Helping Overweight Children
As I have seen the physical and psychological damage that obesity causes a person, my heart goes out to the children who have the burden on their shoulders so soon.
First, I need to say if a young child is overweight, only the parents should be “approached”, as it is their fault, and speaking to a child can be damaging to their self-esteem.
Kids are bombarded with exposure to the “dark side” of unhealthy foods. The majority of commercials on kid’s TV shows are for candy, snacks, or a sugar-ladened cereal. Then they head over to a friends house, or make a trade out of the lunchbox, they get a taste of the real thing. It is simply unrealistic to shelter your child from the reality that these delightful and tasty treats exist, but you can instill healthy eating habits in your home.
A part of healthy eating habits is understanding the difference between a dietary staple and a dietary treat. Foods that should be a staple of a child’s diet are those that came from God’s hands such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, grains, legumes, etc. Foods that are treats are things that came from mankind such as pizza, fruit roll-ups, candy, desserts, McDonald’s, etc. A staple is a part of about every meal, while a treat is enjoyed on very limited occasions. Many adults are missing this distinction, making them overweight, and unfortunately the same demise is being passed onto their children.
My 8-year-old son was told by his friend that McDonald’s was his favorite food and that he had eaten there “thousands of times”. No big surprise that this kid is heavy for his age and his parents are considerably overweight. I can count on two hands the number of times my son has been to McDonald’s in his entire lifetime. McDonald’s seemed to be the norm for this child, while it would be a very special treat for my son. Parents need to step up to the plate and do what is best for their children, instead of throwing unhealthy foods on the dinner table because they are easy and quick.
And don’t count on the school system to keep your kids on track. My son goes to a local school system, and although they say that they offer food choices that “contribute to the good nutrition that’s so vital to both mental and physical growth of students”, they serve young children pizza twice a week, which is one of the highest items in fat and calories on their entire menu! Does eating pizza 2X per week contribute to good nutrition? No, and it is a disgrace that a school system’s actions do not match their caring and flowery words. Parents, your child’s well being is entirely on your shoulders.
In order to help your child, you must first look at the lifestyle habits you have as parents, as the kids are following your lead. Can you count on one hand the number of times you have a “treat” each month? Do you need all your fingers and toes to count the servings of fruits and vegetables each week? Do your children see you living a healthy and active lifestyle? Do you go for bike rides with your kids? Play a backyard game of baseball with them? Do they see you exercising regularly? If the answer to any of these is “no”, you might consider setting a better example for your children.
You can use a body mass index to help you determine if your child is overweight. Please be sure to use the test for children and teenagers and not for adults. It is a part of the free fitness tests that we offer on the Sensible Fitness web site. These tests can be quite a reality check, and I encourage you to perform them with the whole family.
A child that is overweight often becomes a teenager and adult that is obese, and this will negatively change the path of their entire life. If your child is overweight, reality is that others will treat them differently, they will have health problems, they will have self-esteem issues, and they will not be able to enjoy many physical activities, only to name a few.
You cannot change your child’s past, but you can start today and make a new future for them.