Tips for Overweight Kids

By Rebecca Pillar

In the age of fast convenient foods, busy lifestyles, fun video games and T.V programs, children are eating more and exercising less. Since the 1970’s, the problem with overweight children, teens and adult’s has almost doubled. The key to teaching healthy eating and an active lifestyle begins by example, by the parents. Preventing overweight children, which turn into overweight adults means changing the way you and your family eats and how you spend your time together. During your child’s check up his doctor can determine if he is currently overweight. The doctor will measure your child’s height and weight and see how the results compare with the ideal range for his age, sex and height. If your child is deemed overweight, his doctor may ask you some questions about what he eats and this activity level. Their doctor may even suggest the help of a registered dietician. Overweight children are at risk for many health related complications, as are overweight adults. These children are at risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol. Being an overweight child does not just affect their internal health, it also puts them at risk for low self esteem, depression, bullying from peers and increases the risk of eating disorders and chemical dependency/abuse later on in life. While some children may be overweight due to genetics or medical disorders, most become overweight due to increased portion sizes of high fat convenience food and little to no exercise and activity. Take a look at your current attitude towards food. Do you eat a lot of high fat convenience foods? Do you eat out of boredom? Eat when you’re not hungry? Do you eat for comfort? When you’re upset, sad or feeling depressed? We lead by example. Our children are watching and following our lead. The first step in overcoming overweight kids is to realize it’s going to have to be an entire family effort. Everyone is going to have to actively change how and what they eat and get active together. It’s a good idea to get yourself familiar with healthy food choices. One good way to get everyone motivated is perhaps taking a trip to the library. Depending on your child’s age, you can locate books and magazines that describe why certain foods are better than others. They also make cook books that are designed for quick meals that are healthy and taste great. Check out a cookbook and start meal planning with your family. Involve your kids in the grocery shopping. It might not be a good idea to talk negatively about certain foods or making them completely off limits. If they love chocolate cake, work on moderation. Making something off limits increases the chance of binge eating and hiding their eating. This doesn’t mean, however, that you stock your shelves with high sugar, high fat foods. Limit the amount of cola’s that you buy. Having a soda pop as a treat is ok, but sodas and other sugary drinks are high in empty calories that nobody needs. All eating, including snacking, should be done at the kitchen table. Eliminate snacking in front of the TV, video games and computer. Do not reward your children with treats or food. This will do nothing but teach them to turn to food for comfort and reward. Try to refrain from the “clean plate” system. Try giving your child smaller portions and if they cannot finish the entire plate, that is ok. Encourage your child(ren) to get involved in a sport or hobby. Kids spend way too much time being entertained by electronic means than by physical activity. Gym classes in school, if they are even still offered to your child, do not provide all the needed exercise required to stay fit and healthy. Sports have also been known to help build your child’s self esteem and self worth. Even though you may already have a busy hectic schedule, plan and make time for family activities. Make sure you stick to it. Arrange meetings and errands around these activities. Things like: going for walks, window shopping at the mall, bikes rides, swimming etc. These are all inexpensive activities the entire family can participate in. whatever you and your family needs to do to start getting more active. The most important thing to remember is that our children lead by example, are mirror reflections of ourselves. If we want to give our children the best possible chance at a long healthy life, we need to set that example.