Childhood obesity is a growing concern worldwide, with many factors contributing to the cause. As a parent, realizing that your child is overweight or obese can cause alarm as any parent simply wants their child to be healthy. However, it's important to approach the topic of their weight with sensitivity, understanding, and a commitment to making positive changes. In this article, we will explore practical strategies to help your child achieve a healthier weight while promoting their overall well-being.
My Child is Overweight - How to Help
Create a Safe and Supportive Environment
Creating a safe and supportive environment is critical in helping your child achieve a healthier weight. Encourage open communication and express your concern for their well-being without blaming or shaming them. Make it clear that your goal is to help them lead a healthier and happier life, and you will work together.
Be Mindful of Language
In creating a supportive environment it’s important to be mindful of the language you use when speaking to your child about their weight. You should avoid labeling foods as bad or good and instead use the nutritional value of the food to describe them. For example, switching from saying, “You need to eat vegetables because they are good for you and candy is bad” to “Vegetables have a lot of nutrients that make us healthy and strong! Our bodies actually need vegetables to function properly”.
In being mindful of your language around food you should also be sure to avoid negatively calling attention to your child’s weight or habits. Shift to positive language. For example, “No you can’t have a second helping because you are overweight.” to something like, “Of course you can have a second helping, but let’s be sure to eat all of our vegetables first since they are very filling and loaded with tons of good things our bodies need. They will help you grow up to be big and strong!”
Promote Balanced Nutrition
Nutrition plays a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy weight. Focus on providing a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Aim to avoid processed foods (including most breakfast cereals), sugary snacks, desserts, and sweetened beverages.
Get Them Involved
Involve your child in meal planning and preparation. This can help them build an interest in nutritious foods and how they can be prepared. This is also a great bonding opportunity to spend more time with your child while doing something good for the health of the whole family.
Encourage Regular Physical Activity
Encourage your child to engage in activities they enjoy, such as swimming, biking, dancing, or team sports. Limit their screen time and promote active alternatives, such as family walks or bike rides. Be a role model by incorporating exercise into your daily routine and engaging in activities together as a family.
Teach Portion Control
Teaching your child about portion control can help them develop healthy eating habits. Teach them to recognize hunger and fullness cues and encourage them to eat slowly and mindfully. Let your child observe you following these healthy habits. Avoid using food as a reward or punishment and instead focus on promoting a positive relationship with food.
Limit Sedentary Behaviors
Excessive screen time contributes to weight gain. Set limits on screen time and encourage your child to engage in other activities, such as reading, playing outdoors, or hobbies. Create a technology-free zone during meal times to promote mindful eating and family interaction.
Promote Positive Body Image
Help your child develop a positive body image by focusing on their overall health and well-being rather than their weight alone. Encourage them to appreciate their unique qualities and talents. Emphasize that healthy bodies come in different shapes and sizes.
The Scale is Not the Goal
Set realistic and achievable goals for your child's weight management journey. Remember, the aim is to promote a healthy lifestyle rather than achieving a specific number on the scale. Celebrate small victories along the way and acknowledge the effort they put into making positive changes. Be sure that these are non-scale related victories, but things like running faster or learning a new skateboard trick.
Be a Role Model
Children learn by observing their parents' behaviors. Be a positive role model by adopting healthy eating habits, staying physically active, and practicing self-care. Show them that a healthy lifestyle is a family commitment and support them through the process.
Seek Professional Guidance - Talking to Your Doctor
Consulting with your doctor should be your first effort to help your child manage their weight. Your doctor knows your child and can help provide guidance on how to best help your child.