Childhood obesity is a serious problem that is rapidly on the rise! However, equally as problematic, eating disorders among our youth, in particular young girls, is a very serious problem. So as parents, how do we approach this sensitive topic with our children without hurting feelings and pushing them away or causing distorted /unhealthy eating patterns? This is a lot of pressure on a parent, in my opinion.
Here are a few tools for dealing with this subject:
- Approach the subject gently. For example, “the doctor mentioned at your appointment that you are gaining weight too quickly. Do you want to talk about what you and I can do together to help change this?” If your son or daughter is receptive, try to gently explain that it is important for our health that we exercise every day to burn off the energy that we eat. Make a fun plan together, offering some ideas that you will do as a family every week! Ex. Swimming, bike rides, playground trips, family walks, family hikes, etc. Make it fun and get your kids excited about the activities that you will be doing.
- Make fitness a group project! This is really where “practice what you preach” comes in. How can you expect your child to take pride in their health if you are not doing so yourself? What better way to bond with your child than setting health and fitness goals together and making health your top priority! Lead by example! Be a role model!
- Keep your goals together simple and modest at first. You don’t want to over do it or push too hard. The last thing you want is your child to think of exercise as a punishment or a chore. Keep it light. Set small and realistic goals! Make it fun!
- Approach food in a similar manner. If you child’s diet is currently poor, cutting out all of the garbage and switching to only fruits and veggies is not only going to set your child up for failure, it may deter them from wanting to eat those healthy foods ever! Small daily changes are key to success! For example, if your child is in the habit of eating ice cream every evening, try switching to a fruit sorbet with some berries instead. If they are eating white bread sandwiches, try switching to whole wheat bread. Small changes add up. Introduce healthy options at a reasonable pace.
- Try explaining food to your child like a traffic light. Try to get them to eat as many “green light” foods as they can (fruits, veggies) some “yellow light foods” (whole grains, dairy, healthy fats, lean meats) and strongly limit eating “red light” foods (processed foods, refined sugars, candy, soda, chocolate.) Kurbo Health has an incredible app for tracking this!
- Get your child involved in the grocery shopping! Head to the supermarket and pick out healthy options together. Empower your child to be in charge of their own health.
- Keep the health “threats” to a minimum. Children are not going to understand, nor probably care about the complexities of long-term health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, depression etc. Rather than throwing out these “threats to health” if they don’t eat healthy, try saying something related to their favorite sport/activity. For example, “if you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, you will be able to run faster, jump higher, swim further, or dance longer without getting tired!” Keep it light and encouraging and cater it to your child’s interests.
- NEVER say diet! Distorted eating can be developed from a young age so it is crucial that we address this situation properly. Even if your child needs to loose weight, never tell them that “they are on a diet” and avoid weighing your child on a scale. This can become an obsession and may lead to more serious problems down the road.
- Respect your own body as a Mother. Be careful what you say about yourself around your kids, especially your daughters, as they will learn to equate their self-esteem and self worth with the size of their waist and hips!
Kelly, S&O xo