Your child has their yearly check-up and their pediatrician pulls you aside and tells you your child is overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is a complex health issue that puts children at higher risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. So what do you do? How do you talk to your kids about their weight?
Never ever talk to a child about their weight. Not your skinny kid who you are trying to fatten up or your overweight child who needs to lean down. These words can be hurtful. A child may be self-aware of their size whether through comparison of images in the media or from unkind words heard at school.
If your child has questions, answer them honestly and sincerely in a positive way such as everyone’s body is different just like the shape of our noses are different.
Then, change the conversation and focus on being healthy as a family. Go grocery shopping together and pick out healthy options. Cook meals together and try new recipes. Eat meals together and talk about what you did that day at school or work. Get active together by taking a walk after dinner or planning an active outing each weekend such as a hike or a bike ride.
Get the junk out of your house. Make eating better the easy option.
When soda, juice, cookies, chips, and fruit snacks are your convenient snack option that is what everyone will eat. If you want to help your child, change to food environment in your home. Have a bowl of apples, oranges, and bananas out on the counter. When kids get home from school place veggies such as baby carrots, cucumbers, and mini sweet peppers on the table with hummus or Greek yogurt ranch dip to snack on. Offer “infused” water with some frozen blueberries and strawberries or sparkling water with a little 100% fruit juice to sweeten it up.
Eat by example.
If you’re not willing to eat whole food options don’t expect your children to. I have parents tell me they hate vegetables and now their kids do too. Guess what? It’s time to start experimenting and doing sensory taste testing’s as a family. Figure out what you don’t like and why. Is it the flavor, the texture, or the appearance? Then identify what you do like and why. Do you hate steamed Brussel sprouts? Me too! But have you tried them roasted or sautéed with lemon and garlic? There is a whole world of foods to try, make it fun and you may discover new favorites. (Head to the Playground on the website and print the FREE “Sensory Evaluation” card for your taste tests!)
Relax. Every child goes through growth spurts differently.
Some children grow taller and then fill out; some children fill out and then grow taller. If you are concerned, follow Steps 1-3; change the conversation to a healthy family, eat more whole foods, get active, and start eating by example.
Yes, childhood obesity is a serious problem and it may increase the risk for chronic disease among our youth, but how we deal with overweight children can also be an issue. Instead of stigmatizing the size of our children’s bodies and what they eat, change the conversation and work towards a healthier future as a family.
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