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Childhood Obesity - How Parents Can Safely Encourage Weight Loss

It's not fun to be a fat kid. Obese children face traumatic teasing and suffer poor health, and childhood obesity is becoming more prevalent by the year.

Obesity puts kids at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. Childhood diabetes can result in blindness, heart attack and kidney failure, amongst other debilitating conditions; and obese children are at great risk to become obese teens and adults.

Obesity reduces health and quality of life, and obese kids should be encouraged to lose weight - but pushing kids to lose weight in negative ways, even by well meaning parents, increases the risks for the later development of an eating disorder. Kids need to lose weight for good health; they don’t need to be "thin", just healthy.

Why Are Kids Getting Heavier?

Doctors treating childhood obesity report that their patients are 30% heavier than they were even a decade ago. They blame sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits.

Obese kids tend to spend too much time in front of the TV or computer, eat too many processed, sugary or starchy foods, and may be eating less sit-down meals with the family.

How Can You Encourage Your Child to Lose Weight in a Healthy Way?

A negative body image, poor self esteem and a focus on food and food control are some of the major building blocks in the development of an eating disorder. You certainly hope your child can lose unhealthy weight, but no parent should ever have to watch the devastation and tragedy of an eating disorder. The ways in which you encourage healthy weight control are crucial.

  • Firstly then, be kind and be realistic. If your child is a bit overweight, but is an active kid who eats well but sensibly, you should do nothing. Some people are destined to be a bit heavy, it's in the genes, and equally, your child may well grow out of it. A healthy lifestyle and a sensible diet are enough – and these lay the building blocks for a lifetime of healthy weight management.
  • Never ever ever nag about food. It's not very effective; some kids may even eat more, secretly, when nagged – and you risk doing lasting harm to your child's self esteem. By nagging you make them feel a failure for being heavy, and they internalize the importance you place on their appearance. They may feel ashamed or depressed for failing to live up to your standards of appearance. Nagging isn’t a kindness, although it's something we as parents tend to do, out of love. Since we love them, we really need to resist this urge
  • Be healthy yourself. Obese parents are more likely to have obese children. Kids watch and follow our lead, and if we lead sedentary lives – they probably will too. If we eat poorly – they probably will too. Set a good example, turn off the TV and take a family walk.
  • Limit TV or computer time. A couple of hours a day is enough.
  • Eat together as a family, at the table and as often as possible. People eat less when not distracted by the TV, and dining together strengthens a family bond.
  • Don't encourage kids to finish their plate if they don't want to. Let your kids learn to listen to their bodies. Let them learn to eat when they're hungry, and stop when they've had enough.
  • Get rid of junk. Fast food should be kept to a minimum, a couple of times a month is plenty. Get rid of soda and even juice. Kids are far better off eating fruit than sugary fruit juice. Eat at home often and in restaurants occasionally – restaurant portions are far too large.

Finally; don’t stress about it! Your child is far more than their appearance, and their weight is only one small part of their being. Love and enjoy and appreciate them for who they are. Encourage healthy eating and be an active role model. Odds are, that's going to be enough to keep them healthy…and happy!

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