Just as excess weight can sneak up on you as an adult, children can also fall prey to weight problems that you may not notice until it seems to be too late. Fortunately, it’s never too late for kids to turn around unhealthy eating patterns and return to a suitable weight. Your role as a parent is to educate your kids about food and fitness, no matter how far up the scale they are.
Don’t Be Complacent
The most dangerous thing you can do when you have an overweight child is sit back and wait for the problem to resolve itself. Once kids are in a pattern of overeating and gaining weight, it can be very difficult to break these habits without parental support. Once a doctor has confirmed that your child is over the healthy bracket for their age and height, immediately start implementing changes- don’t wait for the situation to get worse first.
Talking to your child about food and weight is a tricky thing. Try not to be punishing in the language you use- your child shouldn’t feel as if they’ve done something wrong or that you’re angry with them. Approach the situation as a team and you’ll avoid a painful power struggle that could make things more difficult.
Try to avoid talking about numbers and weight- focus on health instead. Talk about the potential benefits of eating a healthy diet and getting more exercise, from having more energy to getting sick less often.
A Family Project
Explain to your child that you want to be healthier as a family, and make changes for everyone rather than singling them out. Look at ways that the whole family can come together to improve their health and try to include everyone in the conversation. This will help your child to feel like they’re part of a fun project, not like they’re being targeted as a problem in the family.
Try to make dietary changes that involve the whole family. Clear your kitchen out of any junk food and start buying healthy groceries instead- if your pantry isn’t stocked up with high fat, sugary foods then its less likely that your child will eat them. Serve up healthy snacks after school and try to cook nutritious home cooked meals as often as possible. All of these changes will benefit everyone in the family, while having the positive knock on effect of reducing your child’s weight.
Helping your child to become more physically active doesn’t have to be complicated. Switch the TV, computers and games off at the weekend and get the family outdoors- bring balls and toys to a nearby park or visit a swimming pool so everyone can splash around. Try not to make these outings look like they’re compulsory fitness excursions; your kids should feel like they’re out having fun, not being forced into something they don’t want to do.
Encouraging your child to join sports teams is a good way to help them get more exercise, but not all kids are crazy about soccer or baseball. Help your child find an activity they genuinely enjoy and sign them up, whether it’s kickboxing or swimming. Any activity is better than sitting on the couch.