-- Anonymous May 2014
Childhood obesity has now reach an epidemic level in the United States. Here are the latest statistics (CDC, 2012):
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the last 30 years.
Approximately 20% of children and adolescents are considered obese.
70% of obese teens and kids had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
There are many more troubling statistics but you get the point. The weight of our children is possibly the biggest childhood issue that is known today. However, obesity isn't exclusive to childhood as over 1/3 of adults are obese and 2/3 are either obese or overweight.
Simply stated, obesity is defined as having excess body fat based on the body mass index (BMI) scale. Like most health issues, experts point to a mixture of genetic, environmental, social, and personal factors. That's true to an extent, but you can certainly have a significant impact by the daily choices you make.
What Can I Do?
Get to the root. Really ask yourself, "How did this happen?" Weight issues don't happen overnight. Be thoughtful and honest about what factors played a part in your child's weight gain.
Also, consider there may be an underlying issue like depression or an overactive gland. Consulting with your primary care physician may be appropriate.
Educate your child and you. Schedule an appointment with a nutritionist. Read about healthy eating. Talk to your child about the rewards of healthy eating and the risks of unhealthy eating. Is the overeating a way to cope?
Co-create. Especially for kids, it's helpful to have a schedule or plan on paper. Work together with your child on a plan and remain firm that there will be changes, maybe even drastic changes.
Co-creating something with your child gives them the sense that they have control and a say in their life. It makes them feel important, because they are.
Healthy choices. Yes the ultimate goal is to lose weight. The current goal is to make healthy choices. Many people use the weigh scale to measure progress. Start with healthier choices.
Progress sometimes can be your child trying a carrot, or
eating a healthy portion of their favorite snack instead of the entire box. Don't confuse progress with success.
You have obviously tried to give your child healthy options. It might be worthwhile to think outside the box or try something different. Here is a previous post about picky eaters and some tips.
Decrease unhealthy options. Give your child choices but decrease the availability of unhealthy foods. If you have to, keep unhealthy snacks out of the house.
In my home, our steak knives are on the kitchen counter. When our children were old enough to reach them, we explained they were sharp and not toys as knives can really hurt. After about the 3rd lecture, we realized that the easiest thing to do would be to move them to an unreachable position.
The same goes for food, if your child can't control their portion, then do it for them. Healthy boundaries aren't just for your relationships.
Be active. No, you don't need a personal trainer. Go for a walk after dinner, make it a family outing. If they aren't the athletic type, find non-athletic but active activities.
Drink water. I have emphasized drinking water in other posts. It is healthy and necessary to drink water. Water is an appetite suppressant and increases your metabolism.
If your child doesn't like water, then compromise by adding some fruit or flavor the water. It's healthier than drinking soda or fruit juices.
Slow down. When your child is eating, slow them down. The faster your child eats, the more they will eat before they realize they are full.
Slow your child's eating by cutting their food into smaller bites, encouraging water between bites, and giving them parts of their portion every few minutes instead of all of it at once. Make a game of eating and see who can chew one bite the most.
Have conversations that your kids enjoy. Kids are more likely to eat more slowly if they are talking about Spiderman or Frozen than homework.
Be realistic. Set real goals for your child and yourself. Almost everyone thinks in the terms of losing X weight in Y days. A realistic goal for the first week or month may actually be to keep the weight steady. A goal for the day may be to try one new food or to wait 15 minutes when hungry instead of eating right away.
Be your child's cheerleader. Praise your child for even the smallest success. One of the toughest challenges to losing weight is feeling hopeless and not seeing progress. Praising your child instills hope and helps your child realize that progress is happening, even if a goal hasn't been met.
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