How to help your child achieve a healthy weight

September 12, 2019 | by Therese Gracey, M.D.
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

Has the weight dot on your child’s growth chart been trending up, outside the curve and out of proportion to the height dot? Your child isn’t the only one.

Childhood obesity affects one in five children in this country. As the problem grows, so does the demand for effective ways to help overweight children shed the extra pounds to avoid health issues now and late

But what is the right approach to the childhood obesity issue? How do you talk to a child who needs to lose weight?

Helping children reach and maintain a healthy weight takes a team effort and a combination of medically supervised methods. Parental supervision and involvement is a must. So is collaboration among the child’s healthcare providers, including nutritionists and even eating disorder specialists.

We also need to be aware when kids become overly concerned about their weight and appearance. The National Eating Disorders Association says by age 6, girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. By the time they hit college, nearly all will be dieting and more than 10 percent will have life-threatening eating disorders.

Helping your child combat obesity is a challenging task for any parent. But it’s one you need to address early, before habits set in. Start here with these 10 tips:

  1. Eat healthy as a family. Make sure the whole family eats a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein, in reasonably sized portions. Limit sugars, saturated fats, salty snacks and processed foods. Encourage drinking lots of water and restricting sugary drinks.
  2. Don’t skip breakfast. Ensure your child eats breakfast every morning to reduce hunger later in the day.
  3. Talk about listening to your body. Kids need to learn to listen to their bodies and be mindful when eating. Talk about how you eat when you’re hungry and stop when full.
  4. Get your child involved. Have your child be part of grocery shopping and cooking. Let your child choose what she/he wants to eat among healthy options.
  5. Emphasize why healthy foods matter. Talk about how the body needs healthy foods to grow, be strong, have energy and feel good. Don’t place junk food completely off-limits, just have in smaller quantities and less often.
  6. Avoid the word “diet.” Instead, talk about nutrition plans, including physical activity and quality sleep, which is important to maintaining a healthy weight as well.
  7. Don’t talk negatively about weight. Watch what you say. Don’t complain about your weight in front of your kid. Discourage others from singling out your child based on his/her weight.
  8. Encourage physical activity. Help your child stay active by encouraging at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity daily, such as brisk walking, playing tag, jump rope, soccer, swimming, dancing and biking. Exercise as a family so it’s a team effort.
  9. Limit screen time. Limit the amount of time your child spends watching television, playing video games or surfing the web to no more than 1-2 hours daily. Monitor social media use, which can hinder self-esteem.
  10. Promote a healthy body image. Body dissatisfaction is one of the most important risk factors for an eating disorder. Let your child know that body size and shape are different for everyone, and what matters most is being healthy. Praise your child’s unique talents and inner attributes.

Childhood obesity is the most common chronic disease of childhood and can have consequences on a child’s health and well-being now and later in life. Talk to your child’s primary care doctor about how to help your child get to a healthy weight. Find a specialist for your child.

Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness offers a variety of fitness classes for kids and teens struggling with unhealthy weight. Kids can learn fun ways to stay active and build lifelong healthy lifestyle habits.

If you’re concerned that your child may have an eating disorder, don’t ignore it. The sooner an eating disorder is treated, the easier the recovery. Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

Learn more from Healthy Driven Chicago:

Taking steps to address childhood obesity

Six tips to manage your child's screen time

Six ways exercise benefits your health

Related blogs:

Help your child overcome childhood obesity

How to teach your child to love her body

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