Healthy Strategies for Parents Concerned About Their Overweight Child

overweightIncreasing rates of childhood obesity are causing many parents to search for guidance on how to talk with their kids about weight issues. A recent study provides some insight.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis found that children respond better when parents focus on general health, rather than weight issues. Steering clear of references to size and appearance reduced the risk of crash dieting and eating disorders.

As a parent, you have a lot of influence with your children. Be proactive and lead them in a positive direction.

Guidelines for Conversations with Kids

  1. Emphasize healthy habits. Even if you have good intentions, your children may feel ashamed if you express concerns about their weight. It’s safer to speak in terms of living a healthy lifestyle and helping them to form positive habits, such as eating more fruits and vegetables.
  2. Create an ongoing dialogue. Effective communication requires more than one session. Incorporate talks about nutrition and physical activity into your daily routine.
  3. Listen closely. Let your kids reveal what’s on their minds. Your daughter may care more about her tennis game than her dress size.
  4. Watch for signs of nagging. If you’re saying the same things over and over without getting the desired results, it’s time to change course. A family outing to a farmers market may work better than a lecture.
  5. Collaborate on solutions. Engage your children in finding what works for them. If your son resists sitting down to eat breakfast, ask him if he’d like a fruit smoothie to go.
  6. Let your kids teach you. Teaching is one of the most powerful forms of learning. Praise your kids for bringing you up to speed on the latest findings about eggplant or weightlifting.

Additional Suggestions

  1. Stock up on nutritious foods. Keep your kitchen full of delicious treats that are good for your family. Discover the pleasures of exotic mushrooms and fresh baked whole wheat bread.
  2. Limit temptations. On the other hand, make it more difficult to overindulge in potato chips. Banish junk foods or keep them in a top cabinet out of sight.
  3. Set a good example. Actions speak louder than words. Be a good role model by watching your portions and working out.
  4. Plan ahead. Organize meals in advance. You’ll be more likely to cover all the nutritional bases. Experiment with substitute ingredients that can slim down any recipe like topping a cake with fresh fruit instead of frosting.
  5. Provide calorie-free rewards. Discourage emotional eating. When your kids bring home a great report card, celebrate with a night at the movies instead of a chocolate cake.
  6. Consult your doctor. Talk with your family physician about your individual circumstances. A family history of diabetes or heart disease may provide an even stronger incentive to avoid weight gains.
  7. Exercise together. Take up activities the whole family can enjoy. Buy cross country skis and browse online for ski resorts to visit on your next family vacation. Pick a health club with programs designed for all ages.
  8. Set regular sleep schedules. Adequate sleep and rest are essential to maintaining a healthy weight. Give your kids a consistent bed time and try to stick with it, even on weekends and holidays.
  9. Promote healthy self-esteem. Social pressures to be thin can be overwhelming for children and teens. Build up their self-confidence by reinforcing their positive qualities. Praise your children for their academic achievements and for mowing the lawn without being asked.

Over the past thirty years, childhood obesity has tripled in the United States. Being positive, tactful, and proactive with your kids can help them beat these statistics and grow up healthy and fit.

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