don't make great decisions on their own (that's why they have parents), so if you give a child a choice between a candy bar and a piece of fruit, they will probably pick the candy bar.  But, if there's only fruit available as a choice to "snack", then they will choose the fruit. 
  • Put small portions on children’s plates, and let them ask for seconds. This will help to teach them what portion sizes should really look like. How big is your child’s fist? Start with only that much food on the plate. If they eat it and then say that they are full, they probably are. So don’t force them to eat more. Sure, they will need a snack in an hour or two... they have revved up metabolisms, so that’s to be expected. But allow their body’s natural feelings of fullness to kick in. It will help them later in life, when they already have good habits in place.
  • Stop making their weight the issue. Just make the changes (grown ups don't need permission from kids to do so). When healthy eating and activity becomes a matter of fact about how things are done at your house, then it takes the pressure off the child and depersonalizes it, which can help protect sensitive and developing self-esteems. 
  • Watch for eating disorders. Children can be taught in positive way about the results that food choices have on body weight. Understanding good habits is one thing, being obsessive is something else. Learn more about eating disorders and seek help if you feel like your child may have a problem. The earlier we help, the easier it will be for them.